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LP 44/2018 租约中无单放货条款再审视 — 您手中的无单放货保函是否仍在有效期内?

2018-12-28

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CPI 资讯 No. 361

摘要:

无单放货不仅是船东的达摩克利斯之剑,对于为船东提供无单放货保函的租家亦然。为降低风险,精明的租家尝试在租约无单放货条款中约定保函有效期和索赔时效。船东/二船东未按约定申请展期,会否成功索赔无单放货损失?英国上诉法院在NAVIG8 CHEMICALS POOL INC v. GLENCORE AGRICULTURE BV (THE “SONGA WINDS”) [2018] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 374 判例中提供了有益启示。 

1. 以案说法 

船东通过联营协议(Pool Agreement)将涉案船舶“SONGA WINDS”轮期租给Navig8,Navig8将该轮程租给Glencore,Glencore则用该轮履行其与Aavanti货物买卖合同项下的运输义务,Glencore通过Aavanti指定银行SocGen交单成功议付,Aavanti最终将货物转卖给Ruchi。船舶抵达目的港后,因提单尚在流转过程中,Aavanti向Glencore,Glencore向Navig8,Navig8向船东相继出具无单放货保函,保函均采用协会标准格式。事后因无人向银行SocGen付款赎单,且提单项下的货物已被提走,持有正本提单的SocGen威胁扣船并向船东索赔,随后触发船东依保函向Navig8,Navig8向Glencore的连环索赔。

 

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争议发生在Navig8与Glencore之间,Glencore主张:在与Navig8的程租合同的无单放货条款中约定了保函有效期(即保函出具日起3个月内,但可依申请展期),目前有效期已过且Navig8未按约定申请展期,Navig8无权再依据Glencore出具的无单放货保函(简称“Glencore保函”)向其索赔。程租合同的无单放货条款节录如下: 

“If bills of lading are not available at the discharge port, owner to release a cargo against receipt of charterer's letter of indemnity in the form of owner's P&I club wording but same without bank guarantee as per owners P&I club wording... 

The period of validity of any letter of indemnity will be 3 months from date of issue. The period may be extended, as necessary, upon owners written request for further extension and confirmation (at time of extension request) that 1/3 original bills of lading have not been surrendered to owner. In absence of extension requests the indemnity will expire at the end of initial three month period, or any further extension period...” 

Navig8则主张Glencore保函独立于程租合同,上述约定并未使其在保函有效期届满后丧失索赔权。 

2. 争议焦点 

法院将双方争议归纳为两点:1)程租合同有关保函有效期的约定是否并入Glencore保函? 2)如果已有效并入,则Navig8未按约定申请展期是否将被视为放弃了索赔权?  

对于第一个争议,法院的判决是否定的。在英国法下,合同条款被视为涵盖了当事人的全部约定,无单放货保函更是如此。程租合同中有关保函有效期的约定未并入Glencore保函,因为: 

Glencore保函的条文包含了双方当事人全部权利义务的约定,但只字未提并入程租合同有关保函有效期的约定; 

Glencore保函独立于程租合同,并明确规定了保函有效期,相关约定节录如下: 

“As soon as all original bills of lading for the above cargo shall have come into our possession, to deliver the same to you, or otherwise cause all original bills of lading to be delivered to you, whereupon our liability hereunder shall cease.” 

程租合同虽赋予了Glencore在保函中更改保函有效期的权利,但其未实际行使该权利,仍采用协会标准格式;以及 

第三人对Glencore保函的措辞有信赖利益(英国法下,船东可依Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999,就Glencore保函直接向Glencore索赔),如允许在保函未明确约定情况下并入程租合同的约定,将有损第三人利益。 

对于第二个争议法院只是给予简单评论:如果租约条款被并入了Glencore保函,未按约定申请展期,Navig8将被视为放弃了索赔权。因为程租合同明确约定了索赔时效(In absence of extension requests the indemnity will expire at the end of initial three month period, or any further extension period)。若想了解更多有关索赔时效的判例,请参【司法实践】警惕租约中的时效陷阱。https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MzA3MTkyMzU2MQ==&mid=2652722782&idx=1&sn=a992c09eda73c40104296a4824aa7f42&chksm=

3. 案件启示 

在租家/货方处于强势谈判地位,约定索赔时效日益盛行乃至泛滥的市场环境下,船东/二船东在订立无单放货条款时应更加谨慎,因为在无单放货情况下,无单放货保函可能是船东/二船东仅剩的唯一救济保障,因此建议: 

(1)争取使用协会标准格式的无单放货保函,该标准保函不仅在保函有效期方面,在保函“收货人”概念等方面都更有利于保障船东/二船东权益,请参《LP 064/2018 英国高院对有关无单放货保函标准格式条款的判决》; 

(2)尽量避免在租约的无单放货条款中约定保函有效期,由上述判例可知,该约定相当于赋予了租家更改保函有效期的权利; 

(3)如果租家坚持要在无单放货条款中约定保函有效期和索赔时效,则应争取权利义务更平衡的约定,例如,约定经船东/二船东单方申请即可展期,而不宜约定固定期限(如60天或3个月)或不能依单方申请而展期的保函有效期和索赔时效; 

(4)在任何情形下,若对时效问题有疑问,应及早咨询律师或联系协会寻求协助。  

本文所述内容、信息和观点等,仅代表作者本人学术观点,谨供会员公司和业界同仁作一般性参考。

 

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