Shortly before the end of 2019, the UK Circuit Commercial Court ruled that despite there being a time bar provision in the charterparty, a demurrage claim was held not to be time barred
The interpretation of the time bar provision in the charterparty is another ruling that will have a significant impact on demurrage claims. The background to Amalie Essberger Tankreederei GmbH & Co KG versus Marubeni Corporation (Amalie Essberger)  EWHC 3402 (Comm) is that the 2005-built, 8,500-dwt chemical tanker Amalie Essberger had been chartered for a voyage from Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Castellon, Spain with a total of 48 hours laytime for both ports.
In reporting on the case in its Case Law Updates, demurrage specialist company C Demurrage notes the key clauses were:
“Any claim for demurrage… [is] waived unless received... in writing with all supporting… documents, within 90 days after completion of discharge… Demurrage… must be submitted in a single claim at that time, and the claim must be supported by the following documents:
Laytime expired on 10 December 2017 and the owners submitted a demurrage claim for US$155,000 on 22 December 2017 by email with “demurrage invoice together with... laytime calculation and support documents".
The charterer’s defence against the demurrage claim was in two parts. First, the cargo of cyclohexane was contaminated on the ship (disputed by owner) and that the demurrage claim was not submitted in accordance with the provision in the charterparty (see above).
The owners argued that the disputed documents had been already submitted prior to the demurrage claim. The charterers argued the claim was time barred and sought a judgement on that basis.
C Demurrage notes that the Court reviewed the cases regarding demurrage and the emphasis on “clarity and certainty, rather than undue strictness and technicality.” The Judge favoured an approach that required owners “to submit documents [that they relied on] in support of their... claim or… [to submit] documents which taken at face value [established] the validity of the… claim”. This would allow:
A key issue was that should the documents be presented in one go, or was it sufficient that the documents had been already provided? The Judge decided that the charterer would have reasonably known that some of the documents had already been provided. Therefore, under the provision in the charterparty, the time bar did not apply.
C Demurrage summarises the changes brought about the decision as:
This decision applies, rather than develops, the law in this area, and concerns only the specific clause. However, amid some detectable indulgence towards owners, it shows that: