Shipowners are being warned for the increased risk of hull fouling due to prolonged periods of inactivity of ships due the economic consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Many shipowners have seen their charter parties cancelled, suspended or the delivery delayed, causing significant loss of time, whilst in a number of sectors vessels are being used as floating storage. As a result, an increased number of ships worldwide are currently anchored, and more likely to suffer from hull fouling as a consequence.
It should be noted that owners have a legal responsibility to maintain the vessel and will therefore in most cases be responsible for cleaning the hull. In the absence of express contractual provisions, owners are unlikely to place this burden on their charterers where the ship has been inactive as a result of the ordinary and expected course of trading in accordance with charterers’ legitimate orders. The additional fouling is therefore causing additional maintenance costs for shipowners and will also affect the performance of ships in terms of speed and fuel consumption. This in turn may lead to performance claims by charterers under the charter party. The success of such claims by charterers will depend on whether owners have assumed the risk of speed and performance issues caused by hull fouling, which will require an assessment of the specific charterparty wording.
We recommend that members consider including the BIMCO Hull Fouling Clause into their charterparties, which can be found through the following link.
The clause avoids ambiguity on the division of responsibility, which will hopefully reduce the number of disputes requiring litigation. In addition, we also draw our members’ attention to the existence of national regulations relating to hull cleanliness standards, which are usually enacted to prevent invasive foreign marine organisms from entering into and damaging a local ecosystem. Such regulations may result in vessels being delayed or refused entry until the authorities are satisfied that local conditions are met.
We therefore recommend that members take measures to minimise hull fouling whenever the vessel remains at anchor for extended periods of time. We also recommend observing IMO guidelines for bio-fouling management. In the event that new contracts or extensions are negotiated we recommend to ensure that appropriate wording is included as described above.
Should our assistance be required, or in case of specific questions or issues relating to this matter, members are invited to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .