Could provisions in FIDIC contracts giving relief for ‘Force Majeure’ or ‘Exceptional Events’ provide relief to contractors suffering as a result of price escalation? It is well documented that construction and engineering projects around the globe are being affected by extreme and sometimes unprecedented price escalation. This is for many reasons including the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
Up until the spring of 2020, a FIDIC 1999 Sub-Clause 13.7 [Adjustments for Changes in Legislation] claim was just one of many issues to be resolved, for example, in a delay and disruption claim or a Cost claim. However, the focus it receives in the context of Covid-19 is drastically different. Many in the industry are using the changes in legislation provision to seek financial compensation in a situation that would otherwise potentially only attract an extension of time. Awarding Cost for Covid-19 events regardless of the circumstances may seem to some (Contractors mostly, though there are Employers and Engineers who agree) like the appropriate thing to do, but whether it is correct according to the Contract is a different question.
El efecto del coronavirus en la construcción es amplio y desconocido, en particular, en cómo evaluar el tiempo y el dinero perdido. Por fortuna, los contratos FIDIC proveen varias opciones a las Partes para manejar riesgos y proteger derechos. Este artículo analiza cómo se trataría la pandemia del Covid-19 bajo el Contrato de Construcción de Obras FIDIC 2010 armonizado por el Banco Mundial en español.
Although Clause 17 is titled ‘Risk and Responsibility’ it also sets out other provisions relating to indemnities, limitation of liability and, unusually, the specific topic of intellectual and industrial property rights. The clause provides that the Contractor assumes responsibility and bears the risk for the care of the works during execution and for remedying any defects during the Defects Notification Period. Risk transfers to the Employer on issue of the Taking–Over Certificate to the extent of works defined as being completed. Generally, in construction contracts ‘risk’ is understood to mean an event or circumstance which causes delay, loss or damage to the Works. A risk can be said to be Employer caused, Contractor caused or neutral. The purpose of risk allocation is to determine which party bears the risk for such events. The Contractor may be required to remediate the damage at his own cost or the Employer may be required to pay for the damaged works. It has been stated that the “FIDIC standard forms are generally recognised as being well balanced because both parties bear parts of the risks arising from the project.”
Clause 8 contains all the fundamental provisions relating to the start of the Works, the Time for Completion, delays and the entitlement of the Contractor to an extension of time and of the Employer to delay damages, and finally the circumstances in which a suspension of the Works can occur and the implications for the Parties.
Clause 3 deals with the duties and obligations of the Engineer and his assistants. Sub-Clause 3.1 deals with the role and duties of the Engineer. The Engineer is deemed to act for the Employer. The Engineer has no authority to relieve the Contractor of his duties, obligations or responsibilities under the Contract; nor can the Engineer amend the Contract. Under Sub-Clause 3.2 the Engineer can delegate authority to any assistants; however, the Engineer cannot delegate the responsibility to make Determinations. Under Sub-Clause 3.3 the Engineer may issue instructions or modified Drawings at any time, which are necessary for the execution of the Works. If the instruction constitutes a Variation, then it is dealt with under Clause 13 [Variations and Adjustments]. The Contractor is required to comply with any instruction given by the Engineer or delegated assistant. Sub-Clause 3.4 deals with the replacement of the Engineer. The Employer must not replace the Engineer with someone against whom the Contractor raises reasonable objection. Sub-Clause 3.5 deals with Determinations. When making a Determination the Engineer should consult with each of the Parties and, if agreement cannot be reached, make a fair determination in accordance with the Contract, taking due regard of all relevant circumstances. Both Parties are required to give effect to any Determination unless, or until, it is revised under Sub-Clause 20.1 [Claims, Disputes and Arbitration].
The Contractor must now prepare a detailed test programme with timing and resources. The Engineer reviews it and the result is a NONO, deemed or actual, which permits the tests to begin. This should help to remove some of the uncertainties that often can surround tests on completion. Clause 9.2 deals with delayed tests, whether the delays are caused by the Employer or Contractor. If the tests are “unduly delayed” by the Employer or Engineer or by a cause for which the Employer is responsible, it says clause 10.3 “shall apply”.
Clause 19 deals with two distinct events: (1) Force Majeure; and (2) release from performance under the law. Force Majeure is often narrowly defined under the laws of many countries; however, within the FIDIC 1999 forms of contract it has a much broader meaning. The terminology used by FIDIC has therefore sometimes been criticized as being misleading.
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