Rechtbank Rotterdam, 30-09-2015 / C/10/458046 / HA ZA 14-874


ECLIECLI:NL:RBROT:2015:6868
Datum30-09-2015
InhoudsindicatieSummary in English Seafarers claims for damages against their bankrupt employer - based on its failure to maintain adequate pension arrangements for them - may be recovered from the proceeds of the vessels they served on. The seafarers claims for damages take precedence over the claims of the bank that had first rights of mortgage on these ships. As of various dates in 2008 the eleven claimants were employed by Avra Towage B.V. (Avra) as masters and first officers on board various seagoing ships. Each of them, except for one, served on multiple ships. Each of the ships was in the ownership of a single-ship-company belonging to the same group that Avra was part of. These companies did not qualify as employer of the claimants. The ships were registered in Curaçao. Rabobank had first rights of mortgage on each of the ships. The service contracts of the claimants provided that the employee would be entered into the pension scheme of the Bedrijfspensioenfonds voor de Koopvaardij (BpfK). In accordance with the pension scheme and the law, each of the claimants would have to pay the employees share of the pension premium and Avra would have to add the employers share and then to pay both parts of the premium to BpfK. As was stipulated, Avra arranged for the entry of each of the claimants into the scheme and withheld pension premiums from their monthly wages. However, over the years 2010 through 2012 Avra did not pay any premiums to BpfK and only made a partial payment over the year 2013. Not until early July 2013 did BpfK inform each of the claimants that retroactively as of January 1st 2010 they were no longer entered in the BpfK pension scheme. The claimants have held Avra responsible for their loss, however Avra did not settle their claim. On May 20 2014 Avra was declared bankrupt. Rabobank has foreclosed four of the ships. A further ship was sold with Rabobanks consent. Rabobank deposited an amount to cover the claimants claims in the event and to the extent it would be held at law that their claims have priority over Rabobanks right of mortgage. The claimants brought an action against Rabobank to fulfil these conditions. The first issue to be decided was whether the claimants were entitled to recovery of the sums withheld from their wages as premiums, or to a sum equalling the accrued pension over the years 2010 through mid-2013. The Court found that Avra was in breach of its obligations under the service contracts and that the proper remedy for such a breach was to bring the claimants in the position as though the breach had not occurred. Therefore, the recoverable loss amounts to a sum equalling the accrued pension over the full period. The second issue to be decided was whether such a claim for damages ranks over the mortgage. This issue entailed the construction of article 8:211, first sentence and sub b Dutch Civil Code (BW) in conjunction with article 8:216 BW. The Court considered, following the guideline of the Supreme Court in the Pamina-case (ECLI:NL:HR:2009:BG3588; S&S 2009/49), that these articles purport to protect a seafarers interest to recover the claims referred to in these articles. On the proper construction the notion claims arising out of service contracts with the master or other seafarers (vorderingen ontstaan uit de arbeidsovereenkomsten van de kapitein of de andere leden der bemanning) in article 8:211, first sentence and sub b BW is not limited to wages or other regular benefits and includes claims for damages for breach of the service contract. Furthermore the Court found that, as Avra had been in breach for a long period of time, the present claims for damages have priority over the mortgage and the period during which the seafarer had served on each of the ships lacked relevance, as long as the seafarer had served on the respective ship. The proceedings will continue on the issue of the quantum of damages. Vordering tot herstel van (pre)pensioengat verhaalbaar op zeeschepen, met voorrang boven hypotheek. Interregionaal privaatrecht. Artikelen 10:160 BW, 8:201, 211 aanhef en onder b, 212 en 219 BW. Onvoldoende afdracht (pre)pensioenpremies door de werkgever van een elftal zeevarenden. Daardoor beëindigt pensioenfonds de deelname van de werkgever aan het fonds met terugwerkende kracht en nemen de zeevarenden niet langer deel aan de pensioenregeling. De werkgever failleert en de werknemers blijven achter met een (pre)pensioengat. De zeevarenden willen deze schade verhalen op een aantal door hen bevaren schepen, die niet toebehoren aan de voormalig werkgever maar in aan haar gelieerde eenscheepsvennootschappen zijn ondergebracht. Op verzoek van Rabobank als hypotheekhouder is een aantal van die te Curaçao te boek gestelde - schepen executoriaal verkocht. De vordering tot vergoeding van schade van de zeevarenden tegen hun werkgever is ontstaan uit (zee-)arbeidsovereenkomst zodat deze op de door iedere eiser bevaren schip is bevoorrecht op grond van 8:211 aanhef en onder b BW, zonder dat de beperking van het slot van die bepaling van toepassing is. Er is geen aanleiding om die vorderingen uit te smeren over de diverse schepen waarop of ten behoeve waarvan iedere eiser heeft gewerkt. Het geheel van de vordering tot herstel van het (pre)pensioengat is verhaalbaar op elk van die schepen. Volgt aktewisseling over de door eisers gemaakte kosten, opdat kan worden bepaald of en in hoeverre deze met voorrang (boven het hypotheekrecht van Rabobank) verhaalbaar zijn ingevolge artikel 8:210, 8:211 (mogelijk in verbinding met artikel 6:96 BW), 8:212 of 8:215 BW.
Gerelateerd ECLI:NL:HR:2010:BL0539 ★★★★★
Gerelateerd ECLI:NL:HR:2014:1063 ★★★★★
Gerelateerd ECLI:NL:HR:2009:BG3588 ★★★