The owner of the fire-stricken Yantian Express said the vessel would depart its refuge at Bahamas Freeport on Wednesday, to arrive at the Canadian east coast gateway of Halifax at the weekend.

On Friday, owner Hapag-Lloyd told customers: “Reloading of all containers previously discharged ashore for inspection has now been completed. Accordingly, all cargo, whether security has been provided or not, is now on board the Yantian Express.

“Dependent on final technical approval of vessel class, arrival of spare parts and conclusion of repairs, Yantian Express is now tentatively scheduled to depart from Freeport, Bahamas on May 15.”

It added that shippers which provided salvage and general average security would see their cargo “delivered in the usual way under the relevant contract of carriage”, but indicated that a significant number of shippers had still not paid either.

However, maritime law firm RoosePartners argued in a blog post last week that the insistence of the shipowner to have a general average security so far in advance had meant some cargo owners were “faced with the law of diminishing returns”.

It explained: “When the benefit of a salvage service is assessed, an important factor is the prompt redelivery of the property at risk. The quicker that is achieved, the better and the more valuable the service performed.

“The problem arises when the property is redelivered, as in the case of the Yantian Express, at an intermediate port which, on the face of it, is lacking in facilities to deal with a casualty of this nature, leading to substantial delays in the actual and real delivery of the cargo.

“Combine that with delays in provision of security and the release of the vessel to prosecute the voyage, and there are potentially serious problems with assessing the value of the property and any benefit conferred upon that property.”

The firm argued that a box ship should be considered “akin to a consolidated container, only with many thousands of parcels of cargo rather than, say, twenty within an LCL box”, and said that as delays mounted all those in the container supply affected by a casualty such as the Yantian Express should work together to come up with what it termed “bridging security” to allow the vessel to sail to an appropriate port where cargo can either be released or general average security provided.

“Bridging security can work very effectively and, now that the Yantian Express is by all accounts passed to sail, and where the only thing preventing the progress is a lack of security, all those involved in shipping cargo should work together to ensure the job gets done.

“There is little doubt costs associated with insuring a bridging guarantee or taking out lien insurance would be recoverable by the salvors or by the shipowners and charterers via the mechanism of General Average,” it said.

It added that a better flow of information could also have had the effect of inducing more owners of uninsured cargo to pay the security earlier.

“Information makes people happy. In this case, there has been a notable absence of pertinent information about progress or intentions. A lack of information leads to speculation and perhaps here has exacerbated the delays in security provision.

“Why should an uninsured cargo interest provide security when there is no promise as to the ultimate delivery of their cargo?” it noted.

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