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Maritime lien for unpaid bunker invoices (OW's collapse)

OW’s collapse in 2014 left a lot of physical bunker suppliers with unpaid invoices in its wake and that led to litigation all over the world, which is still continuing. Most recently, in The Bulk Finland (2020) a US appeals court had to decide whether the physical supplier can assert a maritime lien over the ship for unpaid invoices for fuel supplied. If successful, it would allow the supplier to recover full costs as opposed to the pennies on the dollar they would likely receive in bankruptcy court.

In this case the time charterer contracted with OW. Contract mentioned Bomin as supplier. OW then sub sub contracted with Bomin (such long chains are common in bunker procurement). Fuel was delivered on credit and delivery receipt issued which contained a fine print saying vsl was responsible for debt incurred.

The facts were not very different from The Cosco Auckland and The Almi Sun, where court had looked at whether order for bunkers from coming from a person authorized by the owner - a requirement under CIMLA. It found that owners did not in any way control Bomin’s selection by OW as the fuel supplier, unlike in The Bravante VIII where OW solicited bids from suppliers and then presented them to charterers to select the lowest bid.

No maritime lien in this case!

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