Slebent Shipping v. Associated Transport
Where a vessel had grounded as a consequence of both the unsafe condition of the port and the negligent navigation of the Master/Pilot, a majority of the arbitration panel found that the negligent navigation severed the connection between the accident and the charterers’ order to proceed to the unsafe port. Accordingly, responsibility for the accident remained with the owners. In a dissenting award, one arbitrator held that in such a case under US law, responsibility for the accident should be shared between owners and charterers in accordance with their respective degrees of fault.
DMC Category Rating: Confirmed
Slebent Shipping claimed that the grounding had caused substantial damage to the vessel’s hull, stern tube and controllable pitch propeller and accordingly brought arbitration proceedings against the charterers, on the basis that the latter, in ordering the vessel to Boca Chica, were in breach of the safe port warranty contained in the charterparty. The tribunal decided to deal first with the question of liability and to leave the issue of damages, if relevant, to a later hearing.
The tribunal quoted a passage from Scrutton "On
Charterparties" to the effect that:
A majority of the panel then found that "the actions of the master on the passage [to Boca Chica] and in attempting to enter Boca Chica on that date were so egregiously negligent and unseamanlike that they overcame any safe port deficiencies and led directly to the vessel’s grounding." In consequence, the majority denied the owners’ claim.
In a separate opinion, Mr. Arnold dissented from the majority
award on the grounds that it failed to reflect that a contributing cause of the
grounding was a breach of the charterparty warranties of a safe port. Whilst
accepting that the majority award had been based on the principles set out in
the relevant English jurisprudence, he drew attention to a footnote in Scrutton
on Charterparties to the effect that:
In these circumstances, he believed that American case law should be applied in arbitrations conducted under US law. "If,", he said, "one has concluded that both parties were at fault, one cannot automatically and totally absolve one party from all liability because the other party was irresponsible or imprudent. If you are wrong by having committed a breach, then you are liable; the degree of which is to be determined by the trier of facts. If one finds both parties at fault, then it becomes a question of degree…..To hold otherwise would ignore one’s own finding of fault on both sides."
On this basis, Mr Arnold concluded that responsibility for the grounding should be shared between the parties, but he did not indicate in what percentage.
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