The Commercial Court's recent decision in SBT Star Bulk
& Tankers (Germany) GmbH & Co. KG v Cosmotrade SA (The
"WEHR TRAVE")  came as a warning to owners when
entering into trip voyage charters. With the Court asserting that
no single definition as to what constitutes a "trip" or
"one trip" exists, the scope of any "trip time
charter" will depend upon the particular terms agreed between
On 16 October 2013, the "WEHR TRAVE" (the
Vessel) was chartered on an amended NYPE 1946 form with additional
clauses, which, inter allia, provided:
"That the said Owners agree to let, and the said
Charterers agree to hire the said vessel, from the time of
delivery, for ... one Time Charter trip via via (sic) good and safe
ports and/or berths via East Mediterranean/Black Sea to Red
Sea/Persian Gulf/India/Far East always via Gulf of Aden, with
steels and/or other lawful/harmless general cargo, suitable for
carriage in a cellular container vessel as
The Vessel was delivered in the Black Sea where it loaded
cargoes at three ports (Sevastopol/Avitla, Novorossiysk and
Constantza/Agigea). It then proceeded on its route, discharging at
one port in the Red Sea (Jeddah), one port in the Gulf of Oman
(Sohar), and three ports in the Persian Gulf (Hamriyah, Jebel Ali
Before completing the discharge at Dammam, the charterers
ordered the Vessel to load further cargo at Sohar (Oman) for
discharge in India. This led to a dispute between owners and
charterers as to whether charterers were contractually entitled to
give the vessel the order to load at Sohar for discharge in India,
under the charter, i.e. whether this was a legitimate or an
The key issue
On a true construction of the charter, after the vessel had
discharged the entirety of all previous loaded cargo, were the
charterers under a "one time charter trip" entitled to
order the empty vessel to another load port in order to perform a
further trip/voyage, or only to order the vessel to proceed to the
agreed charter redelivery place, having completed the agreed one
time charter trip?
The Court held that the charterers were entitled to order the
vessel to perform the further trip/voyage. In delivering the
judgement, the Hon Sir Bernard Eder confirmed that time charters
can be divided into two main categories: term time charters (where
the charter period is agreed in advance), and trip time charters
(where the charter period is defined by a trip within a
geographical range). As per Popplewell J in the "WISDOM
C", "the defining characteristic of a time charter is
that the vessel is under the directions and orders of the charterer
as regards its employment. It is the charterer who determines what
voyages the vessel is to undertake and what cargo it is to carry,
within the geographical and other constraints contained in the
particular charterparty clauses".
The Court emphasised that from the charterer's perspective,
one of the advantages which a time charter (including a trip time
charter) has over a voyage charter is that voyage orders under a
time charter do not constitute an irrevocable election.
It further asserted that the concept of a "trip time
charter" embraces (or at least may embrace) a number of
possible permutations. For example, a "trip" may involve
loading cargo at A and a single voyage to X to discharge the cargo
there, or it may involve several loading and discharging operations
at different ports along a route from A to Z, e.g. loading at A
discharging at X, then loading at B discharging at Y, and then
loading at C discharging at Z. There is no single definition as to
what constitutes a "trip" or "one trip".
As the current case demonstrates, it is up to the parties to
overcome the hurdles of the all-embracing trip time charter
definition. Clear wording is essential. Before entering into an
agreement, parties should carefully define and agree the
geographical range and route of the "trip" to be
followed, and use clear language to that effect.
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