Clarification of extent of "always accessible" berth warranty - THE ACONCAGUA BAY [2018] EWHC 654 (Comm)

In "The Aconcagua Bay" the English Commercial Court has clarified the meaning of an "always accessible" warranty in a voyage charterparty.

The facts of the case were that after completion of loading a damaged bridge and lock delayed the vessel at the berth for 14 days.  The question for the Court was whether this meant that the charterers were in breach of their warranty that the berth would be "always accessible".

The Court concluded that accessibility is not restricted to entry to the berth, and that a berth will not be "always accessible" unless the vessel can always reach it, and depart from it. 

The upshot was that the berth was not "always accessible" and the owners were therefore entitled to damages for detention in the period of delay after loading was completed.

An important point to note from this judgment is that contrary to what had been commonly understood, "always accessible" and "reachable on arrival" warranties are not synonymous in that the latter warranty applies only to entry to the berth, and not departure from it.

Owners and charterers should bear this distinction in mind when negotiating voyage charterparties, and considering claims for delay under them. 

Source: David Morriss / HFW

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