Ebola outbreak: is it a force majeure event?
On 8 August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorised the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The potential impact of this epidemic is of interest to all multinational corporations with a presence in Africa, and in particular to those with projects, assets and personnel in those countries affected. The fact that the WHO has only twice previously described an outbreak in these terms underlies the severity of its impact, and potential impact, on construction projects in West Africa.
On the date of the WHO’s announcement, a leading steel producer published a press release noting that contractors undertaking expansion works at its mines in Liberia had declared the outbreak a force majeure event and were moving personnel out of the country. The company noted that it was assessing the potential impact on the project schedule. This assessment will no doubt involve a review of its key contracts and the impact of the outbreak on completion dates and cost. A number of airlines have also cancelled flights to West Africa, and several mining companies have cut back on non-essential travel to the region…
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