Pilot Sparks Off-Hire Dispute Over Winch Maintenance
International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) recently settled a claim brought against a ship manager for failure to maintain its obligations under a technical management contract, leading to liability for costs incurred when the vessel was denied permission to berth by port authorities in Australia.
The manager was responsible for the technical management of a bulk carrier which called regularly at an Australian port to load iron ore. The master had notified the manager of a problem with the winch used for the vessel’s mooring rope which, although still operational, needed its worn pinion gear replaced.
The manager had taken no action to arrange the repairs and, over the following months, the vessel called several times at the same port. Each time, when the pilot went on board, the master explained the problem to him, and the pilot was satisfied that, as the mooring lines could be lifted by the winch, the vessel was able to berth safely.
The situation continued until one pilot decided that he would not accept the master’s assurances and refused to allow the vessel to berth. The pilot spoke to the harbour master, who instructed the vessel to go to the anchorage until the winch could be repaired. This caused a four-day delay, during which time the vessel went off-hire in accordance with the terms of the charter-party.
The owner subsequently brought a claim for approximately $150,000 against the manager for the hire not paid to it by the charterer during the off-hire period, and for the additional costs incurred in rectifying this problem outside of scheduled maintenance.
The owner argued that, had the manager responded when it was first made aware of the issue, the repairs could have been carried out without the vessel having to go off-hire. Investigations confirmed that this was indeed the case.
ITIC reviewed the owner’s claim and determined that some of the losses claimed would have been incurred irrespective of the manager’s negligence. Ultimately, however, it was clear that the manager had breached its obligations to the owner under the ship management agreement and a settlement of $120,000 was negotiated by ITIC.