Letter deters creditors from asking for bunker arrest

Elina Souli, vice-president, head of FDD Skuld Piraeus, has reported on a situation where the Owners of a vessel en route to the discharge port informed Skuld that the Charterers had not paid hire, and in addition had failed to provide the Owners with a bunkering schedule. The vessel needed to divert for bunker stemming.

The Owners made all necessary arrangements for bunkering at a South African port, but the main concern at the time was that there were a many creditors of the Charterers, and the creditors were expected to attempt to arrest or attach the bunkers on board.

Skuld sought advice from local lawyers in South Africa, who confirmed that the potential arrest of bunkers was likely as various creditors were making enquiries regarding the arrival of the vessel.

Given the imminent risk of vessel’s arrest at the anchorage where she was scheduled to stem bunkers, Skuld worked on a “rescue” plan based on NYPE 93 Charter Form’s wording.

In consultation with English solicitors, Skuld sought an agreement with the Charterers under which the Owners would also take ownership of the bunkers before the vessel’s arrival at the port. The Charterers agreed and an addendum was attached to the agreement.

Souli noted that, given that the executed addendum could only assist the Owners in quickly releasing the vessel from a potential arrest (which would still result in delay to the vessel) local lawyers suggested circulating a letter to all the major shipping law firms in the area, drawing their attention to the sale of the bunkers and informing them that the bunkers on board the vessel as well the bunkers that were to be stemmed in port would be for the Owners’ account.

Therefore, the letter pointed out, any arrest or attachment of the bunkers on board would be wrongful and any damages related to the vessel’s delay would be sought from the arresting party.

The vessel eventually reached the port and bunkering was completed uneventfully. Souli said that Skuld was informed by local lawyers that the letter had deterred specific creditors from applying for bunkers’ arrest during the vessel’s call in the South African Port. Skuld thanked Graig Cunningham and Lana Jacobs from Bowmans Gilfillan (Cape Town) for their prompt and efficient assistance in relation to the matter.