Posted on: 12 March 2020
International law firm Kennedys issued a briefing regarding the current coronavirus disease outbreak (known as COVID–19), which continues to dominate global headlines.
The dicease was first reported in Wuhan, China on 31 December 2019 and, as of the end of February 2020, it had spread to 67 countries, infected over 88,000 people and claimed over 3,000 lives. Latest reports advise that the number of new cases identified are higher outside China, including in Europe. Antarctica is the only continent not yet affected.
Here, we answer some of the immediate questions which may arise under charterparties and contracts of carriage subject to English law following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Issues arising from COVID-19 are wide-ranging but some of the more immediate ones are:
The cargo that the vessel is going to load is not available because of the outbreak.
The vessel cannot enter a port because there is an outbreak.
An owner does not want to accept orders to a port where there has been an outbreak.
The vessel has been to a port where there was an outbreak and so is prevented from entering other ports or is quarantined.
The crew on board have tested positively for COVID-19.
As ever in charterparty contracts, all will turn on the specific contract and how certain clauses interact with one another.
Clauses that deal specifically with infectious diseases are rare, for example, the BIMCO Infectious or Contagious Diseases Clause for Time Charter Parties. However, many common clauses found in charters address issues surrounding the virus in different ways.
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