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News: BIMCO adopts revised editions of Towcon and Towhire

02 March 2021

On 25 January 2021 BIMCO’s Documentary Committee adopted updated versions of the Towcon and Towhire towage contracts. Towcon 2021 and Towhire 2021 will be published shortly.

These ocean towage agreements are widely used in the offshore industry. The latest versions of the agreements were issued in 2008, therefore the purpose of this revision was to reflect changes in commercial practice and legal developments.

The knock-for-knock allocation of liability by which each party is responsible for their own property and personnel irrespective of fault, has always been a cornerstone of Towcon and Towhire. The updated agreements maintains this allocation of liability but adds clarity and improves some of the clauses.

A summary of the amendments to Towcon, which is the most widely used of the two agreements and is more relevant for the offshore industry, is as follows:

  • The definitions of the Tugowner Group and the Hirer Group have been broadened to include the parties’ respective other contractors and subcontractors, so they are more in line with the BIMCO Supplytime 2017 contract. This amendment is important to the offshore industry, since oil companies often enter into Towcon contracts (as the Hirer) to tow a third party rig. The new definition of the Groups seeks to capture all of the participants in the marine adventure.
  • Liability for towing gear is more balanced. The Hirer is now responsible for the repair or replacement of, or loss or damage to the towing gear (fair wear and tear excepted), which has been provided specifically for the services under the agreement.
  • Salvage has now been expressly included in the knock-for-knock allocation of liability ie the Tugowner is responsible for salvage services for the tug and the Hirer is responsible for salvage services for the tow, to avoid any uncertainty in this regard.
  • Other amendments are of a more commercial nature, such as a provision for mid-voyage bunkering on longer tows and a mechanism for calculating compensation due to slow steaming or deviation.

The drafting team who worked on the revisions included representatives from shipowners, brokers, insurers and other stakeholders in the maritime industry i.e. Boluda Towage, Boskalis, Ostensjo Rederi, LKL Oceantrade, Clarksons, Gard and John Croucher from the Standard Club. Further details can be found on the BIMCO website.