A case where the last word has not yet been spoken. Mr. Ondiep thought he had found the boat of his dreams, but instead turned out to have purchased a vessel involved in a fire. Mr. Hommersom considers this case to be the most bizarre in his practice to date.
The following was the case: after a long search Hans Ondiep found the ship of his dreams at a yard in central Brabant. It had a length of almost fourteen meters and a width of over four meters. The ship was built for CE-category B and equipped with powerful engines. According to the shipyard, the original client had ordered this boat off the market and for that reason it was for sale for the 2006 season for €450,000. The ship was praised in glowing terms. Not a word was spoken about the disaster that struck the ship on January 6, 2005 (more on this below). Hans Ondiep was closely involved in the construction and completion of the vessel from the moment the contract was signed. As a former offshore man he had a technical background. However, even during construction he had to conclude that mistakes had been made by the shipyard in various areas. The installation of control panels was unacceptable according to him, as was the installation of the marine telephone. Ondiep began to feel that there was no previous experience of building yachts at this yard. Repairs resulted in ugly scars on the ship. Furthermore, it appeared that one railing at the rear of the boat had not been fitted, although this is required by the CE-B standard. In April 2006 a trial run was made with the ship during which photographs were also to be taken. One of the pumps was making a lot of noise.
When it was opened it was found to contain charcoal. Charcoal? The fact that the grease of the gears was saponified was proof of the fact that the pump had been under water and apparently sucked in charcoal. This was reason for Hans Ondiep to smell trouble. To his surprise he was informed shortly afterwards that the ship had been involved in a fire at the shipyard in January 2005. From that moment on Ondiep did everything he could to find out what could have happened to his ship. He learned that there had been an appraisal by two companies, but neither of them wanted to make available the photos that had apparently been taken of the vessel and referred him to the insurer. The insurer, however, also refused to make the photos of the vessel available because, as it turned out, the shipyard was also insured by the same insurer. This insurer hid behind the argument that if the yard did not give permission to release the photos, they could not do so! In the course of 2006 more and more larger and smaller defects in the ship became apparent, which Ondiep tried to solve with the yard, also trying to get more information about the fire. It kept getting worse: the yard could not or would not finish the list of defects and also ignored the requests of Ondiep to clarify what had happened to the ship.
In November 2006 the parties came together for a last attempt to find a solution and a so-called gentlemen’s agreement was drawn up, in which it is recorded what still had to be done by the shipyard to achieve an acceptable ship. This is one and a half A4 pages. Around this time the director of the shipyard acknowledges for the first time that there has been a small fire on the ship, namely in the toilet, where only the interior panelling is damaged. In the winter of 2006/2007 work on the ship is intensive, but upon delivery it turns out that many things have not been finished as agreed. Hans Ondiep then decides to carry out a large number of tasks himself. Not easy, since the manual and the electrical diagram of the ship are missing. The yard then manages to send Mr Ondiep an invoice for extra work that should have been carried out in connection with the CE regulations! In 2007 things continued to muddle along, but Mr Ondiep persisted in his investigation into what had happened to his ship. In the end, Mr Ondiep had had enough and in the beginning of 2008 he visited Mr Hommersom, who declared the yard to be in default and liable for all damages.
After countless requests for information and repeatedly running up against a wall, Ondiep finally receives the photos of the fire taken by the insurance experts at the beginning of 2008. What Hans Ondiep had already feared turns out to be true: there is no question of a minimal fire in the toilet, but the ship appears to have burned down to the steel. A few quotes from the expert report: “the paint system of the hull is seriously damaged by heat at approximately 1/3 from the bow”, “the hull of the foreship is deformed on both sides just above the waterline by heat”, “the entire interior is completely destroyed by fire from the wheelhouse up”, “after the vessel is cleared of fire debris, the roofs of the wheelhouse and saloon appear to be distorted by heat”. Small fire in the toilet? The vessel has been so affected by fire that even the steel hull has been distorted by the heat.
Now Mr. Ondiep also understands why he has had constant leakage at the windows for the past few years. It turns out that the shipyard sold him a completely burnt out wreck and slightly refurbished it! But it gets even crazier: Ondiep sees documents that show that the shipyard, as a result of the fire, has submitted an insurance claim of over € 375,000! So the yard collected twice for the ship, not only from Ondiep for an amount of € 450.000, but also from the insurance company. For Hans Ondiep it is now clear: he did not get what he was entitled to expect and he wants to dissolve the agreement. Ondiep himself considers himself cheated and swindled by the shipyard. The yard has never told him about the fire and has insisted that the ship was in good order.
Mr. Hommersom writes to the yard based on these findings and to his surprise gets an answer from the lawyer of the yard that there is nothing wrong with the ship. He even receives a report from an expert who claims that the ship complies with the CE standards. After confronting the surveyor with the real state of affairs and the condition of the vessel, it appears that the yard has enticed him to issue a report based on false information, while he had not even seen the vessel! Is this the end for Ondiep?
Unfortunately not. In the meantime, apart from the fire, the vessel does not comply with CE legislation at all. The shipyard issued a CE certificate, but was no longer allowed to do so. It also appears that the vessel deviates on numerous points from the prototype on which the CE-certificate was issued. The swimming ladder is not deep enough under water, the visibility of the main steering position is inadequate and the required maximum height of 120 centimeters between a fixed step and the escape hatch in the deck is too high and in case of emergency it is impossible to escape. In short: a sad list of defects. For Mr. Hommersom there is only one course of action: to cancel the purchase agreement and to recover the damages suffered by Ondiep. The case is before the court in Breda.
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