Legal readiness of the vessel
One may care to note that amongst conditions necessarily to be fulfilled before laytime starts, the first one – ‘arrived ship’ – concerns mainly geographical position of the vessel at the moment of her arrival to the port or at the berth. The second condition obliges the vessel to serve an accurate and valid NOR in accordance with provisions stipulated in the charterparty. Finally, the third obligation requires that ship must in fact be ready for cargo operations or to be cargoworthy. This third criteria comprises not only physical and technical ability (see also Cargoworthines) to load or discharge nominated cargo but also vessel’s readiness in a sense of her eligibility. Eligibility or legal readiness of the vessel embraces her conformity with all local regulations at the port of call, such as OPA 90 or USCG Regulations for example. It also encompasses custom, health and immigration clearances whichever is applicable. Unless expressly required by the contract, if preliminaries, such as free pratique, have not actually been granted will not prevent the tendering of a valid notice, as long as there is no reason to suppose that there will be any delay.
Additionally to local regulations vessel must carry on board valid certificates confirming her compliance, for instance, with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and as from 1st July 2004 also with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS). All modern tanker charters have relevant requirements to eligibility considering it as a part of seaworthiness either within printed clauses or in amendments. BPVoy4, for instance provides in Clause 6. NOTICE OF READINESS (NOR) that:
6.3.4 in the case of calls at US ports, a US Coast Guard Tanker Vessel Examination Letter (TVEL) has been issued, or in the case of calls at non-US ports where any similar certificate is required to be issued by a state authority at those ports prior to loading or discharging of cargo, such certificate has been issued.
Furthermore same charter form in its cl. 9 DOCUMENTATION bound owners ‘to undertake that for the duration of this Charter the Vessel shall have on board all such valid documentation as may… be required to enable the Vessel to enter, carry out all required operations at, and leave, … all ports to which the Vessel may be directed under the terms of this Charter…’ And finally, cl. 37.1 not only especially obliges the owners to carry on board a valid COFR and VRP approved by USCG as required under the OPA 1990 throughout all charter, it also makes the owners to guarantee that the master will operate the vessel in accordance with the Response Plan and vessel will comply with all applicable USCG Regulations.
ExxonMobil VOY2005 in Clause 2 (c) VESSEL. COMPLIANCE, provides that owner warrants that their vessel shall be in full compliance with all applicable international conventions, all applicable laws, regulations and requirements of the state of registry and also of the countries which she is going to call. Vessel shall have on board, during the subject period, all certificates, records or other documents required by the aforesaid conventions, laws, regulations and/or requirements.
Thus owners required to give warranties of great width, which now appears to be even more burdensome upon implementation of ISPS Code. At the moment wording of ISPS clauses consist of set of mutual warranties, where the owners are to comply with the ISPS Code and carry on board relevant documentation and the charterers are to provide the owners with full style contact details and bear expenses arising out of or related to security regulations. However, one can expect further alterations to charterparty terms to include a requirement that the ship trade only to ISPS compliant ports for example. In that case the charterers may find themselves not protected against accidents happened in the ports which are compliant on the paper but in fact have insufficient security standards, by reliance upon such compliance on paper. Their obligation is to order vessels to call a port or ports that are, in fact, prospectively safe, not merely one they have no reason to believe to be prospectively unsafe.
There are also many domestic regulations, such as electronic Notices of Arrival in USA or EC DIRECTIVES 2002/6 and 2005/33, which will not usually prohibit tendering of NOR, but if not complied with will lead to penalties or fines.
Legal readiness is also usually forms a part of the concept of vessel’s seaworthiness, albeit for the purpose of NOR this notion is limited to the documents which may lawfully be required by the authorities exercising administrative or other functions in the vessel’s ports of call pursuant to the laws there in force.
Documents falling within this category, which have been considered in the authorities, are certificates concerning the satisfactory state of the vessel which is in some respect related to her physical condition, and accordingly to her seaworthiness. Their purpose is to provide documentary evidence for the authorities at the vessel’s ports of call on matters which would otherwise require some physical inspection of the vessel, and possibly remedial measures - such as fumigation - before the vessel will be accepted as seaworthy in the relevant respect. The nature of description of such certificates, which may accordingly be required to be carried on board to render the vessel seaworthy, must depend on the circumstances and would no doubt raise issues of fact in individual cases.
Alfred C Toepfer Schiffahrtsgesellschaft GmbH v Tossa Marine Co Ltd (The Derby)  2 Lloyd’s Rep. 325, per Kerr LJ at p.331.
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