Voyage Charters. Notice Of Readiness. Last updated 13-Aug-2014

I would therefore agree with the learned Judge in his rejection of the argument that the notice was a delayed-action device, effective to start the laytime automatically when, at a later date, the ship became ready to discharge the contractual cargo: and also the linked argument that time began when the charterers knew or ought to have known of the readiness.
Per Mustill LJ, in The Mexico I [1990] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 507 at p.513.

Premature and Invalid NOR

Scenario 2, a port charter

In the second scenario of a port charter, a valid notice can be given immediately on arrival in port. If charterparty additionally requires for NOR to be tendered within certain time window, as it was in Galaxy Energy International Ltd v Novorossiysk Shipping Co, (The Petr Schmidt) [1998] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 1,

6. NOTICE OF READINESS. Upon arrival at customary anchorage at each port of loading or discharge the Master… shall give the Charterer … notice … that Vessel is ready to load or discharge cargo … and laytime … shall commence upon the expiration of six … hours after receipt of such notice…
30. NOTICE OF READINESS CLAUSE. Vessel not to tender notice of readiness at loading port prior to laydays, unless Charterers give their [consent] to do so. Notice of readiness at loading and discharging port is to be tendered within 06.00 and 17.00 hours local time.

and this requirement was not met, then such notice could not be relied on as a valid notice, for the purpose of triggering laytime running for loading or discharge. Evans LJ giving the leading judgment of the Court of Appeal in The Petr Schmidt called it as non-contractual and therefore "wrong", i.e. as having no contractual effect at the time of tender.

This introduction of "wrong" notice of readiness does not bring much clarity to the matter. It positions "wrong" notice somewhere between "a notice is valid unless the statements made in the notice are in fact incorrect when the notice is tendered, received or given" and "a notice is non-contractual and cannot be relied upon as a valid notice, meaning, effective to start the time clock running." Moreover such "wrong" notice supposed to be "cured" by the passage of time and that brings it close to the doctrine of inchoate NOR. Fortunately both Gibson LJ and Sir Christopher Slade were more precise in their concurring judgments. Thus Gibson LJ stated that:

A notice given outside the period provided for contractually may be "uncontractual", but it does not follow that it is a nullity, unless the circumstances of the contract or the nature of the subject-matter make it essential that the notice should be given within that period. … time gap between the master declaring his ship’s readiness and the receipt of the notice does not invalidate the notice, provided that it remains as true at the moment of receipt as at the moment of declaration.

Sir Christopher Slade was even more direct in his short judgment saying that:

The commercial purpose of the second sentence of cl 30, as I would infer, must have been to ensure that the charterers or their agents should not be saddled with the receipt of a notice of readiness, and the consequent commencement of laytime, between 17 00 hours and 6 00 hours, that is to say outside what might be regarded as office hours. … I do not regard the notices of readiness in the present case as "non-contractual" (i.e. as having been originally "tendered" outside the permitted hours). But even if they did not comply with the strict wording of cl 30, I think that they still fall to be treated as valid notices…

In The Petr Schmidt case all 3 notices of readiness, one in loading port and two in discharging ports, were given outside of time window. Such tender was a breach by the owners of express term of contract but apparently it does not invalidate otherwise good and accurate NOR, because earlier dispatch of notice does not actually mean physical tender at the time when it was transmitted to the Charterers’ telex machine, since telex machine remained unattended (or supposed to remain) during this time (outside office hours). Actual tender may and will happen only when someone read it or print it in the morning when office is open.

Moreover, on the view expressed in Tidebrook Maritime Corporation v Vitol SA of Geneva (The Front Commander) [2006] EWCA Civ 944 by Lord Justice Rix at para 41, that if the vessel is ready to load, master is obliged to give NOR that he is, even before the commencement of the laydays, it can be inferred that earlier notice, if accurate and sent upon arrival at contracted place, gives to the charterers only an advantage of an option to commence cargo operations before agreed date if they inclined to do so.

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