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News: BIMCO publishes COVID-19 Crew Change Clause for Time Charter Parties 2020

29 June 2020

In response to the extraordinary difficulties that owners are facing with crew changes in the COVID-19 “lockdown”, BIMCO have published a clause for use in time charterparties that gives owners liberty to deviate with the option for sharing hire and bunker costs with charterers. The clause and explanatory notes are available on the right. 

The clause is designed for period time charters (not time-trip charters) where the ports of loading/discharging are unknown. It gives owners liberty to deviate their ships to perform crew changes where they are prevented from doing so by COVID-19 related restrictions within the scheduled time at the port(s) of loading/discharge that the ship has been ordered to by charterers. It also preserves owners’ defences under the Hague-Visby Rules for any loss or damage arising from the deviation.

In recognition of the knock-on effect of such deviations, the owners shall exercise the right with due regard to charterers’ interests and shall notify charterers in writing as soon as reasonably possible of any intended deviation for crew changes purposes.

The clause provides that the liberty to deviate shall be incorporated into the sub-charters and contracts of carriage, but in the explanatory notes it clearly states that owners must still contact their club on each occasion of (and prior to) a deviation to ascertain whether there would be any prejudice to club cover. If the deviation from the contractually agreed voyage to effect such crew changes is not deemed by the applicable law/ jurisdiction to constitute a “reasonable” deviation, the owner would be deprived of its defences under Article IV(4) of the Hague-Visby Rules. Once notified, the club can assess the circumstances of the deviation and advise whether additional cover is needed.

Importantly for owners, the clause provides the default option that charterers will contribute to hire, and bunkers will be shared equally for these deviations. This was in recognition of the extraordinary cost of making a COVID-19 related crew change and that charterers have a shared interest in having an efficient, rested and well-performing crew on the ship.

If you have any queries in relation to this clause, please do contact your usual club contact or Philip Stephenson, who was on the BIMCO sub-committee which drafted the clause. He is also the Standard Club representative on the BIMCO Documentary Committee.