In Mr John Pratt v Aigaion Insurance Company SA [2008] EWHC 489 (Admlty) the Court was asked to consider the meaning of "at all times" in the context of a condition to a marine insurance policy. The Claimant was the owner of a trawler who brought a claim under his policy with the Defendant insurer, Aigaion, arising from a fire that occurred whilst the trawler was in port and no one was on board. The policy contained a condition that "Warranted Owner and/or Owner's experienced Skipper on board and in charge at all times and one experienced crew member" (emphasis added). The Defendant contended that the clause meant what it said and, since there was no owner or experienced skipper on board and in charge "at all times", it owed no liability to the Claimant. The Claimant asserted that the clause was obviously directed to periods when the vessel was navigating or working and the meaning contended for by the insurers was not the one which the policy would convey to a reasonable person. In its submissions, the Defendant criticised the Claimant's approach as being "an attempt to re-write the warranty to provide a better or more sensible bargain than the one he entered into".

His Honour Judge Mackie QC declared that Mr Pratt's claim failed and held that the natural and literal meaning of "at all times" was that the owner or owner's experienced skipper must be on board and in charge at all times. The judge went on to say that "the qualification to the literal meaning should be only that required by commercial common-sense not a means to arrive at what in retrospect the Claimant and perhaps others see as a more advantageous bargain". In the judge's view, the qualification to be made to the need for the owner or owner's experience skipper to be on board and in charge "at all times" was emergencies requiring departure from the vessel or for the purpose of carrying out other crewing duties. In reaching his decision, Mackie followed the approaches on adopted by Mr Justice Aikens in The Milasan [2000] 2 Lloyd's Rep 458 and by Mr Justice Gross in The Newfoundland Explorer [2006] Lloyd's Rep IR 704.

This decision highlights the need for careful contract drafting to ensure that the policy reflects the parties' intentions. More specifically, in the context of marine insurance policies, this case shows (together with other recent cases) the misunderstanding that can arise from the words "at all times" and caution should be exercised by both policyholder when procuring such insurance and insurers when drafting such policies.