UK: "CHEMSTRANS RHINE" - Sampling Dispute Underlines Need For Clarity In Contracts

Last Updated: 3 May 2017
Article by Jamie Cao

In Mena Energy DMCC v Hascol Petroleum Ltd (The "CHEMSTRANS RHINE") (2017), the Court was asked to examine a dispute over the quality of a cargo of fuel oil in a matter where the sampling procedure became a central issue.

The Facts

Hascol, a Pakistan-based importer, entered into a contract for the sale and purchase of a shipment of fuel oil, described as "HSFO 125 cSt", from Mena, a UAE based trader of crude oil and petroleum products.

By way of background, HSFO with a viscosity of maximum 125 cSt is not available as a finished product in the region; the product coming out of the refineries generally has a viscosity of over 180 cSt. The common practice to get to a product of viscosity of 125 cSt or lower is by the blending of the higher viscosity HSFO with other components such as gasoil and cutter stock.

The blending can either be done on board the vessel or in shore tanks before loading. Blending in shore tanks is more efficient for producing a homogenous product compared to blending on board (using the ship's heating and circulation system), as the different components may not be fully blended by the time of the vessel's arrival at the discharge port.

However, this would usually not be a problem as the cargo would be thoroughly blended during the discharge process, as discharge would be carried out under pressure. This could be a problem if the contract requires the product to be homogenous in the ship's tanks as opposed to being homogenous in the shore tanks after discharge.

In the present case, the different components were not pre-blended in the shore tanks before they were loaded onto the vessel at Fujairah.

Upon the vessel's arrival at Karachi, spot samples were drawn from the vessel's tanks. This was done in the presence of personnel from the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP) as well as SGS.

Two common methods of sampling are used in the industry – spot sampling or running sampling. Spot sampling takes samples of the cargo from specified heights in the tank, e.g. upper, middle and lower or top, middle and bottom. Running sampling draws a container through the full height of a column, thus obtaining a sample which is representative of the cargo at all depths. If the cargo is not homogenous or stratified, spot samples would not give an accurate picture of the overall cargo quality.

Further, sampling can be done in a closed or open system, i.e. with hatches closed or open. In this particular instance, the samples were drawn with the hatches closed. It is common knowledge that this is prone to producing less accurate results than if the hatches are open.

The spot samples taken from the vessel were mixed to form a composite sample as required by the contract. The composite sample showed a viscosity of 192.92 cSt as tested by HDIP and 184.9 cSt as tested by SGS. Both exceeded the contractual specification of 125 cSt. HDIP, therefore, refused to give its approval for the discharge of the cargo in Pakistan.

On the next day, Mena instructed SGS to take running (as opposed to spot) samples from each of the vessel's tanks with the hatches open. The results showed an overall viscosity of 113.6 cSt which was in accordance with the contractual specification.

On the day after, the cargo was re-circulated in the ship's tanks. Further sampling was carried out – this time both spot and running samples were taken. Both sets of samples returned test results with viscosity under 125 cSt. However, in the spot samples, it was noted that the cargo was stratified in all but three of the tanks, with the upper layers showing a viscosity between 230 and 286 cSt.

Hascol wrote to HDIP on 18 November requesting HDIP to carry out further sampling of the cargo, stating that Hascol believed that the cargo was on-spec after re-circulation. HDIP, however, refused to re-sample the cargo. The refusal was maintained despite Hascol's attempt to persuade the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to instruct HDIP to do so. Parties were therefore at an impasse because without HDIP's approval, the product could not be discharged in Pakistan.

In order to resolve the impasse, it was subsequently agreed that the vessel would go to the nearest port for further blending. After that was done, the cargo would be re-loaded onto the vessel and brought back to Karachi for discharge.

The terms on which this was to be done were in dispute (e.g. whether Hascol was to share the costs of the operation and whether it agreed to pay more for the cargo) and these were eventually determined on the basis of witness evidence – with the Judge preferring Mena's witnesses' account of the events over Hascol's.

Whether the cargo was on-spec on its initial arrival at the discharge port

Although it was not strictly necessary to determine the point (as the Judge found that the parties had eventually reached a compromise), the Judge set out a useful discussion of whether the cargo was on-spec on its initial arrival at Karachi.

The Judge found, first of all, that the contract did not require the cargo to be homogenous, as contended by Mena. The Judge reached the conclusion based on the following:

  1. The contract provided no criteria for determining whether a stratified or non-homogenous cargo was acceptable. These are matters which parties could easily provide for but they chose not to do so. This suggests that parties were content to accept the analysis result based on the composite sample which does not show whether the cargo was homogenous or stratified; and
  2. The Judge considered both parties understood that the cargo would be thoroughly blended during the discharge process. As long as the ship's composite sample showed a viscosity of 125 cSt, this would have been sufficient for Hascol's purposes.

The Judge went on to discuss whether the cargo was compliant at the discharge port. According to clause 12, HDIP's analysis results would be final and binding but Mena had the right to request a re-sampling of the cargo. The Judge had to decide what the position would be if, despite a request by Mena, no re-sampling was carried out because HDIP refused to do so.

The Judge rejected Mena's submission that the clause imposed an obligation on Hascol to obtain any approvals necessary for re-sampling of the cargo. However, the fact that Hascol was not obliged to do so did not mean that the initial HDIP certificate remained final and binding. In fact, once Mena exercised its right to request re-sampling (armed with evidence that something had gone wrong with the HDIP analysis), the HDIP certificate would no longer be final and binding.

In the circumstances, whether the cargo was on-spec would be determined by expert evidence as to what was the most reliable method of sampling. Since what mattered was the overall composition of the cargo (and not whether it was homogenous), the Judge held that (for reasons explained above) the most reliable samples were the running samples drawn with open hatches by SGS on 16 November, after the initial sampling carried out by HDIP but before the cargo was re-circulated on board. These SGS samples were reflective of the state of the cargo on arrival.


The claim at the heart of this matter illustrates the important role played by the sampling procedure in ensuring a smooth and successful shipment of cargo. It is open to parties to provide in the contract a detailed sampling regime which must be followed strictly before the results become final and binding on the parties in order to minimise the potential for disputes.

"CHEMSTRANS RHINE" - Sampling Dispute Underlines Need For Clarity In Contracts

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.

Jamie Cao
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.