备货受阻的情形下船东撤船权的行使



无论是期租、航次还是航次期租合同下,我们的原船东和作为二船东的租家在航运实务中,常常会遇到船在指定的laycan到达装港并递交NOR后,却因发货人备货原因无法顺利开始装货的问题。若该问题持续的周期较短,可预测很快能开始装货,同时,由于等待期间的时间损失也可根据租船合同向租家索要(如合同内的detention/demurrage 条款),船东往往愿意选择等待。但若等待周期过长甚至根本无法预测,考虑到后续航次会受到相应影响、相关损失会越来越大,船东通常会希望行使撤船权,以解除该租船合同。这时,船东究竟能否合法行使撤船权呢?

我们先来看撤船权的定义。根据Nype465条和Nype9311条(尤其是该条第1款)的规定,撤船权是指,船东在租家未履行规定义务的情况下,剥夺租家对船舶使用权的行为。该权利的行使通常会基于两大情形的发生:1、租家未按时支付应付租金,2、租家根本性违约,如“无货可供”。本文我们只讨论第2种情形。

怎样的情形才构成租家根本性违约,“无货可供”究竟应当怎样认定,跟判断船东是否有权行使撤船权有着直接关联。如下我们将援引我司曾处理过的一个案例来探讨。

有一位租家客户,以二船东身份,通过航次期租的方式租进某船,计划从国外某港口向国内运输某散装矿产。在其于laycan内到达租家指定的装港并做好装货准备后,再三等待租家均以货未备齐为由不安排装货。该客户通过自己在装港的代理多方搜集情报后获悉:1、该批货的Shipper系一家不太正规的公司,2、该港口目前正禁止该类矿产出口,但并未颁布成文的正式禁令。

据此,为防止产生更多损失,该客户向其所属的FDD Club询问是否可行使撤船权。Club在同律师商讨后予以了否定。我们摘取了部分律师意见如下供各位参考研究:


Under English law, a delay in obtaining cargo from the intended source will rarely frustrate the voyage CP as Charterers need to obtain an alternative cargo.  Assuming all sources of permissible cargo within the loading range become unavailable, the CP may only be frustrated if the consequent delay is sufficiently fundamental.  


In the present case, we do not know the reasons for the delay/failure in providing cargo.  Secondly, even where Charterers are unable to obtain any cargo at all, a delay of just 1/3 or half of the estimated CP period will not be regarded as sufficient enough to frustrate a CP.  It has to be "inordinate" which renders the performance "radically different from that contemplated by the contract".  Even if the consequences of the delay are merely that the costs of performance increased (e.g. the Members are incurring substantial port charges), that is still insufficient to bring about frustration.  


By way of examples, it was held in The Penelope [1928] P. 180 that a eight-month strike had frustrated the charter of a voyage of about a month, whereas in The Angelia [1972] 2 Lloyds Rep. 154 that a delay which prolonged a voyage of 47 day for 2.5 times was held by the English High Court as insufficient to frustrate the charter.


该律师意见的关键性语句为:sufficiently frustrate a CP,律师针对该案件所述情况是否构成根本性违约,通过分析案情及援引判例的方式予以了说明,最终得出的结论是不构成。该结论形成的关键点之一在于,律师认为租家无法顺利备货的时间还不够长,时间段未达到租期的1/3或者一半。对于该时间段,我们在另一个航次租船合同的纠纷下也询问过某位业内专家的意见,由于该航次期租合同未约定确切租期,该专家认为在满足下述两项条件的情况下,可主张租家根本性违约:1、等货时长超过预计航程期限(即使合同未定明租期,固定航次的时长也是可以根据实务粗略估算的)1个月以上,2、该港口有正式的文件证明货物确实无法备齐。回到第一个案件,我们可以发现,该专家的意见同律师意见基本一致,正因为两项条件均无法达到,该客户才无法行使撤船权。

如此可见,从法理的角度讲,撤船权只有在满足了非常严格的要求时才能行使,贸然撤船相当于违约,撤船方往往会面临合同相对方的索赔,我们建议各位不要轻易采取行动。当然,持续遥遥无期的等待从商务的角度讲也不是一个良策,此时便需要各位平衡法律和商务的关系,自行做出符合心意的选择了。



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