A MAJOR revision of the most widely used ship sale and purchase contract is to be introduced shortly. A new Norwegian Saleform, nearly twice the length of the present document, has been drawn up to address various problems that have arisen over the years. The new form has been welcomed by top ship finance lawyer Adam Morgan, but he warned a floating conference organised by Richards Butler on board the Baltic ferry Sally Albatross, that arbitration and litigation might arise over some of the new featuresand the amended wording. The new sale form, likely to enter use later this year or early next year, is expected to supersede versions, revised three times over the past 37 years, as the most widely used sale and purchase contract. Mr Morgan, head of the finance and banking group of the Richards Butler law firm, said he was initially convinced the new sale form had been drawn up to make a perfectly reasonable document obscure and ensure that lawyers made a lot of money in the future. But a closer reading of the latest draft of the form had convinced him it was a genuine attempt by the Norwegian Shipbrokers' Association to deal with the modern practices of the shipping industry and deal with issues that had led to disputes. Mr Morgan identified a new inspection clause providing for a diving survey as addressing concerns relating to the maintenance of vessels and the possibility of defects in a vessel being sold. The new sale form was a significant improvement on the existing document in that there were clear and unambiguous requirements on documentation and such matters as confirmation that a vessel was in class and free of maritime liens and other debts and claims. The new form also extends provision for notice that a vessel is ready for delivery to be tendered by telefax or ''other modern form of written communication'' in addition to letter or telex. Other updates define banking days to reflect that some financial institutions in the Far East are open on Saturdays and in the Middle East are often closed on Thursdays and Fridays. Mr Morgan told the conference that his major criticism of the new form related to a requirement that a seller have a vessel crewed, carrying insurance, paying port dues and incurring other costs for three banking days before the vessel was due for delivery. Such a requirement had been described by a judge in relation to a previous Norwegian Saleform as having an ''air of marked commercial unreality'' he warned. Mr Morgan was also critical of imprecision in the language relating to payment requirements as it gave scope for argument and could cause confusion. A literal interpretation of the new sale form suggested that a buyer was required to pay 100 per cent of the cost of a vessel on delivery day and then receive back the 10 per cent deposit already paid rather than simply pay the 90 per cent balance. The new agreement also specifically provides for items on hire to be included in the sale but ''raises a whole raft of possible legal difficulties''. If there was a rush of defaults by buyers in relation to their obligations to the hirers it might be that sellers would be well advised to exclude hired items from the sale, he added. Mr Morgan recommended that ship purchasers use the Norwegian Saleform as its only real rival, the Nippon Saleform produced by the Japan Shipping Exchange, and used mainly by Japanese sellers, was highly favourable to the seller.