Call a Bill a Bill: The Star Quest
Journal of International Maritime Law, Vol. 23 (2017)
8 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2018
Date Written: December 31, 2017
OW Bunker A/S was the world’s largest bunker supplier, with operations in 29 countries. After being listed on the Copenhagen Exchange for eight months, it found itself to be in debt amounting to approximately US$750 million with 15 banks and eventually filed for bankruptcy protection on 7 November 2014. The bankruptcy triggered a chain reaction of bunker supply disputes across OW’s subsidiaries and many, including those in Singapore, also filed for bankruptcy. The Star Quest was part of this global fiasco. The case arose from a consolidated summary judgment application in the High Court of Singapore for breaches of contract and breaches of bailment and conversion founded on the misdelivery of bunkers without production of bills of lading. The respondent carriers in this case delivered cargoes of bunkers to the buyers of the bunkers without production of bills of lading. However, there were unusual features in the bills of lading and the underlying sale contracts in this case. The respondents raised novel propositions that these bills of lading were not, in fact and in law, bills of lading qua documents of title or contractual documents, but were merely acknowledgements of receipt of the bunkers. This prompted the judge to consider a key legal question mentioned at the outset of the judgment: when is a bill of lading not a bill of lading?
Keywords: bunker, letter of indemnity, bill of lading, contract of carriage, enforceability, contractual intention, privity, sham, document of title, presentation rule, blockchain
JEL Classification: K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation