Law of Tug and Tow and Offshore Contracts
Standard form contracts: (i) The uk standard conditions for towage and other services
The UK Standard Conditions for Towage and Other Services (“the UK Standard Conditions”) have a long pedigree dating back, through successive revisions, to 1933. In that year negotiation took place between the Chamber of Shipping and the United Kingdom Tug Owners Association on the subject of the large number of towage conditions in operation in various ports. No agreement was reached, but a set of “national” conditions came into being and was rapidly adopted by UK tug owners. They represent a paradigm standard form contract, being drawn up to protect the interests of the tug owner and relatively draconian in their exclusion and restriction of any possible liability which the tug might be under to the tow. However, while less evident than in the approach of making each party bear its own loss which is found in the “Towcon” and “Towhire” forms, the UK Standard Conditions in their latest revision do seek to achieve some measure of balance between tug and tow (see eg clause 4(c)). To the extent that the concept of construction contra proferentem survives as a modern tool of interpretation after K/S Victoria Street v House of Fraser (Stores Management) Ltd  EWCA Civ 904;  Ch 497; Transocean Drilling U.K. Ltd v Providence Resources plc  EWCA Civ 372 and Persimmon Homes Ltd v Ove Arup & Partners Ltd  EWCA Civ 373 (as to which see Chapter 1 and Chapter 4), then in the case of the UK Standard Conditions, designed as a one-sided protectionist set of conditions and frequently imposed on a “take it or leave it” basis, the UK Standard Conditions remain apt to be read strictly and narrowly, albeit that their meaning is now largely hallowed in decided cases on previous versions. The UK Standard Conditions are in constant use in contracts for domestic towage operations and, as the heading of the Conditions as being conditions for towage “and other services” makes clear, in contracts for allied or connected services, for example to the offshore industry, which are provided by UK tug owners and operators. As a standard form contract, designedly in favour of tug owners, the UK Standard Conditions have been used not only by UK towage operators but are often also encountered, either unchanged or in some variant form, in other common law jurisdictions and, indeed, in other jurisdictions where tug owners have sought to adopt a standard form exclusionary wording (albeit subject to the local law).