SHIPOWERS' Baltic International Maritime Council (BIMCO) has launched a "Bunker Non-Lien Clause", aimed at reducing bunker suppliers' reliance on ship arrests to resolve claims of non payment by timecharterers, often due to bankruptcy.
If timecharterers are unable to pay a fuel bill, owners can face arrest of their ships and a loss of hire if bunker suppliers pursue a claim in this way, reports London's Tanker Operator.
"If a charterer fails to comply with this non-lien clause, a master has the right to refuse to take delivery of the bunkers - so it is a provision with some teeth," said BIMCO legal officer Grant Hunter.
If the financial standing of a charter is in doubt, bunker suppliers may be more reluctant to accept the responsibilities and liabilities imposed by the clause, which will act as a warning to shipowners, he said.
In some jurisdictions, bunker suppliers can arrest a vessel by enforcing a right of lien, or retention, over money they are owed for bunker, even though shipowners, under a timecharter, are not a party to the bunker contract.
The clause provides a requirement that timecharterers notify bunker suppliers prior to purchase that they are buying on their own account, and not that of the shipowners, thus having no legal recourse to seize the vessel.
"This clause acts as a useful safety-net for shipowners because solid timecharterers should have no problem agreeing with it as they fully expect to pay for the bunkers they order," said Mr Hunter.
Source : HKSG.