Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Letters / Negative stance

I refer to my recent letter concerning a ship master’s obligation to deliver cargo to the holders of bills of lading, to which I add the following.

UK Government/parliament bowed to public pressure to “do something immediately ” about the Ukrainian situation and summarily banned “Russian” ships/cargos from UK ports, but little thought was given to the interests of others involved such as cargo owners/charterers /financiers/letters of credit and crews possibly imprisoned for months at sea like during the pandemic).

My letter mainly concerned the loaded LNG vessels but the same principles apply to all vessels and cargo. Law made in haste makes bad law which can be challenged.

Most shipping – time and voyage charter parties, bills of lading, contracts of affreightment – follow English law and serious disputes are invariably settled by decisions made in the High Court Admiralty Division in London.

The judges can refer to and make rulings based on previous case-law some going back centuries. Any appellant could bring a case against the UK Government for a wrong brought upon them.

The court, long internationally recognised as impartial might rule in their favour and the UK Government could find itself in the very awkward position of being found in breach of its own hasty law and subject to unlimited damages.

To prevent that happening the government should have instituted a period of grace of at least a month, before any banning could and would be enforced legally.

Compare it with the US Government’s decision on 8th March to ban Russian ships/cargos after 45 days (ie 22 April) so by not getting itself into the UK Government’s legal mess by precipitate action. UK incompetence?

The beneficiaries of the fiasco will be lawyers and solicitors practising before the admiralty division. Cases could go on for years, the result of parliament pandering to baying newspapers, and politicians playing to the gallery.

Did the government take advice from experts acquainted with shipping law at the admiralty court before passing law in haste. If not why not. The local MP might care to check.

Presently the UK requires petroleum products (shortage of diesel) from European refineries whose feedstocks include Urals Russian crude and heavy fuel oil, so perhaps the UK should prohibit the import of diesel so manufactured to comply with hasty law, to leave buses in garages with passengers and politicians waiting at bus stops.

Fortuitously the LNG tankers may have discharged avoiding a protracted delay offshore, thus perhaps preventing cargo vapour “boiloff” – methane of course – longer lasting in the atmosphere than CO2.

Greens and other politicians may care to have considered that possibility when proposing to ban “Russian LNG cargos” immediately, and forget? stranding crews whilst politicians and candidates enjoyed leisure in their own well heated houses.

To the electorate: beware for whom you vote as Greens and partners are not all that they are cracked up to be as a negative stance on Cambo illustrates.

Cecil Robertson