Law of Tug and Tow and Offshore Contracts

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Standard form contracts: (v) the bimco “heavycon 2007”; “heavyliftvoy” and “projectcon” forms

Part A. The Background to the Forms

7.1 An aspect of the expansion of offshore activities connected with oil exploration and production in the 1970s and 1980s was the growth of the heavylift sector of the offshore industry, with an increased demand for specialised transportation of very large, very heavy and very voluminous cargoes such as oil rigs and production platforms and parts thereof. 7.2 For over a century, the sea transportation of heavy equipment and plant was effected principally by “wet” towage, that is, towage usually of the item itself, if capable of independent buoyancy and flotation. The use of floating drydocks under tow laden with a heavy cargo was also an occasional method. In the early 1960s, the major towage companies began to develop “dry” towage methods, involving very large purpose-built barges or transportation units which were designed for towage at sea and could therefore offer a safer, more navigable and quicker transportation method. From this, the design of the semi-submersible barge developed, providing a loading and transportation platform capable of loading and discharging by the float on and float off of the cargo. These barges were originally barges which required to lie aground for loading but in 1976 the first truly semi-submersible barge with buoyancy equipment allowing the barge to submerge horizontally without taking the bottom was put into commercial operation: Wijsmuller BV’s “Ocean Servant I.” Self-propelled heavylift vessels rapidly followed, with Wijsmuller’s “Super Servant” in 1979 and “Mighty Servant” in 1983, eliminating the need for towage altogether (for an interesting account of the role of Wijsmuller in the early development of the modern heavylift sector, see F. van Hoorn, “Semi-Submersible Heavy-Lift Ships in Operation” Schip en Werf, (1990) No. 8, August 1990). 7.3 The modern heavylift sector is a highly specialised one, with a number of owners and operators with dedicated fleets of heavylift vessels, servicing the transportation needs associated with, for example, the oil and gas industry, port expansion projects, power plant construction and, more recently, the construction of wind farms. The sector handles the transportation of a very wide range of heavy and voluminous cargoes and many different types of heavylift vessel are in use, from semisubmersible heavylift ships and dock ships to non-submersible multi-purpose heavylift ships with sophisticated lifting gear for project cargoes and specialised un-geared heavylift carriers for container cranes and modules. Many of the newer types of vessel in the sector offer a wide spectrum of loading and discharging methods such as float on/float off; lift on/lift off and roll on/roll off by skidding on and off. A principal characteristic of heavylift operations is therefore the absence of standardisation of the cargo and its transportation requirements which necessitates individual transport planning and an industry bespoke form of contract. 7.4 With the growth of the heavy lift trade and the increase in chartering activity, the need for a uniform contract reflecting the particular peculiarities and hazards of this form of transportation became apparent. The position was bedevilled by a host of owner’s and operator’s own “house” forms often unthinkingly and inappropriately adapted from other forms. As with other species of BIMCO standard form contracts, resort was had to such BIMCO forms as were then current, with the “Towcon” and “Supplytime” forms being frequently used and adapted for purposes to which they were not suited. The increasing need for a dedicated heavylift transportation contract

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led BIMCO to solicit interest from the heavylift companies in a uniform standard contract. The reaction was unanimously in favour and BIMCO set up a drafting team which in turn drew up the “Heavycon” form, being a “Standard Transportation Contract for Heavy and Voluminous Cargoes” in 1985. “Heavycon” proved to be a very successful form and one which came to be almost universally used by the major heavylift operators. Since that time, as BIMCO explains:

The developments within the heavylift sector, which initiated the drafting of “Heavycon”, has since continued at a great speed with more types of cargoes and vessels tailor made for the various cargoes coming on to the market. To reflect recent developments, “Heavycon” has now been updated through a thorough revision and re-issued with the code-name “Heavycon 2007.” It was adopted by the Documentary Committee at its meeting in Copenhagen November 2007.

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