On May 16, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rendered a decision potentially making significant changes to the nature of "safe berth warranties" in vessel charters. The case involved the Athos I which struck an abandoned ship anchor which lay at the bottom of the Delaware River between the anchorage and the ship's berth, puncturing the ship's hull and causing a spill of approximately 263,000 gallons of crude oil. Overruling the district court, the Third Circuit held that the vessel—and by extension the vessel owner—was an implied beneficiary of a safe berth warranty in an agreement between the voyage sub-charterer and the time charterer. Despite language in the contract between the vessel owner and time charterer qualifying the charterer's obligations under the safe berth warranty to merely exercise due diligence to ensure safe berths, the Court held that a safe berth warranty is an "express assurance" made without regard to the amount of diligence taken by the charterer.
Charterers unsuccessfully argued that the master waived the protections of the safe berth warranty pursuant to the named port exception, which shifts liability to the vessel owner when a ship's master has ample opportunity to discover a port's hazards. The Court held that the named port exception does not apply to hazards that are unknown to the parties and not reasonably foreseeable.