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What is 'excessive' fouling?

Hull cleaning clauses or prolonged port stays clauses are fairly common in time charterparties. Cleaning of the hull is normally on charterer’s account if the marine growth is excessive. But how does one define ‘excessive’? London Arbitration 16/21 provides guidance.

Vessel called and Indian port and stayed there for a month. Underwater inspection revealed that 15% of the hull was covered by barnacles 2mm long. Cleaning could not be carried out due to sea conditions. Before next engagement, owners carried out the cleaning at an intermediate port and were now claiming the costs from charterers. Charterers refused saying that fouling was not excessive, and moreover the provision required cleaning to done prior departure from discharge port if the diver's inspection had been carried out there.

As per the tribunal, not carrying out the cleaning prior to departure from discharge port was not a strict pre-condition that’ll bar owners’ claim. On the point of 'excessive marine growth', tribunal agreed that it means growth which has a measurable impact on the performance of the vessel and/or which significantly shortens the period until the next cleaning. Report of owner's weather consultant showed that fouling indeed had a measurable impact on ship’s performance (gain of 0.33 kn after cleaning.). Owner’s claim succeeded in full in this case.

As a side note, come the new regulations on CII and vessel rating system, hull cleaning is likely to gain more importance.

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