Piracy Update: Conwartime, Piracy, and Owners' Obligations Revisited

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A recent decision of the Commercial Court in London (handed down on 8 November 2011) has clarified the limits of a ship owner's obligation under the Conwartime 1993 clauses to obey his charterer's orders to navigate waters rendered parlous because of the threat of piracy. Although the reasoning of Teare J in The Triton Lark differs from the analysis we have previously adopted, ultimately both constructions arrive at the same practical result.

Conwartime

The Conwartime 1993 clauses have been incorporated in the majority of time charters concluded in recent times. By the terms of Clause 1, "War Risks" are defined to include "acts of piracy ... which, in the reasonable judgement of the Master and/or the Owners, may be dangerous or are likely to be or to become dangerous to the Vessel, her cargo, crew or other persons on board the Vessel".

Clause 2 provides inter alia as follows:

"The Vessel, unless the written consent of the Owners be first obtained, shall not be ordered to or required to continue to or through, any ... area or zone ... where it appears that the Vessel ... in the reasonable judgement of the Master and/or the Owners, may be, or are likely to be, exposed to War Risks."

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