The UK’s Supreme Court has issued an important judgment clarifying the extent to which parties are required to use reasonable endeavours to avoid force majeure.  Force majeure, or in layman’s terms ‘act of god’, is a specified, and generally unforeseen and disruptive, event which may mean that one or both parties to a contract are relieved from having to fulfil their obligations under it. In the present case, the underlying contract contained a force majeure clause, which included a provision requiring the party which was affected by the force majeure event to exercise reasonable endeavours to overcome it.

The relevant force majeure event took the form of US sanctions which effectively prevented payment by the charterer under an affreightment contract being made to a shipowner using US dollars.  The charterer instead offered to make payments in euros and to cover any losses arising to the shipowner through the conversion of those payments into US dollars. However, in what seems a somewhat counterintuitive decision, the Supreme Court unanimously found against the charterer, on the basis that the requirement on the shipowner to exercise reasonable endeavours to overcome the force majeure event did not mean that it had to accept performance that

Continue Reading

read more