Salt Ship Design wins case against Prysmian

4C Offshore | Tom Russell
By: 06/10/2021 4C Offshore
England and Wales High Court has found that Milan headquartered cable company Prysmian committed the tort of unlawful means conspiracy with regards to a contract relating to the design of a proposed cable-lay vessel with Norwegian ship designer Salt Ship Design AS (Salt).

The judge found that there were breaches on Prysmian's side regarding contractual and equitable duties of confidence and that the company engaged in a conspiracy to use unlawful means with Vard Design AS. It concerned the use of Salt's design to produce an alternative design.

The High Court Salt ruled that Salt is entitled to exemplary damages from Prysmian. The quantification of such damages, if available, has been reserved for later determination.

Judge Jacobs stated, "I regard this as a bad case of breach of confidence", further adding: "Prysmian did engage in a blatant misuse of confidential information to facilitate an outcome where it could obtain a ship built by Vard with the benefit of the Salt design, but at a significantly lower cost. Accordingly, I see no reason to decide now that exemplary damages are unavailable, in the light of the facts as I have found them to be. I reserve for later determination the decision as to whether such damages should be awarded."

Back in July 2017, Salt and Prysmian entered into a contract under the terms of which Salt agreed to provide ship design services to Prysmian in relation to a proposed new cable laying vessel. Under the contract, Salt was provide four phases of design work for Prysmian, this include concept design, tender package, basic design and delivery documentation.

During the term of the contract, Salt completed concept design, tender package and early engineering works for the vessel and was paid by Prysmian. However, in late September 2017, a number of shipyards were issued with a request for quotation, including Norwegian shipyard Vard, Damen Group and PaxOcean Group.

On 8th March 2018, Prysmian sent an email to Salt outlining that the request for quotation had resulted in an offer from one of the shipyard which offered a reduced price if it could carry out an alternative design of the vessel in-house which met Prysmian's requirements. The yard has been confirmed as Vard, originally tendered for the design work back in 2017.

It has surfaced that before Prysmian contacted Salt to terminate further work, it had signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Vard for a cable-lay vessel. This was followed by the signing of a contact between Vard and Prysmian in April 2018 for the construction of a cable-lay vessel.
Salt alleged that Prysmian misused its design based on the fact Vard was apparently able to produce its own allegedly alternative design in a short space of time; by mid-April 2018, a little over a month after the conclusion of the LOI and only three or so months since Salt's Phase 1 and 2 designs had been provided to it at the start of 2018, Vard had produced the eighth draft of a General Arrangement plan. In circumstances where Salt itself had taken nearly a year to reach the stage it had, Salt infers that Vard can only have proceeded as quickly as it did by using Salt's designs.  

The cable vessel, named
Leonardo da Vinci, is designed to support deep water installation capabilities for depths of more than 3,000 meters.  It travels at 14 knots and features two carousels of 7,000 and 10,000 tonnes. It was delivered to Prysmian this summer.