Construction costs are escalating. Under existing contracts, an employer will not want to pay more for the works. But forcing a contractor to perform works that are unprofitable or causing a massive loss is unlikely to be in the best interests of the project. It may result in the insolvency of the contractor forcing the employer to abandon the contract or re-let it, probably at a premium. Is a mechanism for cost adjustment, such as FIDIC 1999 Sub-Clause 13.8 [Adjustments for Changes in Costs], an answer?
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.
Covid-19 has had huge consequences around the world and unfortunately
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.
What relief does FIDIC provide when bank accounts are frozen as a result of war, hostilities, rebellion, terrorism etc.? Maybe not as much as you think. Tensions in Africa and the Middle East have seen the implementation of numerous international financial sanctions. While these sanction regimes vary in execution and enforcement they often freeze assets and prevent financial transactions. These restrictions may impact on the Employer’s performance of its payment obligations under the Contract. This can have serious consequences where the Contractor is entitled to suspend or terminate on notice for non-payment. Many parties automatically assume that financial sanctions will be recognised as force majeure. However, this may not be the case.
Is not uncommon to find that an employer attempts to pass almost all risk in a contract to the contractor. However, such an approach may have unforeseen consequences when events later make completion of the works impossible. Here Andrew Tweeddale considers how and when a contractor might be released from further performance.