The mv “Blue Ocean” (the vessel) is one of the 24 vessels owned by a South African registered company, Blue Horizons Shipping (BHS). All BHS vessels are flagged in Liberia and ply trade between South America and the Far East. They do a few calls in South Africa bit as an ancillary business and purely if there is capacity. However, BHS vessels call into the Port of Cape Town, in both directions, especially for bunkering as BHS deems Cape Town as a convenient mid- point for the company’s trade.
On 15 September the vessel was on her voyage to Mumbai (India) from San Antonio (Chile). The master of the vessel, Capt Lindile Mdlalose, decided not to stem bunkers (fuel up) in Cape Town but to pass. The reason for this was that, while she was out at sea, she received a report from another vessel, the mv “Blue Waters”, also owned by BHS, advising that the Cape Town port was heavily congested following the previous week’s violent storms that flooded the port precinct and put operations on hold. It was not clear when the port would operational again. The Blue Waters was ordered to outer anchorage until further notice. Capt. Mdlalose then sailed past Cape Town with a view of taking bunkers at Dar es Salaam where the BHS fleet also calls for bunkers albeit not all the time. Still on voyage along the eastern seaboard on the way to Tanzania, Capt. Mdlalose received another message from BHS’s agency in Zanzibar that “the Dar es Salaam port has halted operations due to a stevedore strike. Port officials are in negotiations with the relevant trade union. The strike is quite violent as a result a few buildings have been set on fire.”
Although late in the afternoon, Capt. Mdlalose decided to set the vessel on course to port Toamasina, Madagascar. Capt. Mdlalose reached Madagascar at sunset. While the vessel was still making its approach to port, she ran out of bunkers and the main engine switched off. Capt. sent an urgent distress call to Toamasina port for bunkers or towage. Tug services were not available to respond to the distress call. The tugs could only be dispatched the next morning.
Blue Ocean drifted slowly through the night. Pushed by the wind, the vessel eventually grounded on a rocky part of the shore a few miles outside the port. She sustained substantial hull damage. The next morning port tugs arrived and managed to tow her to safety. However, during the course of the night while the vessel was aground, she lost 40 containers that were dislodged by wave action in the dark.
You are the Executive Manager: Logistics at BHS at their branch in Durban. The BHS CEO has received a claim from cargo owners who lost their containers whilst the vessel was grounded. On the basis of the applicable law and the relevant cases respond to the following tasks.
Bearing in mind the principles governing deviation under common law, set out the position to your boss strictly on the above facts. In particular your CEO who wants to know the prospects of success if she defends this claim on the grounds that the deviation was justified.
Assume that BHS had an insurance contract which provides that:
“Deviation will be excusable where the vessel undertook to save human life or cargo or deviation was undertaken for any other reasonable cause. Deviation for bunkering and for onboarding and disembarkation of crew is specifically excluded …”
[You are at liberty to deal with Tasks 1A and 1B in a composite answer – as one]
For the purposes of this task (Task 2) assume that the cargo onboard the vessel had to be discharged first onto a platform, some had to be recontainerised and stacked. From there these containers were road hauled to port for on carriage to India by Blue Waters, when she calls in Cape Town. The haulier company, Gen Transport (GT) was engaged by the carrier to undertake this task. One of their trucks carrying two containers overturned and both containers were badly damaged. GT completed the work and have done it perfectly in all other respects.
Assume that the damaged containers had been carried onboard the Blue Ocean on the basis of a bill of lading.
Bearing in mind the law governing the relationship between the agent and the principal as reflected on the bill of lading in instances where there is no outright authority to act on behalf of the principal, (but where a bill of lading applies), advise the CEO about the application of the defences that the carrier has in respect of the claims that the cargo owners may have against GT for the two damaged containers.
Answers to the Above Questions on Blue Ocean Case Study
Answer 1: In the given case study on mv the Blue Ocean, it is evaluated that there are a number of factors that result in the deviation of vessels in the Cape Town port. In order to justify the deviation, the clean needs to be made considering certain important factors such as congestion in the Cape Town port, grounding in Madagascar, the impact of strike in Dar es Salaam.
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