London law firm Lawrence Graham says shipping interests involved in
Black Sea trading should plan ahead to protect against the risk of the
lengthy delays which can be encountered in transiting the Turkish Straits.
Severe winter weather and restrictions on nighttime tanker movements
resulted in protracted delays during this past winter, and the problems were
compounded by an attempt by the Turkish maritime authorities to clarify
regulations governing the paperwork required to transit the straits.
Writing in the latest issue of Shipping Lawgram, the newsletter of the
Lawrence Graham shipping
team, partner Imogen Rumbold says the clarification
issued by the Turkish Department of Maritime Affairs last October "led to
confusion amongst owners and agents and introduced contradictions and
complications into what had until then been a relatively simple procedure."
Before October 2002, ships could telex their sailing plans and then rely on
local agents to submit copies of the required back-up documents. Now it is
necessary for vessels to submit their sailing plans, accompanied by their
P&I club certificate, their IOPC certificate, their last port state control
form and evidence of payment of light dues. The changes in the rules make
telex submission impossible, and many vessels are being caught out because
they can't submit the right documents by fax.
The Turkish authorities are trying to address the problem by putting in
place a VTMS system to cover the entire straits, and by conducting a review
of how the regulations are being applied. "Meanwhile," says Imogen Rumbold,
"owners and charterers can help themselves by thinking ahead. Firstly, a
clear and unambiguous Turkish Straits clause should be inserted into charter
parties. Intertanko published a model clause in March this year which had
had some take-up but which has usually been modified to make it slightly
less owner-friendly. We have seen some disputes over demurrage resulting
from poorly drafted clauses, so attention to this point at the time of
negotiations is vital.
"Owners can also plan ahead and work with a solid local agent who can submit
documents on behalf of the ship when the ship sends in its sailing plan.
"If you are involved in Black Sea trading, don't wait for the authorities to
clarify their clarification. Act quickly now to protect yourselves, or risk
dire delays at the straits."