Slow Steaming Clause for Time Charter Parties 2011

BIMCO Slow Steaming Clause for Time Charter Parties 2011

(a) The Charterers may at their discretion provide, in writing to the Master, instructions to reduce speed or RPM (main engine Revolutions Per Minute) and/or instructions to adjust the Vessel’s speed to meet a specified time of arrival at a particular destination. 

(i) *Slow Steaming – Where the Charterers give instructions to the Master to adjust the speed or RPM, the Master shall, subject always to the Master’s obligations in respect of the safety of the Vessel, crew and cargo and the protection of the marine environment, comply with such written instructions, provided that the engine(s) continue(s) to operate above the cut-out point of the Vessel's engine(s) auxiliary blower(s) and that such instructions will not result in the Vessel’s engine(s) and/or equipment operating outside the manufacturers’/designers’ recommendations as published from time to time.

(ii) *Ultra-Slow Steaming – Where the Charterers give instructions to the Master to adjust the speed or RPM, regardless of whether this results in the engine(s) operating above or below the cut-out point of the Vessel's engine(s) auxiliary blower(s), the Master shall, subject always to the Master’s obligations in respect of the safety of the Vessel, crew and cargo and the protection of the marine environment, comply with such written instructions, provided that such instructions will not result in the Vessel’s engine(s) and/or equipment operating outside the manufacturers’/designers’ recommendations as published from time to time. If the manufacturers’/designers’ recommendations issued subsequent to the date of this Charter Party require additional physical modifications to the engine or related equipment or require the purchase of additional spares or equipment, the Master shall not be obliged to comply with these instructions.

* Sub-clauses (a)(i) and (a)(ii) are alternatives; delete whichever is not applicable. In the absence of deletions, alternative (a)(i) shall apply. 

(b) At all speeds the Owners shall exercise due diligence to ensure that the Vessel is operated in a manner which  minimises fuel consumption, always taking into account and subject to the following:

(i) The Owners’ warranties under this Charter Party relating to the Vessel’s speed and consumption;

(ii) The Charterers’ instructions as to the Vessel’s speed and/or RPM and/or specified time of arrival at a particular destination;

(iii) The safety of the Vessel, crew and cargo and the protection of the marine environment; and

(iv) The Owners’ obligations under any bills of lading, waybills or other documents evidencing contracts of carriage issued by them or on their behalf.

(c) For the purposes of Sub-clause (b), the Owners shall exercise due diligence to minimise fuel consumption:

(i) when planning voyages, adjusting the Vessel’s trim and operating main engine(s) and auxiliary engine(s);

(ii) by making optimal use of the Vessel’s navigation equipment and any additional aids provided by the Charterers, such as weather routing, voyage optimization and performance monitoring systems; and

(iii) by directing the Master to report any data that the Charterers may reasonably request  to further improve the energy efficiency of the Vessel.

(d) The Owners and the Charterers shall share any findings and best practices that they may have identified on potential improvements to the Vessel’s energy efficiency.

(e) **For the avoidance of doubt, where the Vessel proceeds at a reduced speed or with reduced RPM pursuant to Sub-clause (a), then provided that the Master has exercised due diligence to comply with such instructions, this shall constitute compliance with, and there shall be no breach of, any obligation requiring the Vessel to proceed with utmost and/or due despatch (or any other such similar/equivalent expression). 

(f) **The Charterers shall ensure that the terms of the bills of lading, waybills or other documents evidencing contracts of carriage issued by or on behalf of the Owners provide that compliance by Owners with this Clause does not constitute a breach of the contract of carriage. The Charterers shall indemnify the Owners against all consequences and liabilities that may arise from bills of lading, waybills or other documents evidencing contracts of carriage being issued as presented to the extent that the terms of such bills of lading, waybills or other documents evidencing contracts of carriage impose or result in breach of the Owners’ obligation to proceed with due despatch or are to be held to be a deviation or the imposition of more onerous liabilities upon the Owners than those assumed by the Owners pursuant to this Clause.

** Sub-clauses (e) and (f) not applicable in the liner trade. 

Background

In January 2010 BIMCO initiated a project to develop slow steaming clauses for use in time and voyage charter parties. While work on the voyage charter party clause is still on-going, the clause for time charter parties was adopted by BIMCO’s Documentary Committee at its meeting in Copenhagen in November 2011 and is now available for use.

The objective of the project has been to develop a suitable charter party provision that strikes a fair balance between the charterers’ wish to control the speed of the vessel by giving express instructions and the owners’ concerns about the consequences of complying with such instructions. However, the parties should be ready to assume a certain degree of obligations if  they decide to incorporate the clause – they need to be ‘slow steaming ready’ from the outset. 

Current high fuel and lubricating oil prices in a depressed market are increasingly pushing owners and operators towards considering slow steaming to reduce costs. The liner industry has been at the forefront of this practice for several years, driven by overcapacity and the potential to make substantial savings on bunkers and lubricating oil costs by significantly reducing the high service speeds of modern container vessels. Other sectors of the industry operating dry bulk carriers and tankers are beginning to follow suite, although the margins for reducing speed and saving fuel are less for this type of vessel which already operate at fairly low speeds compared to container ships.

Implementing a slow steaming regime under a time charter party requires a number of legal and technical considerations to be taken into account. The effects on vessel engines and other machinery of prolonged slow steaming has not been the subject of extensive research other than by a few large operators. However, BIMCO has consulted with major engine manufacturers and designers during the development of this Clause to ensure that the technicalities of slow steaming and the potential limitations of engines and other related equipment have been properly reflected in the provisions of the Clause.

The legal aspects of slow steaming under a time charter party primarily relate to the owners’ obligations to follow the charterers’ slow steaming instructions while taking into account the safety of the vessel, crew and cargo and obligations towards third parties, such as holders of bills of
lading.

Explanatory Notes

The following explanatory notes provide a background guide to the intention behind the BIMCO Slow Steaming Clause for Time Charter Parties:

Sub-clause (a) covers the procedural aspects of slow steaming. The clause provides for a twotier approach to slow steaming, which, for the purposes of the Clause, has been defined as (i) “slow steaming” and (ii) “ultra slow steaming”. Sub-clauses (i) and (ii) offer two alternatives for the parties to agree depending on their needs. It is generally accepted that provided the vessel’s engines continue to operate above the cut-out point for the engine’s auxiliary blowers, most owners would be prepared to allow an adjustment of speed within the normal service speed and the cut-out point of the auxiliary blowers. This “zone” reflects normal operating parameters and has been defined in the Clause as alternative (i) “Slow Steaming”. The advice received from engine designers is that slow steaming above the cut-out point of the auxiliary blowers can be achieved by most vessels without requiring any modification of the engine or the installation of additional equipment, provided always that the engine has been well maintained.

The second alternative, “Ultra Slow Steaming”, provides the full range of slower speeds to the charterers by also permitting the engines to operate below the cut-out point of the auxiliary blowers down to minimal engine loads. For this type of slow steaming operation, engine designers have advised that some modification of the engines/additional equipment would be recommended.

It should be noted that alternative (ii) will ONLY apply if the parties have expressly agreed to it by deleting alternative (i), which otherwise applies by default.

The charterers are entitled to submit instructions to the Master to reduce speed or RPM or to adjust the speed in order to meet a specified time of arrival at a certain destination. However, the fact that the charterers can specify a particular time of arrival is not meant to place any additional obligation on the owners. Thus, the reference to ‘specified time of arrival’ should merely be seen as an indication of the owners’ intention to do what they can to adjust the speed in order to meet the specified time of arrival, if possible. The owners do not warrant that they will be able to arrive at this point in time.

When the charterers wish to adjust the speed of the vessel, they are required to submit their slow steaming instructions to the Master in writing. This has been included to ensure that proof of instructions are readily available to the parties in the event of a dispute over which orders were given at a particular point in time.

It has been left for the parties to agree on appropriate speed reductions on a case by case basis, rather than incorporating a particular speed range in the clause. However, it should be noted that such reductions are always subject to what has been agreed regarding ‘slow steaming’ or ‘ultra slow steaming’; the safety of the vessel, crew and cargo and protection of the marine environment; and recommendations from manufacturers’/designers’ of the engine(s) and other related equipment.

The Clause deliberately does not address whether physical modifications, update of equipment and keeping of extra spares related to ‘Ultra Slow Steaming’ should be for the owners’ or charterers’ account as it presupposes that such discussions will have taken place prior to the Clause being incorporated into the charter party. As slow steaming becomes more common, it is expected that those owners who market the capability of their vessel to operate at very slow speeds will already have undertaken any necessary modifications to the engines and equipment.

To protect owners from unforeseen expenses with regards to modifications etc. the Clause states that the Master is not obliged to comply with any additional recommendations and requirements issued by manufacturers and/or designers subsequent to the date of the charter party (or the date when this clause was incorporated if, for instance, the clause is agreed and incorporated at a later stage).

Sub-clause (b) (and sub-clause (c)) covers the ‘soft’ parts of the Clause, qualifying the owners’ obligation to operate the vessel in a manner which minimises fuel consumption. The Clause contemplates situations not only where the charterers may want a fixed reduction in speed, but also where they want the vessel to adjust speed during the passage to arrive at a specified time. The intention is that owners will be able to agree to a charterers’ request to reduce the speed of the vessel to below any of the warranted charter party speeds without being in breach of other charter party provisions by doing so.

It should be noted that warranted consumption relating to a particular speed is not affected by the Clause. This means that any speed and consumption warranties that the owners have given under the charter party still apply despite agreeing to slow steam. However, if the vessel proceeds below any warranted speed, at the charterers’ request, this will fall outside the performance guarantee.

Sub-clause (b)(iii) emphasises that the safety of the vessel, crew and cargo are paramount and therefore the vessel is at liberty to increase speed at any time to avoid a particular hazard, at the Master’s discretion.

Furthermore, the owners are to take into account their obligations under any bills of lading, waybills etc. issued by them or on their behalf. However, if the bills of lading issued under the charter party are charterers’ bills, as is typical in the liner trade, then sub-clause (b)(iv) is not relevant.

Sub-clause (c) explains in greater detail what the owners should take into consideration to minimise fuel consumption for the purposes of sub-clause (b).

The sub-clause (c)(ii) refers to the use of performance monitoring systems provided by the charterers. Some larger charterers in the liner trade often provide the vessel with a laptop or electronic template as a means of providing a standardised format for noon reports that can be consolidated and reviewed by the charterers for the whole chartered fleet.

Such performance monitoring systems are standalone devices to avoid any possible corruption of or interference with the vessel’s own systems. Unless the equipment is restricted in its application to reporting on performance data related to slow steaming, some owners may be reluctant to accept such equipment being placed on board the vessel.

It is important to note that sub-clause (c)(ii) only places an obligation on the owners to use equipment/aids provided by the charterers, if the use of such equipment/aids has been agreed between the parties beforehand. Again, the intention of this provision is not to place any additional burden on the owners but merely to indicate that if the use of such equipment/aids has been agreed by the parties then the owners are also under an obligation to use them optimally.

Sub-clause (d) has been included to encourage owners and charterers to share findings and best practices that may be of interest to the other party, in particular findings on how the vessel’s energy efficiency can be improved. However, they are not obliged to exchange information and best practices with regards to savings or any other information of a sensitive nature. 

Sub-clause (e) sets out how to deal with the ‘due despatch’ obligations common to charter parties and contracts of carriage.

In the liner trade, this is not an issue because liner terms and conditions normally confer on the owners/vessel operators a right to slow steam (see for example Clause 5 (Scope of Carriage) of CONLINEBILL 2000 which gives an express right to slow speed without liability for delay). 

However, in other trades where such rights are not given and due despatch obligations apply, some mechanism needs to be included in the clause to permit slow steaming without liability for delay. Sub-clause (e) emphasises that compliance with charterers’ instructions in terms of slow steaming will not constitute a breach of any obligation that the owner may have under the charter party or contracts of carriage to proceed with due despatch.

Finally, Sub-clause (f) requires the charterers to incorporate a provision in any bills of lading issued under the time charter stating that if the owners operate the vessel at speeds below the highest warranted speed at the charterers’ request or otherwise comply with the slow steaming clause, it will not constitute deviation by delay.

As it is not necessarily a realistic proposition to expect the clause to be incorporated into every bill of lading, the charterers are required to indemnify the owners against any consequences and liabilities in relation to issuing bills of lading where the terms of the bills result in the imposition of liabilities greater than those assumed by the owners under the clause.

Because liner terms normally confer on the carrier a right to slow steam, this sub-clause do not apply when the clause is used in scheduled liner trades.

Originally published in BIMCO Special Circular No. 7, 23 December 2011 - BIMCO Slow Steaming Clause for Time Charter Parties.

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