Safe Port. As near thereto as she can safely get.

…I do riot know what force can be given to the word “safe” when added to the word “port.” As Carrisal Bajo was a port into which the vessel could not enter without confiscation, it seems to me clearly not within the terms contemplated by the parties.
Per Whigtman J in Ogden v Graham (1861) 1 B&S 773, at pp.779-780.

Politically unsafe

In Ogden v Graham (1861) 1 B&S 773, the charterers nominated port in Chili, which at the time of nomination was closed by the government of Chili and no vessel can call into it without running the risk to be confiscated. The charterers had no knowledge of this order of Chilean government when entered into the contract of carriage with the owners. Consequently the vessel was delayed for 38 days and owners claimed damages on the ground that nominated port was not safe within the meaning of charterparty. The charterers contended in response that a named port was safe so far as regards the incidents to navigation, and if it was physically possible for the master to take the ship inside of such port the charterers have fulfilled their part of contract. The court again took the owners’ side, stressing that even if the charterers were perfectly innocent as regards any knowledge of the danger that might be incurred by the vessel, it would be unreasonable to construct a contract in a way that a safe port in Chili, which the charterers shall name, means even a port where the vessel will be confiscated the moment she enters it.

Blackburn J said in his judgment:

I think that, on the construction of this charter-party, the charterers are bound to name a port which, at the time they name it, is in such a condition that the master can safely take his ship into it; but, if a certain port be in such a state that, although the ship can readily enough, so far as natural causes are concerned, sail into it, yet, by reason of political or other causes, she cannot enter it without being confiscated by the Government of the place, that is not a safe port within the meaning of the charter-party.

This decision is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it extended meaning of a safe port beyond the limits of natural or physical obstructions and ‘incidents to navigation.’ This new notion of port’s unsafety was later described as ‘politically unsafe port’. Whether action of war or nature or the order of government render a port unsafe is always a question of fact. Secondly, the Charterers’ argument, based partly on Spence v Chodwick [1847] EngR 472; (1847) 10 QB 517 case, was rejected by the court as an unreasonable construction.

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