Quarantine and charterparties


Published: 1 December 2014

Until the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the legal questions concerning quarantine and charterparties were the stuff of theoretical and textbook debate. It is, however, now very appropriate to review charter arrangements in the light of not just the existing outbreak but also to prepare for the likely risk of similar situations in the future.

The Association is grateful to Messrs. Hill Dickinson for assisting with this update.

The situation

Until the recent Ebola outbreak started to grab the attention of the world's media it had been a long time since a disease had caused this much of an issue for shipping and trade. This may in part be due to the nature of communication and media in the 21st century, a 24 hour world with instant news reporting, which is why issues such as the plague outbreak in India in the 1990s were perhaps much lesser known events and which caused far less disruption to shipping activities.

Going forward, should there be any similar situation, it is likely that we will see a repeat of the same developments as we have seen with the Ebola outbreak and shipping needs to be ready for this eventuality.

That means it will be prudent to review existing charter arrangements and ensure that future contracts incorporate appropriate terms that adequately balance risk and responsibility between the parties should a charter period or a particular voyage be affected by the outbreak of an infectious disease or subsequent quarantine arrangements.

In the republished note from Messrs. Hill Dickinson there is a concise review of the legal position under both time and voyage charters, and members are recommended to familiarise themselves with the same.

Loss prevention advice

The Association has and continues to counsel members to take due care in their contractual arrangements and ensure they are sufficiently comprehensive to deal not just with the very likely events of the upcoming fixture, but also contain sufficient clauses to deal with the less likely and indeed the outlier events. It is the latter that, when they do occur, cause the most significant challenges as the absence of suitable contract terms will often mean that the actual contract position is uncertain and any legal dispute on it will have an unpredictable outcome.

It is understood that BIMCO is actively working on a new clause for charterparties to address some of the issues that arose consequent the West African Ebola outbreak, and in the meantime it may be prudent to create bespoke clauses for specific new fixtures. For specific queries related to entered vessels, members are asked to contact their usual Skuld Business unit.