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Variation in C/P. Charterers saying "unenforceable" since entered into under duress.

Voyage charterparties normally specify how many safe ports/berths charterers can ask the vessel to proceed to. If the vessel needs to call additional ports/berths then owners can refuse or set out additional demands before agreeing. This can result in disputes. In London Arbitration 14/22, owners set hefty demands which the charterers labelled as 'blackmail'. Was it?

Vessel was chartered for a voyage from Argentina to Bandar Abbas, Iran. Vessel was to tender NOR upon arrival at the waiting place outside Iranian territorial waters. She waited for a month and a half before berthing, during which time owners incurred additional war risk premium of $90k. Charterers then wanted the vessel to shift to a 2nd berth, which owners refused since C/P provided for '1 safe berth only'. Owners said they would proceed only if charterers agree (i) to cover the shifting costs and (ii) pay for war risk premium. Charterers agreed to what they called as ‘owners’ blackmail’, but later refused to honour the agreement. Charterers were arguing that they were made to agree to the terms under duress.


Tribunal said that owner’s offer was accepted by charterers and this amounted to a special agreement. On the point of duress, the Tribunal said there is a distinction between commercial pressure and illegitimate pressure. Here, charterers needed to vary the C/P terms to get their cargo discharged since parties had initially agreed for a single berth discharge only in C/P. Demands put forth by owners were not unlawful or illegitimate. They were rather common in this business.






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