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Case law: Euronav NV v Repsol Trading SA (The ‘Maria’) – QBD (Comm Ct) (Henshaw J)  EWHC 2565 (Comm) – 24 September 2021
News & Insights 20 December 2021
Demurrage – Time bar – Charterparty providing for demurrage claims to be notified to charterers within 30 days after completion of discharge – Whether ‘date of completion’ to be ascertained according to local time at place of...
Demurrage – Time bar – Charterparty providing for demurrage claims to be notified to charterers within 30 days after completion of discharge – Whether ‘date of completion’ to be ascertained according to local time at place of discharge or according to time zone which had the closest and most real connection with the provision in question
The MV Maria was chartered on a Shellvoy 6 form for the carriage of crude oil from Brazil to various US ports including Long Beach, California.
Owners presented a demurrage claim for US$ 487,183.12 plus interest. Charterers rejected the same on the basis that it was time barred under to clause 15(3) of the Shellvoy 6 form, which stated that
‘Owners shall notify Charterers within 30 days after completion of discharge if demurrage has been incurred and any demurrage claim shall be fully documented and received by Charterers, within 90 days after completion. If Owners fail to give notice of or to submit any such claim with Documentation provided available, as required herein, within the limits aforesaid, Charterers’ liability for such demurrage shall be extinguished.’
The court was asked to consider which time zone should be used to determine the date of completion of discharge for the purposes of clause 15(3):
- the local time in Long Beach where discharging took place? In this case owners’ claim would be time barred
- the time zone of either the receiver of the notice or the giver of the notice? In this case owners’ claim would not be time barred; or
- GMT as the charterparty incorporated English law? In this case owners’ claim would not be time barred.
Both parties agreed that the date of completion of discharge would not count as one day of the 30-days notification period; instead it was considered as ‘day 0’. Further, it was agreed that a ‘day’ meant a calendar day rather than merely an elapsed period of 24 consecutive hours, starting at the time of completion of discharge.
The point in dispute however remained which time zone should be applied in determining the date of discharge.
Owners contended that a single time zone should be applied to both the beginning and the end of the 30 day period, and the correct time zone should be the one that had a ‘real connection’ with the relevant charterparty provision. They argued that Californian time should not apply as both the recipient and the giver of the notice were in Europe (Spain and Belgium respectively) therefore in this case only a European time zone would satisfy the ‘real connection’ requirement.
Charterers on the other hand argued that the natural approach was to consider the local time to determine the date of discharge especially on the basis that this was the date stated in the statement of facts and owners’ laytime statement. They further highlighted the need for a clear, single date of completion of discharge, not only for the purpose of calculating the time bar under clause 15(3), but also ‘in other contexts where the date of discharge was material’, such as the time limit for cargo claims under the Hague-Visby rules.
The court agreed with charterers’ position and found that the date of completion of discharge was to be determined by way of applying the local time at the place of discharge. The court commented that this position ‘avoids confusion and uncertainty, and tallies with the parties’ expectations’. Therefore, owners’ notification in this case was out of time.
Once again, the case highlights the importance of not leaving matters to the last minute, particularly on issues pertaining limitation and time bars. Also, it clarifies that unless provided otherwise, a day will be treated as a calendar day and not a period of 24 consecutive hours (starting from the moment discharge is completed).