• 2018 March 27

    Tug of discord

    The allision of the Aframax tanker Delta Pioneer with a pier at Primorsk port caused by spontaneous release of the towing line resulted in a long arrest of the ship and scandal proceedings. Finally, the court approved the amicable agreement according to which the amount payable has reduced by a half versus the amount claimed initially and approved by the court of first appearance. However, further litigation is possible while the ship has not been released so far.

    Rosnefteflot is sailing to law

    Mooring of the Delta Pioneer tanker (owned by Pontoporos Special Maritime and operated by Delta Tankers) at the port of Primorsk on 20 November 2016 resulted in huge losses for the owners, long arrest for the ship and hard proceedings in several courts. The interests of the claimants (Transneft-Port Primorsk LLC and Commercial Sea Port of Primorsk LLC) are represented by the lawyers of Delcredere Bar Association (Elena Dyomina), those of the Greek ship owners - by the lawyers of Lex Navicus Concordia and Saveliev, Batanov & Partners (Konstantin Krasnokutsky and Sergei Savelyev).

    Specific feature of this case is the following: although the incident was caused by spontaneous release of the towing line from Rosnefteflot’s tugboat holding the tanker’s stern, not by action/inaction of the Delta Pioneer crew, the defendants in the case are the ship owner and operator. The reason for that decision is the following: a tanker is a source of special danger and, under Russian laws, it is answerable to a berth owner with no fault. Rosnefteflot JSC was involved in the case only as the third party.

    As we wrote earlier >>>> , in July 2017 the Arbitrage Court of Saint-Petersburg and the Leningrad Region passed a judgment on claiming more than RUB 3 billion from the tanker owner and operator including RUB 2.3 billion awarded to Transneft-Port Primorsk and RUB 713.5 million – to Commercial Sea Port of Primorsk..

    Having considered it as an overclaiming and taking into consideration the Convention on limitation of liability for maritime claims (1976), the defendants challenged the decision of the Arbitrage Court and applied to the 13th Arbitration Court of Appeal. The Court of appeal commissioned an independent expert assessment of the berth repair project documentation following which the claimants applied for making the process non-public. After long legal proceedings the parties came to an amicable agreement according to which the amount payable has reduced by a half versus the amount claimed initially to about RUB 1.5 billion ($27 million) including $25 million to be paid to Transneft-Port Primorsk and $2 million – to Commercial Sea Port of Primorsk.

    The 13th Arbitration Court of Saint-Petersburg and the Leningrad Region approved the amicable agreement on 23 March 2018 though Rosnefteflot representatives were against the consent decree. As Peotr Ionov, representative of Rosnefteflot, said at the hearing, the company’s objections are reasoned by vague wording of the amicable agreement, which, in his opinion, can further be used for bringing claims against the towing company. “We were engaged as the third party upon defendants’ request and the defendants made it clear that they are going to initiate proceeding against Rosnefteflot”, the company representative explained the third party’s position.

    Elena Dyomina, in her turn, said at the hearing that in her opinion representatives of Rosnefteflot abused their rights in an attempt to hamper signing of the amicable agreement.

    “The third party is not a party of an amicable agreement … Our amicable agreement does not place any obligations on the third party … There is no any uncertainty in the amount payable under the amicable agreement … It is put absolutely clear that the payment ends the dispute … Everything is absolutely clear and distinct”, said Elena Dyomina. She emphasized that the amount payable specified by the amicable agreement has been “carefully weighed” following a long discussion by the parties and taking into consideration the case documents and the defendants’ situation.  According to Elena Dyomina, the agreement ends the dispute “under mutually acceptable conditions”.

    In his turn, Konstantin Krasnokutsky, representative of the defendants, said that Rosnefteflot had familiarized itself with the text of the amicable agreement and was able to raise objections throughout the three-month long period. Instead, Rosnefteflot raised objections only on the day of approval.

    The court upheld the claimants’ and the defendants’ arguments and rejected Rosnefteflot’s motion for continuance.

    So Rosnefteflot failed to secure itself against possible claims related to the incident, that opens prospects for further litigation under the case influencing the attractiveness of Russian ports for international shipping.

    According to AIS, the Delta Pioneer tanker is still at the port of Primorsk. The tanker is loaded with 100,000 tonnes of crude oil purchased by the Norwegian company Statoil ASA from Rosneft and bound for Rotterdam.

    When asked by IAA PortNews, representatives of the ship owner refused to comment.

    Sofya Vinarova