Italian lender UniCredit has been given leave to appeal in a UK High Court fight with Euronav over an alleged cargo misdelivery.

A court decision in April went in favour of the Belgium shipowner in the $24.7m damages row.

But a Euronav securities filing reveals that the Court of Appeal has informed the owner that it has granted UniCredit’s appeal bid.

A claim was submitted in January 2021 by Unicredit in London relating to a fuel oil cargo carried by Euronav’s 161,000-dwt suezmax Sienna (built 2007) in 2020.

The lender had financed the purchase by Gulf Petrochem of 80,000 tonnes of low sulphur fuel oil from BP.

UniCredit and Gulf Petrochem agreed that the cargo would be re-sold to sub-buyers on terms that required those sub-buyers to pay UniCredit directly.

BP had initially chartered the vessel from Euronav and was the shipper under the bill of lading (BoL).

The charter required Euronav to discharge the cargo without production of the BoL if requested by the charterer.

After Gulf Petrochem paid BP via a letter of credit issued by UniCredit, a novation agreement was entered into by BP, Euronav and Gulf Petrochem that made the Middle East company the vessel’s charterer.

Euronav then discharged the cargo without production of the BoL but the sums financed by Unicredit were not repaid by Gulf Petrochem or the sub-buyers.

Breach of contract alleged

UniCredit became the lawful holder of the BoL after the unloading.

The bank then filed a claim for breach of a contract of carriage because Euronav delivered the cargo without production of the bill.

The claim was rejected by the UK court, which ruled the BoL did not contain any contract of carriage at the time of discharge.

The court found the document was a mere receipt since BP was also the voyage charterer at that time.

Euronav said in the filing: “Management believes that it has followed well-established standard working practices and that it has valid defence arguments.”

‘Strong arguments’

The company referred to the outcome of the April ruling as an important first indication.

“Based on an external legal advice, management continues to believe that it has strong arguments that the risk of an outflow is less than probable and therefore no provision is recognised,” the owner added.

But it warned: “The appeal process is in an early stage.”

Euronav said Gulf Petrochem is part of GP Global.

“The GP Global group is currently under a restructuring plan and any recourse under the letter of indemnity issued by Gulf Petrochem is therefore doubtful,” the tanker owner added.