The detention of vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden and the current scorch of incidents on the coasts of West Africa and East Asia have tremendous legal consequences, resonating for years after the incidents took place. When the time has come to come to a fair distribution of costs for the detention or for cargo theft, Gordian knots need to be cut: does ransom paid count as general average? Does detention count as off-hire? Can national coastal waters of peaceful states without means to protect shipping be labelled a war zone?

Prior to passing through dangerous waters, tankers and slower vessels carrying break bulk especially need to be prepared. Are charterers sufficiently protected when they refuse to go where the unrest is? There are standard Charter Parties in use in the tanker trade excluding piracy in their wartime clauses. There is also the question on the distribution of costs for citadel and fences and other protective measures between Owners and Charterers.

Dutch flagged vessels are still not allowed to deploy armed guards on board. It is not a secret that some owners are taking armed guards on board in international waters and are making use of teams of privateers in certain national waters. Armed guards, successful as they have proven to be, are to date not reconcilable with Dutch law.

Our firm is advising owners, merchants and charterers on contracting their way through the web of international rules and regulations, with a keen eye for the latest developments on the global stage. Piracy is a very serious matter. The impact of a piracy incident on a personal level is immeasurable. Owners, charterers and their insurers are obliged to take the best care of the mariners as possible. Our firm has advised on the wording of charter parties and the risks and legal framework for employing armed guards. In a published arbitrational award we have mitigated damages claimed by charterers for not allowing passage through the Gulf of Aden to a fraction of the claimed amount.


Harmen Hoek

+31 (0)10 205 21 80

Hofplein 20   3032 AC  Rotterdam
T +31 (0)10 205 21 80   F +31 (0)10 205 21 81