The wide spread of the Corona Virus has alarmed the whole world and as a result most governments have implemented measures only seen during times of war. There has been a knock on effect on most industries, changing our way of life and practice and may have in several respects legal implications as well. The underwriting floor at Lloyd’s of London was closed on 19th of March 2020 and most insurance companies and P&I clubs operate with skeleton staff or have closed down completely, although operations still take place remotely. Many ship surveys including class are being performed remotely, dry docks are delayed or cancelled and in most cases rotation of crew is practically impossible. Authorities in many countries have refused ships to enter their national waters arriving from countries or areas that have been heavily hit by the virus or instruct vessels to anchor at outer port limits for at least fourteen days. Some countries have even closed down their borders completely. In these difficult times, managers and owners should consider incorporating comprehensive corona virus clauses in their charter parties when same is possible.
Deviation for health issues is permitted in most charter parties and covered by P&I clubs, enabling owners to claim costs such as fuel, insurance, wages, stores, provisions and port charges over and above net incurred expenses. Also, charterers have an obligation to nominate a safe port and our suggestion to owners and managers is to insist on this point and not have such obligation qualified (e.g. by making such obligation subject to a due diligence test only). In charter parties our suggestion is, as far as possible, to incorporate a clause which indemnifies owners for delays faced in later fixtures due to the vessel's calls under the charter in question and, in addition, incorporate a liberty clause in the charter and bill(s) of lading. The latter shall enable owners to refuse to call a severely affected port and discharge any cargo already loaded at any safe port at the discretion of the owners, even after a port has been nominated by charterers or loading has commenced.