University of New South Wales on Sub-Charter

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the University of New South Wales is a signatory to the sub-charter of the Akademik Shokalskiy:

To retrace Mawson’s voyage the AAE used the New Zealand tourism company Heritage Expeditions to sub-charter the Shokalskiy, an ice strengthened ship owned by the Russia government. Turney and Fogwill’s employer, UNSW, signed the sub-charter contract.

I don’t know how liability for rescue costs is allocated. However, the fact that the University of New South Wales is a party to the sub-charter places its potential liability in a new light. However, in most legal proceedings, plaintiffs look for the party with the deepest pockets, which, in this case, would be the University of New South Wales.

Statements by Greg Mortimer in the report to IAATO (not public yet but seen by the Sydney Morning Herald) place blame for evacuation delays on the conduct of Turney’s on-ice party and exonerate the Russian captain.


  1. Bob Koss
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

    The UNSW will probably just pay any costs out of student aid funds.

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 7:57 AM | Permalink

      Well they COULD take it out of Turney’s departmental budget of course

  2. Bob Koss
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 11:22 PM | Permalink

    Upon reflection my initial thought was perhaps a bit harshly sarcastic. It will be interesting to see if their insurance will willingly cover all the university’s costs if they turn out to be extensive.

    • JCM
      Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 1:49 PM | Permalink

      An insurance policy will have a deductible and UNSW will be on the hook for that amount.

    • Follow the Monehy
      Posted Jan 24, 2014 at 6:14 PM | Permalink

      A reading of the “New Details on the Ship of Fools” posting will give great relief to any insurers on the hook in this mess. This could have been a major, and very expensive, human disaster. If self-insured, I suspect the institution’s money people are like-wise amazed and relieved.

  3. pat
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 11:38 PM | Permalink

    22 Jan: SMH: Nicky Phillips/Colin Cosier: Antarctic field trip a factor in ship becoming trapped in sea ice on Christmas Eve
    A four-hour delay on a passenger field trip in Antarctica may have contributed to the Akademik Shokalskiy becoming trapped in sea ice on Christmas Eve.
    In the hours before the ship was caught, its captain, Igor Kiselev, feared it would be surrounded by moving sea ice and requested passengers visiting nearby rocky islands return to the vessel, say passengers who didn’t go on the trip…
    “The captain and his staff up on the [ship’s] bridge did not look happy,” said one passenger, who asked to remain anonymous.
    By the time the ship departed the ice edge after 6pm, shifting sea ice had already blocked the escape route. The Akademik Shokalskiy was stuck by 3am…
    In addition to the field-trip delay, the director of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Tony Press, said the satellite images his organisation provided to the AAE before it entered the sea ice-prone area ”showed where the sea ice was located and the weather forecast predicted increasing winds, which would tell you that the sea ice could move”.
    From midday on December 23 passengers were transported from the ship on snow vehicles over five nautical miles of ice to the Hodgeman Islands.
    “Everyone on board was keen to make the journey across the fast ice to the Hodgeman Islands,” said one passenger.
    A weather forecast predicted 25-35 knot winds reaching 40 knots late in the day.
    “Despite the wind and extreme cold, the scenery on the journey was spectacular – it seemed unreal, as though we were on a movie set,” said the same passenger.
    About 2.30pm the weather deteriorated. At the same time Captain Kiselev saw slabs of sea ice moving into the open water channel from which the ship had entered the area. He called for everyone to return.
    A passenger standing near Professor Turney overheard the voyage leader, Greg Mortimer, telling him over the radio to bring passengers back to the ship so it can leave.
    But minutes later, Turney drove six more passengers into the field.
    The overloaded vehicle had no space to collect returning passengers.
    Turney, Dr Fogwill and Mr Mortimer all declined to answer questions about the events of December 23.


  4. pat
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 11:46 PM | Permalink

    new timeline from Fairfax journos who were on the Aurora Australis:

    22 Jan: SMH: Nicky Phillips/Colin Cosier: Stuck In The Ice
    The inside story of how a polar expedition went terribly wrong, leaving dozens of tourists and scientists trapped in the ice.
    The leaders were also receiving daily weather forecasts from three sources, the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecasters at Casey station, a private forecasting company in Europe and the ship’s onboard weather station. From this information Mortimer estimated the team had 15 to 18 hours before the weather deteriorated, and 24 hours before a more serious change was expected…
    In the days following their rescue, Turney said the insurance claims were “yet to be discussed”.
    “Who is paying? At the moment, we’re not sure,” he said….
    This account has been reconstructed from interviews with members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013/14, most of whom wished to remain anonymous, who witnessed events or overheard conversations, and the report the voyage leader, Greg Mortimer, submitted to IAATO.
    Mortimer declined to comment on his report.
    The Shokalskiy’s captain, Igor Kielev, did not respond to Fairfax Media’s emails.
    Chris Turney and Chris Fogwill, the expedition leaders, also declined to comment on specific questions regarding events on December 23.
    Nicky Phillips and Colin Cosier travelled on board the Aurora Australis as part of the Australian Antarctic Division’s media fellowship program.

  5. pat
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 11:49 PM | Permalink

    apologies to Steve. just realised your post includes the Stuck in the Ice link.

  6. flyingtigercomics
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 12:02 AM | Permalink

    Dry Bulk Handy Holding Inc v Fayette International Holdings Ltd

    the sub-charterers had impliedly requested the continued performance of the voyage, after the withdrawal from the head charterers, and were therefore liable to pay reasonable remuneration for the continued use of the vessel, (following the “Tropwind” (No 2) (1981) 1 Lloyds Rep 45)…

    Similar issues were considered by Carruthers J in the NSW Supreme Court in J. Gadsen Pty Ltd v Strider 1 Limited [1990] 20 NSWLR 57.

    Sub-charter liability is clear. UNSW is on the hook whether they want to be or not. In the case of the #shipoffools, it was the decision of the sub-charterer, ie the clown expedition, that extended the duration of stay, incurred the costs and extra ongoing costs to other parties beyond the vessel itself in question.

    Steve: it seems to me that the charterer would be liable for extra time. However, because the vessel fortuituously escaped in early January, this may not be a major cost.

    The cases that you cited do not speak to liability for rescue costs, which have separate precedents. It’s not clear to me that rescuing vessels are entitled to recover costs – it is possible that vessels are expected to rescue one another and bear their own costs.

    • flyingtigercomics
      Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 1:53 AM | Permalink

      I take your point about “rescue” costs- except, to go all lawyerly about it, what is the definition of a “rescue”, an “evacuation” or on the other hand reasonably foreseeable costs of a sub-charterer’s non-critical decisions?

      Just because panic or other motivations made them get out of Dodge ASAP, doesn’t mean they were right to do so. Particularly since both forecasts and subsequent events proved that there was no inherent exceptional circumstance or added danger, and indeed that they would have made a more timely return had they stayed on board.

      One of the reasons for their costly costly evacuation seems to have been that they ran out of numnums and diddums would have to drink non alcoholic beverages for a week or two. Not exactly life threatening especially for the “spirit of Mawson”– unless the spirit in question is the 50% proof kind.

      Anyway, we have some cases to look at, the information in them is good law and the obiter dicta is interesting too.

      • Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 4:23 AM | Permalink

        Not exactly life threatening especially for the “spirit of Mawson”– unless the spirit in question is the 50% proof kind.

        How else could Mawson and his plucky protégés be expected to cope with the privation of being cut off from the essentials of life such as banana and peanut butter milkshakes?

  7. Margaret
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 2:13 AM | Permalink

    the University of New South Wales, as with most Australian universities, is effectively funded by the Australian Government — so if they go down for the costs, then ultimately it will be the taxpayer who suffers.

    • Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 4:25 AM | Permalink

      I’m sure that’s right – and it’s not as if anyone in the Tony Abbott administration would wish to make political capital out of this unprecedented instance of warmist waste.

    • IanW
      Posted Jan 23, 2014 at 9:34 PM | Permalink

      The Australian Antarctic Division and Dr Turney’s Cooperative Research Centre at UNSW are both funded by the Commonwealth of Australia. The funding of the rescue costs will be sorted out within the government. AAD are reported to be looking for up to $2.4M. Regardless of how liabilities are conventionally assigned, budget provisioning will probably see Turney’s CRC pay the cost (to the extent it cannot be recovered from insurance) either upfront or in future years. The interesting point is whether the CRC will have to cut staff in due course, Turney possibly becoming a candidate for a return to the UK.

      Steve: one obvious and fair first step would be for the remaining grants in Turney’s lucrative ARC Laureate Fellowship to be turned over to the Australian Antarctic Division. It would only be a first step.

  8. Gaelan Clark
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

    NSW being a signature on the sub-charter means that there should be a risk-assessment and other protocols for the safety of the passengers and crew firmly established amd readily accessible…….yes?

  9. Don B
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    There is an interesting quote in the comments at Lucia’s blog indicating captain’s orders to return to the ship were deliberatly ignored.

  10. Speed
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Permalink

    Now there’s the question of who will pay the $2 million (U.S.) or so that it cost to get the group off the stranded MV Akademik Shokalskiy. According to [correspondent] Stuart [Cohen], Australian authorities say they’re negotiating with insurers of the Russian ship and the University of New South Wales, which chartered the vessel, about covering the costs.

  11. pfm
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

    My father was privileged – yes, privileged, Mr. Turney, to serve on the 1934-37 British Grahamland Expedition, spending 2 winters in the Antarctic. They were the last expedition to go down and return under sail, and, incidentally, the first expedition to bring a parson back alive – but he was also the Geologist, and therefore valuable(!).

    For considerable periods, the total population of that vast continent was the 8 members of the expedition.

    The video made by SPRI of the old cine films taken contains a salutary quote.

    “There were of course no means of rescue in the event of emergency ….. you tried to take suitable precautions not to get in a mess, and if you did get in a mess, you had to figure the best way to get yourself out of it…”

    It makes my blood boil that stupid pr@ts like Turney can go down and make complete fools of themselves and get rescued at other peoples’ peril and expense. He shouldn’t be allowed near that continent.

  12. hunter
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    This will almost certainly go to a Lloyds arbitration process.
    If I recall corectly these sort of charters and sub charters have arbitration clauses in them, and Lloyds is typically where the cases are heard.

    Click to access Agency_LSSA_Clauses%202011.pdf

    This is certainly not the first time a foolish sub-charterer put a vessel in harm’s way. Shipping is an *old* enterprise.
    My brief but intense experience in that area was notable in how the arbitrators were no non-sense and quick. In shipping, time is money. A great deal of money.

  13. Streetcred
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

    … and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation continues to avoid the truth:

    The ABC’s report was again misleading, even peddling global warming scares while reporting on this disastrous expedition of global warming scientists.

    The ABC failed in its report to note there has been no warming of the planet’s atmosphere in 16 years and sea ice around the world has expanded, not shrunk. These are the key points that make the Ship of Fools saga such an iconic story of global warming hysteria.

    And of the media’s complicity.

  14. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 8:56 PM | Permalink

    Among all this detail, keep in mind that the possibility of questionable standards of science was brought into the spotlight through the ship being caught in the ice.
    It worries me more that many other current research programs are slipping through with a free pass because they have not attracted attention and scrutiny.
    Surely the problem is a wider one, of the poor standard of much climate research that we simply do not get to dissect in great detail.
    I’d be happier if more readers devoted time to uncovering poor science. There is a limit to how much Steve can achieve.

    • Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 9:44 PM | Permalink

      This post covers it, Geoff, link also on the Trackback for pindanpost below, Dr Gray:

    • Ian Blanchard
      Posted Jan 23, 2014 at 10:52 AM | Permalink


      there was an interesting post on Bishop Hill earlier in the week about a discussion between science journalists regarding what they do. One raised the interesting point that using the word ‘scientist’ in a very generalised manner (as the news tends to) gives a false authority to scientists working in immature or non-rigorous fields – climate science was specificallly mentioned as one such field.

  15. Ian H
    Posted Jan 24, 2014 at 7:44 PM | Permalink

    Assigning blame is tricky for an event like this and in my view there is plenty to go around. Yes Turney should be held to account for asking the captain to take the ship into this area and for delaying the ships departure. But in my view the captain must accept the blame for letting Turney persuade him to take his ship into such a dangerously exposed position, and for not anticipating earlier what the change of wind direction would do to the ice.

  16. Jeff Norman
    Posted Feb 2, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    “University of New South Wales on Sub-Charter”

    That explains it then. Turney was not concerned about the change in weather because he assumed they would just go under the ice. Dive! Dive! Dive!

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