MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company SA v. Cottonex Anstalt  EWCA Civ 789
A container line, whose containers had been detained for a few months and seemed to be unlikely to be returned for some time, was not able to claim demurrage from the Shipper for an open-ended period.
This case arose out of the shipment of 35 containers of cotton from Middle Eastern ports to Chittagong, Bangladesh. When the market price for cotton fell, the Buyers refused to collect the cargo and, as a result, the containers remained uncollected at the Port of Chittagong. The customs authorities also indicated that they would not allow anyone to remove the containers without a local court order. The Shipper allegedly tried to but did not get this order. The Carrier, who owned the containers, brought a claim against the Shipper under the bill of lading for over US$ 1 million in respect of container demurrage. The Shipper objected to this on the basis that the replacement costs of the containers amounted to just over US$ 100,000.
To understand the judgment, there are three key dates to keep in mind:
(1) The containers were discharged in Chittagong between May and June 2011;
(2) on 27 September 2011, the Shipper informed the Carrier that it did not own the cargo because it had already been paid, that it would not be paying the demurrage claimed and it suggested that the Carrier recover this money from the bank, who had paid the Shipper for the cargo;
(3) on 2 February 2012, in an attempt to break the deadlock, the Carrier offered to sell the containers to the Shipper. The parties nearly agreed a price, but the Shipper thought the Carrier was asking too much, so the deal fell through.
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