UK: Unpaid Bunker Suppliers Free To Pursue Their Maritime Lien Against Owners In The US

Last Updated: 15 December 2010
Article by Daniel Jones and Sacha Christopher

Oceanconnect UK Ltd & another v Angara Maritime Ltd (Fesco Angara) [2010] EWCA Civ 1050

Under English conflict of laws rules, recognition of a right to enforce a maritime lien is a matter to be determined by the lex fori (the law of the place where the action is heard). However, English law does not recognise the concept of a maritime lien for necessaries (charges for goods and services rendered to the vessel). Therefore, an unpaid bunker supplier would not enjoy a maritime lien as a matter of English law. However, under US maritime law, such a bunker supplier does have a maritime lien. In this case, US bunker suppliers sought to set aside an anti-suit injunction obtained by the vessel owners in the English court so that they could pursue a claim for unpaid bunkers by way of an in rem claim in the US.

Background facts

The original dispute between the parties in this case related to a claim by bunker suppliers, Oceanconnect, for unpaid bunkers which had been supplied to Britannia Bulkers A/S, charterers of the Fesco Angara. The charterers subsequently went into administration and the bunker suppliers sought to recover their losses from Angara Maritime, who were the owners of the vessel. The London Mercantile Court rejected Oceanconnect's claim against the owners (see report on that decision in our July 2010 e-brief). However, the matter came before the Court of Appeal on a slightly different issue.

Oceanconnect had originally arrested the vessel in Amsterdam in order to secure their claim. The parties subsequently entered into an escrow agreement whereby the vessel was released upon provision by the owners of an amount by way of security.

The escrow agreement was expressed to be "governed by and construed in accordance with English law and any dispute arising hereunder or relating thereto or arising in connection herewith shall be referred to the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court of England and Wales" (clause 7). However, clause 3 of the escrow agreement also stated amongst other things that the amount of the claim was payable to Oceanconnect " virtue of a judgment (which is not or no longer subject to appeal) rendered against Angara by a competent court of law having jurisdiction ....or by virtue of a valid arbitration award which is not or no longer subject to appeal...."

Thereafter, the owners commenced proceedings in the English court for negative declaratory relief, seeking a declaration that they were not liable to Oceanconnect in respect of the sale of bunkers to Britannia. Subsequently, Oceanconnect (for a second time) arrested the vessel in Louisiana in the United States for the purposes of founding jurisdiction for an in rem claim based on a maritime lien under US law. The vessel was released from that arrest after Angara filed a copy of the earlier escrow agreement with the US court, the effect of which was that the owners were regarded as having given security for the claim already, in the form of the funds in escrow. As a result of Oceanconnect commencing legal proceedings in the US, the owners applied to the English court for an anti-suit injunction arguing that England was the forum conveniens for the dispute and that the ends of justice required the English court to decide the underlying claim.

Application for an anti-suit injunction

At first instance, Mr Justice Simon granted the anti-suit injunction. He held that the law and jurisdiction clause in the escrow agreement, on its proper construction, was intended to provide for the English court to be the exclusive forum for the resolution of disputes between the parties in relation to the supply of bunkers and that the US proceedings were brought in breach of that agreement. He also said that it made good commercial sense for the parties to provide that all their disputes should be resolved in one forum, particularly where (as in this case) the claim was relatively small in commercial terms. The judge concluded that England was the appropriate forum for the dispute and that the ends of justice required him to grant the order for an anti-suit injunction in order to avoid unnecessary parallel litigation in the US.

Court of Appeal

On appeal by Oceanconnect, the Court of Appeal set aside the anti-suit injunction. Lord Justice Gross gave the leading judgment and held that, construed as a whole and in context, the escrow agreement did not provide for the exclusive jurisdiction of the English court in respect of the underlying substantial claim for unpaid bunkers. Whilst he acknowledged that the wording of clause 7 ("any dispute arising hereunder or relating hereto or arising in connection herewith") was capable of being read as extending to the jurisdiction for determining the underlying claim, he concluded that it was in fact confined to the province of the escrow agreement itself. He added that the wording of clause 3, although it could have been better expressed and had a "boilerplate" element in that it also referred unnecessarily to arbitration, suggested that the jurisdiction for the resolution of the substantive claim had been left open.

Lord Justice Gross further stated that the object of the escrow agreement had been to achieve the release of the vessel from arrest as speedily as possible by providing security, rather than to address the jurisdiction for determining the underlying claim. Had the parties wished to extend the escrow to deal as well with the forum for resolving the claim, he said that they could have done so by express wording to that effect. The appeal judge also highlighted that it was unlikely that the bunker suppliers would agree to exclusive English jurisdiction (effectively a "one stop" adjudication) in circumstances where they had a relatively straightforward claim pursuant to a maritime lien in the US, compared to more difficult claims in tort, bailment and restitution in England.

The appeal judge also found that the US proceedings were neither vexatious nor oppressive in that they did not involve unnecessary parallel litigation because the issues raised in the US proceedings were not very similar or identical to those arising in the English proceedings. Furthermore, as he believed Oceanconnect's claim for a US maritime lien was bound to fail in the English court but enjoyed a strong chance of success in the Louisiana court, the judge was unable to accept that England was the natural forum for the proceedings. Rather, he held that the considerations of justice pointed to Oceanconnect being at liberty to pursue their claim in the US courts.


The Court of Appeal in this case took into account the fact that the bunker supplier's claim was doomed to fail in England whereas it had good prospects of success in the US, and obviously regarded it as improbable that the bunker suppliers would have restricted themselves to the exclusive jurisdiction of a court where they were unlikely to succeed on their claim. Whilst the escrow agreement might have been expressed more clearly, the Court of Appeal held that, properly construed, it meant that the English law and jurisdiction clause applied only to matters under the escrow agreement and did not prevent the bunker suppliers pursuing their underlying claim in the US.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.