Sales and Purchase of Ocean Ships in Vietnam

Ship sales and purchase should involve shipping lawyers in Vietnam whom understand the laws and the shipping industry.

For long, maritime activities and carriage of goods by sea are important parts of the international economic life, supporting the import and export of goods, connecting Vietnam to the world commodities market and therefore playing as driving factors behind the development of maritime transportation field.

As the demands for transportation exists, although some times up and down depending on the cycle of the economy, ships purchase and sales are important part of maritime related transaction businesses. With its own special characteristics, the purchase or sale of ships usually involve enormous economic interests, and risks at the same time. Ships are special objects in transactions therefore require the help of local and international ship lawyers with knowledge and experience to handle.

Stages in a Ship Transaction

The sale and purchase of a ship include contract, inspections, and the closing.

At the first step, both buyer and seller appoint ship brokers to carry out the negotiating and defining the clauses needed in the contract. Once details of the contract are agreed, the parties shall initiate the process of drafting the contract under Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which normally is under a standard form. The governing law applies to such contract is usually the law of the country where the ship is registered its nationality. To enable the international transaction of ship, parties will sign an addendum to the MOA, stating necessary documents to be provided which may include: Approval from Director or Shareholders of resolving the sale of the vessel; Export or Import Permission of the Maritime Administration (requirement depending on national legislation), Power of Attorney, as well as other related documents involving the grade, commitments of the seller, etc.  Once lawyers of buyers and sellers agree on the documents and have initial checking of such, the buyer may pay a deposit as a percentage of the value of the contract.

After the forming of contract, shipping lawyers of buyer start to inspect the documents provided by the seller.  The inspection of the ship could be conducted in parallel. For the documents inspection, the buyer will check the ship’s class records and certificate records. The inspection of records will reveal the history of the ship’s maintenance in compliance with the requirement of class. Furthermore, the buyer need to check the mortgages and the maritime lien records to make sure that the vessel is free from encumbrances, debts, taxes, mortgages and maritime liens.  This will help prevent any damages or loss subject to the legal issue of the ship which may occur before the delivery of the ship. The buyer should also acknowledge of whether the ship owner is in debts for fuels or salaries, etc. However, in some case, it may be difficult to verify such information without the collaboration of the ship owner.

For the physical inspection, instead of just checking the logbook for the status of the ship, it is preferable to hire a professional examiner to control the process of physical inspection relating the safety, certificates, equipment and engine issues. Sending a person on the ship to participate in some of the ship’s voyages may be advisable in circumstances.

At closing, the parties shall transfer the ship and all related documents as required. During the stage of delivery, the buyer physically accepts the delivery of the vessel after re-checking the status of the vessel, the remaining amount of fuel and engines status at the designed port. The place for delivery may be at a different location from where the contract was made. It depends on the agreement between the parties and usually for the convenience of the voyage.

An important document that needs to be transfer at this stage is the Bill of Sale. The Bill of Sale should be in proper form and duly notarized. In some country, it is crucial to get the Bill of Sale registered at the authority agencies in order for it to take effect.

Other procedures that the parties also need to complete at the state’s authority agencies include legalization of the ship transaction process, transference of vessel ownership and modification of the shipping registration. The state where parties are to complete such procedure shall be the country where the vessel is registered (the country which the vessel is permitted for flying flag).

Why Shipping Lawyers are Important in Ship Transaction?

Seagoing vessel is a special type of asset in a commercial transaction. When engaging in a contract to purchase a vessel, it is important to consider not only the nationality of the owner but also the nationality of the vessel itself. As the process of the transaction involves many procedures and requirements which usually need to be complete at the state’s authority agencies, the law of the country where the vessel is registered shall have a strong influence on the interpretation and execution of the contract.

The model contract usually comes with specific requirements on the content and form of the commercial invoice and the Bill of Sale pursuant to the national legislation (the nation where the vessel is registered). The parties may agree to change some of the clause in the model contract to meet their demand in the transaction. However, if a model contract is chosen to be used, the parties should at all time acknowledge of all the clauses existing in the contract and try to comply with the form and requirement of such documents.

Most of the transferred documents in a vessel transaction need to be notarized or legalized in order for the contract to take effect. However, the process of notarized and legalized in some country only certify that the documents have been duly signed and stamped, it doesn’t confirm or verify the certainty of the content and information provided in the documents. Therefore, both parties should require the other to provide the certificate or proof of the competent authority agencies confirming the certainty of the information or content that they have committed in the contract. For example, in a ship transaction, the buyer usually required seller to commit that the ship is free from any encumbrances, debts, taxes, mortgages and maritime liens. To confirm the certainty of such information, the buyer may require the seller to provide documents or certification from National Registration Agency for Secured Transactions to ensure the documents are provided in good faith. To reduce the risks, the buyer may also ask for a specific clause in a contract stating the liability of the seller in the event of future dispute relating the vessel.

In case one parties of the contract is an organization or company, the required documents should include the Minute of the Joint Meeting and Decision/ Approval of Directors or Shareholders resolving the sale of the vessel in accordance with the term and conditions of the MOA.  Those documents should be duly established and signed in accordance with the requirement of the national legislation (law of the country where the company is set up).  The Approval of Shareholder should also require the signature of all the shareholders of the company in order to avoid future disputes that may arise. Other documents which parties should also consider including Association’s Regulation, authorized papers, passports and personal documents of the representatives of each party.  This will help better understand the legal position of parties in the contract, ensure their legal status to engage and perform in the contract.

ANT Lawyers have experience in laws and shipping matters to advice clients whom are interested to buy ships from Vietnam ship owners.   We assist our clients in the process of reviewing contract, examining the documents and giving useful consultation for the sale and purchase procedure.

Our lawyers have consistently made valuable and important contributions to our profession.

This publication is designed to provide updated information of legal matters, and does not constitute professional advice.

ANT Lawyers is a Vietnam law firm with international standards, recognized by Legal500, IFLR1000.

We are an exclusive Vietnam member of Prae Legal, the global law firm network covering more than 150 jurisdictions.  The firm provides a range of legal services to multinational and domestic clients.

ANT Lawyers has law offices in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Da Nang City. For advice or service request, please contact us via email ant@antlawyers.vn, or call (+84) 24 32 23 27 71.  To learn more about us, visit www.antlawyers.vn.