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Deviating to pick up a crew member to comply with SMC. Is it 'reasonable'?

Can deviating to pick up a crew member to comply with SMC (Safe Manning Certificate), be considered as ‘deviating for reasonable purposes’? At first sight it does seem so BUT then it is very much fact dependent as in The Andreas [2018].

2nd Eng. had to sign off due to an emergency back home. Vessel continued her voyage under a dispensation from the Flag State (Panama). Its expiry was on the same date (20 Jul) as vessel’s ETA next port. Once it became clear that vessel could not keep up the ETA, owners had to deviate to Gibraltar to pick up a replacement 2nd Eng so as to comply with the deadline in the dispensation. Later it collided with a submerged object and had to undergo repairs before continuing the voyage. Charterers later claimed damages for deviation.

Owners relied on C/P clause which stated that vessel could deviate for any ‘reasonable purpose’. Tribunal found that it was NOT reasonable for owners to request dispensation for such a short periods and hence deviation was not for reasonable purposes. Owners should have requested for a longer dispensation so as to cover the contractual voyage.

Some may say that it is a questionable decision. Owners did too and appealed - unsuccessfully. The court could not interfere with factual findings of the Tribunal.

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