Voyage Charters (Charterparty)
Charterparties originated at a period when contractual obligations were as a general rule treated as absolute. A party’s obligation was to secure that anything that he warranted should be done, was done. If it was not, then, unless this was the result of some default of the other party, he was liable in damages, even though circumstances over which he himself had no control and could not even have foreseen made it impossible for it to be done. In the case of maritime carriage this rule was subject to the exception that performance was excused if it were prevented by act of God or of the King’s enemies or by inherent vice in the goods carried. At a very early date it became usual to incorporate in charterparties express exceptions for other maritime perils, and in modern charterparties these have been extended to strikes and other hindrances to performance which take place on land. But that the old rule still applies in the absence of an express exception in the charterparty is shown by the fact that when there is deviation from the chartered voyage the shipowner’s liability for the safe delivery of the goods is absolute, save for the limited common law exceptions mentioned above.
Per Lord Diplock in EL Oldendorff & Co GmbH v Tradax Export SA (The Johanna Oldendorff)  3 All ER 148 at p.175
When the agreement is for the employment of the whole ship on a given voyage or voyages or for given period of time the contract of affreightment is almost always contained in a document called a charterparty, the person entitled to the use of the ship is called the charterer, and the ship is said to be chartered or under charter.
Almost until the second half of the nineteenth century charterparty contracts usually were made under seal. They embodied the terms upon which the shipowner lends the use of the ship, and contained stipulations as to the rate of remuneration, the nature of the voyage, and the time and mode of employing the vessel. Continue …
Under the common law mutual obligations of a shipowner and a merchant under the contract of carriage were almost absolute â€“ the former shall reach place or places named in contract, there load the goods and deliver them to the receiver. The latter shall provide for the goods, load them on board and pay freight. Continue …
The parties’ agreement may be made in the course of written exchanges, e-mails, or during conversations and/or meetings, therefore so long as the parties have reached complete agreement, formal exchange of signed charterparty is unnecessary. Continue …
Nowadays standard voyage charterparty forms at least consist of such clauses as below:
- An introductory clause identifying the contracting parties, the vessel, and the agreed voyage. Cargo capacity is usually expressed in terms of deadweight tonnage which, when translated, means the weight of cargo the vessel is capable of carrying when loaded down at its maximum permitted draught. Statements refer to the maximum weight that the vessel can carry.
- Cargo clauses,
Originally featured for a single voyage, voyage charter contract can embrace several voyages either consecutive (then called a ‘consecutive voyage charter’), or occurring at irregular intervals (also called an ‘intermittent voyage charter’). Continue …
6.Distribution of risks
Voyage charterparty is a contract of carriage between the shipowner and the charterer, when the fromer let his vessel to the latter for a specific voyage or a number of consecutive voyages (for comparative analysis of voyage and time charterparties see UNCTAD report here). The shipowner’s renumeration for the services rendered is ‘freight’ which covers its costs, fuel and crew including, and its profit. Continue …
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