Winter came again. The ice campaign of 2012/2013 starts in the Russian Ports of Black sea and Sea of Azov. From 00:00 22.12.2012 in the ports of Taganrog, Azov and Rostov-na-Donu the limitations on towing operations and other limitations related to ice initial stages in the Gulf of Taganrog are implemented (e.g. limitations as regarding to ice classes of vessels).
Harbour masters adopted the corresponding orders in advance, on the 15th of December. The ice campaign classes in 2011/2012 shall be perceived and taken into account both by ship owners and charterers as well as by port authorities. Of course it is impossible to foresee everything, so the lawyers’ work will probably increase. The main problem is the force majeure circumstances. The circumstances equal or similar in quite a wide range either may be considered as force majeure circumstances or may not be recognized by court or tribunal, depending on the law system.
We have touched the problem of force majeure a lot of times, in particular, interpretation of such circumstances in the English law because most of forms of transportation contracts provide regulations of the English law. Attentive attitude to formulations of force majeure circumstances and their legal consequences as regarding to demurrage will allow to decrease charge on internal law offices of the shipping companies and their external advisers.
But no material losses are comparable with losses of human lives the risk of which also increases in winter. The recent accident of M/V Volgo-Balt 199 wcich caused several deaths evidenced that not everything has provided safe winter navigation yet.
In water areas of the Ukrainian ports the weather conditions which remind on last year difficulties have also been created. Technical measures taken in order to secure safe navigation are often not enough. They shall be combined with legal measures. In particular sea carriage contracts shall provide the captains’ right to make reasonable decisions which would prevent the vessel, its crew and the ship owner from the undue risk.
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