The article first featured in TradeWinds

Law firm Hill Dickinson has warned owners and charterers they may have to draft additional clauses for charters that see ships calling in ebola-affected countries.

The duration of the outbreak has led to “a great deal of uncertainty in the shipping industry which must take precautions for the current situation but anticipate that greater quarantine and preventive measures may come into force at a future date,” it said in a report on legal implications of the deadly virus in West Africa.

The company said if port medical authorities refuse entry to a vessel, the owner will need to look at the specific provisions of their charter-party, particularly in relation to the commencement of laytime.

Where a vessel is under quarantine before laytime has started, this period may not begin because loading or discharge cannot commence.

“Owners and charterers will want to consider whether detention is instead applicable. To pre-empt the above (and other) issues and avoid ambiguities, parties are advised to draft specific additional clauses to their contracts,” it added.

At the time of nomination, a port is considered safe if a ship can reach it, use it, and return from it.

English law has traditionally focused on the physical safety of the vessel and its cargo rather than the health of its crew.

“However, the question here would be whether, for a port to be unsafe, it is enough if there is a risk to the crew but no physical risk to the vessel,” the law firm said.

“If the disease were to affect the crew, it could lead to a crew so depleted by illness that they cannot safely man it.”

All charterers should monitor port safety warnings, it added.