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May We Arrest a Vessel That Has Not Been Placed Under Time Charter?

The Arbitrazh Court of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region (Russia) considered the application of the company ZURBAGAN SHIPPING LLC (Russia) to arrest the vessel “CS FLOURISH” (IMO 9438365, Panama). The defendants in this case were CONTINENTAL DRY BULK LTD (Marshall Islands) and CS FLOURISH LTD (China) (case No. A56-7854/2024).

The applicant, the lessee of the vessel, pointed out that the lessor did not hand over the vessel within the period established by the time charter. The applicant claimed that he suffered losses in the amount of US$1.6 million.

The court considered that the arrest of the vessel based on this requirement was impossible.

Reasons for the trial:

1. The applicant did not prove that in the absence of arrest he would suffer significant damage.
2. The ship is not the subject of a dispute, but acts as property through which the applicant plans to compensate for his losses.
3. The future claim is not related to a maritime claim against the vessel in the form of recovery of damages due to the vessel being on lease.
4. The declared measures will not ensure the protection of the applicant’s property interests in a dispute subject to consideration in a foreign international court (clause 69 of the agreement).

The appeal in this case will be heard on 23 April 2024.

The applicant has already made a second attempt to arrest the ship.

For the first time (in case A56-7240/2024), the St. Petersburg court also refused to arrest the vessel. The applicant argued that the ship was heading to St. Petersburg, where it should be arrested.

However, the court explained that:

1. There is no evidence that the defendants take measures to conceal their property or otherwise take actions aimed at causing harm to the applicant in order to fail to fulfill their obligations.
2. English law applies to time charters, therefore the court did not accept the Applicant’s references to the Russian Merchant Shipping Code.
3. A time charter dispute must be resolved by arbitration in London.
4. The vessel is not located in St. Petersburg.

The appeal in this case will be heard on 18 April 2024.

Thus, the Russian company is so far unsuccessfully trying to arrest a foreign ship in a Russian port. Several circumstances prevent this:

- the ship is not located in the Russian port,
- a maritime claim cannot be considered in a Russian state court, because the parties have chosen English arbitration, and in this situation it is difficult for the court to assess the validity of the main claim,
- the claim for damages due to non-fulfillment of the contract is not obvious, and therefore the court is in no hurry to make a decision.