Bunker suppliers upset balanced BIMCO bunker terms: Skuld

Joanna Meadows Vice President, Claims, Solicitor, has noted in a Skuld web article that, whether members purchased bunkers as an owner or charterer of a vessel, sometimes the standard terms and conditions of the relevant bunker supplier could be slanted in favour of the bunker supplier.

Often they contained short time limits for making a claim, in the event the bunkers turned out to be not of the agreed quantity or quality. So where the purchaser of the bunkers finds out later that there was a problem with the fuel, often it was too late to bring a claim.

Often the terms and conditions stated that the sample produced by the bunker supplier was the binding sample as between the bunker supplier and the purchaser of the bunkers. This was different to the position adopted between the owners and charterers under a charterparty, where it was generally accepted that a sample of fuel taken by way of continuous drip sample taken at the ship’s bunker manifold in accordance with the guidelines under MARPOL ANNEX VI was the representative fuel sample.

To address some of these issues, BIMCO put together a Committee to produce standard terms and conditions described as fair and harmonized. These terms and conditions were widely accepted by the bunker industry.

However, Meadows observed that, since the BIMCO Bunker Terms came about, there had been instances where bunker terms appeared to be the BIMCO bunker terms, but the supplier had taken the BIMCO Bunker Terms as their base terms, left in the clauses which favoured them and removed the clauses which favoured the bunker purchaser.

Whilst this article is not designed to be a comprehensive review of the BIMCO Standard Bunker Terms, we take the opportunity to highlight a few key terms. Meadows noted Clause 15, Clause 9 and Clause 4 as particularly key.

Meadows concluded that, while parties are always free to negotiate the terms they wish, the BIMCO Bunker Terms 2018, in their unamended form, do give a fair balance between bunker supplier and bunker purchaser.