A joint project from BIMCO and the Association of Ship Brokers & Agents (U.S.A.), Inc. (ASBA) to develop a standard gas tanker voyage charter party took a big leap forward at a subcommittee meeting on 5-6 September. The aim of the project is to develop a standard form dedicated to the chartering of tankers for LPG, anhydrous ammonia and chemical gases based on the widely used tanker charter party, ASBATANKVOY.
The committee met in London and a first draft of the new charter is expected to be ready for wider consultation and review by the two associations’ Documentary Committees before the end of the year.
One of the issues which has needed careful consideration is whether the new charter party should remain as close as possible to the original ASBATANKVOY charter party, with logical amendments for the gas tanker trade or whether commonly used rider clauses should also be included as an integral part of the new form. While it is still being discussed, the subcommittee is opting for the new form, which will be codenamed ASBAGASVOY, to stay short and for commonly used rider clauses to be included in a separate document containing suggested additional clauses.
“While there is a number of clauses which users typically include when amending ASBATANKVOY for their gas tanker business, we are mindful of the familiarity with ASBATANKVOY and the need not to have too long a form,” said Stephen Harper, Head of Legal, Shipping at BW Group and BIMCO co-chair of the subcommittee, adding:
“Developing a form that departs significantly from ASBATANKVOY by including additional clauses could be counterproductive to ASBAGASVOY’s acceptance in the market and therefore also to our ambition of developing the preferred voyage charter form for the gas tanker industry.”
It has also been discussed whether it is possible to develop a relatively short presentation clause in the charter party applicable to both LPG and petrochemical gases, or whether the significant varieties in presentation, in particular as regards petrochemicals, call for two separate charter parties.
“Presentation is a key element in gas tanker charter parties. It is essential to get the presentation clause right for matters such as when notice can be served, when laytime counts and when the charter party can be cancelled,” said Søren Wolmar, chairman of ASBA’s Documentary Committee and ASBA co-chair of the subcommittee, adding:
“We are aiming at developing a presentation clause which will cater for the different ways of presenting a gas tanker. Given the variety in presentation, we may limit the charter party to only including short descriptions for LPG, petrochemicals and other products, in the interest of keeping the form short, while having more detailed provisions in the document containing suggested additional clauses.”
The subcommittee in charge of the work also includes Elwin Taylor (Petredec), Magne Andersen (Nordisk Legal Services), Sumit Madhu (Thomas Miller P&I (Europe) Ltd.) and Tommy Baggio (Clarksons).
The subcommittee aims to finalise the first draft at its next meeting on 4 November, after which it plans to consult some owners, charterers and brokers in the gas tanker industry to get their initial feedback. BIMCO’s Documentary Committee meets on 5 December in Copenhagen and will receive a draft version of ASBAGASVOY for review.