Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly


The Van Gogh

1. Introduction

Club Cruise Entertainment and Travelling Services Europe BV v. Department for Transport (The Van Gogh) 1 appears to be the first case for a century dealing with the legality of a detention under United Kingdom merchant shipping legislation.2 It raises the issue of what sort of information should be given in a detention notice, which, if invalid, may trigger a compensation claim.
A vessel may be detained under s 95(1) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 (“MSA 1995”) when it “appears to a relevant inspector to be a dangerously unsafe ship”.3 A detention is executed by a surveyor4 in serving on the master of the ship a detention notice.5 Such a “detention notice” is not a prescribed statutory form, but has been created by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (“MCA”). MSA 1995, s 97 provides that any compensation claim has to be referred to arbitration and in s 96(1) sets a time bar of 21 days from the service of the detention notice.6
At about 1900 hours on 28 May 2006 an MCA surveyor issued a detention notice to the master of the cruise vessel Van Gogh. At about 1520 hours on 30 May 2006 the surveyor handed the master a second detention notice, which was dated 28 May 2006. Following a re-inspection of the vessel, the surveyor eventually released the ship from detention at about 1945 hours on 30 May 2006.
The first detention notice was filled out, under a heading “Statutory Requirement”, with the words “MS Shipping Legislation. MS Act 1995”, and in the box “Ship does not comply because” the surveyor had inserted “Outbreak of Norovirus on previous two cruises”. The second notice7 stated that, “in exercise of the powers in section 95 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, the ship is hereby prohibited from going to sea or on a voyage until released by an officer of the [MCA]”. The reasons given in the second notice were: “outbreak of norovirus on two previous cruises. Over 100 passengers and crew affected on last seven day cruise. Director of Public Health advised that the vessel should remain docked for 48 hours to monitor crew and vessel”.

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