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Speed performance claims - assessment by weather bureau binding?

Speed consumption disputes between charterers and owners are not uncommon. No matter how carefully these clauses are worded, disagreements would occur. In London Arbitration 26/19, owners were contesting charterers' [unlawful] deductions from hire for vessel's performance.

The deductions clause entitled charterers to deduct from the hire only value of bunkers on redelivery and nothing else. Tribunal construed this as an express bar to equitable set-off, i.e. a claim for performance had to be pursued as damages claims independently.

For the merits of the claim, Tribunal had to establish the speed cons. yardstick and the weather conditions in which performance was to be measured. After taking into account the allowance, contractual yardstick was 13 kts and 32.55 t. As for weather, the clause mentioned no swell, which was understood to mean that periods of adverse swell were to be excluded. Charterers argued that performance assessment given by their weather bureau was binding. Tribunal found their calculations to be inconsistent with C/P, for eg. they had included adjustments for both +ve & -ve currents, which the clauses did not allow for. After removing the rogue current factor, good wx speed fell within the contractual yardstick.

Owners’ claim thus succeeded.

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