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Ballast General Average

28 February 2019

A general average (GA) situation arises under English law when an extraordinary sacrifice or expense is intentionally made or incurred for the common safety in order to preserve the ‘common maritime adventure’ from peril. It is generally understood that the requirement for a common maritime adventure is satisfied when a ship sails with cargo on board (the cargo being the second interest at risk in addition to the ship).

When a ship sails in ballast, there is a perception that a GA situation cannot arise, however, this is often incorrect. In many cases a ship sails in ballast whilst under a time or voyage charter. When under time charter, the charterer will own the bunkers on board and under a voyage charter there is freight at risk.  Under English law, the bunkers and the freight are a second interest and therefore a GA situation can arise. A question therefore arises as to what happens if the ship is the only interest involved in the voyage?

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