Voyage Charters. Owners’ Obligations Last updated 30-Jun-2015

If in any case a charterer could show that, even if a berth had been available, the vessel could not have been ready for cargo, he would be able to say that all the time occupied in waiting for a berth had not been "lost," …
Per Parker LJ in North River Freighters, Ltd. v H. E. President of India,(The Radnor) [1956] 1 Q.B. 333 at p.350.

Main duties which owners ought to perform

The owners’ duties begin with one to proceed to port of loading with reasonable speed, and arrive by a fixed day, i.e. laycan. Laycan is a cancelling date and time when charterers has a right but not an obligation to cancel charterparty on non-arrival of the vessel. Usually there is a cancelling clause which regulates rights and obligations of both sides (See also: Laycan).

This duty to proceed do not cease even if the ship cannot get to the port of loading by cancelling date, unless the delay is of frustrating nature. Therefore vessel still has to arrive even if her arrival is to be late. As long as the owners use reasonable diligence, there is no breach, but the charterers are nevertheless entitled to cancel because obligation to provide the vessel by the cancelling date is an absolute one (Read more: Cancelling Clause).

Secondly, the vessel must be at geographical location where she is bound to be ready for cargo. That place is stipulated in the charter and is either port or berth. Some charters provide for the vessel to arrive "so near thereto as she can safely get."

Thirdly, the vessel must be ready for cargo on arrival and tender Notice of Readiness. Readiness of a ship to load or discharge cargo is understood in a way that she must have all her cargo compartments completely ready for intended operation and provide the charterer with complete control over ship’s cargo spaces.

Access to cargo spaces means that charterers must have unrestricted access to both vacant spaces or compartments before and during loading ant to their cargo before or during discharging. And when, for example, their cargo is blocked by another cargo over-stowed upon it and was not accessible for discharge, the vessel was not ready for discharging as far as that charterers’ cargo concerned.

Readiness of the vessel on arrival includes her eligibility, i,e, ship’s and owners’ conformity with all international and local regulations at the port of call.(see Legal readiness)

Fourthly, the owners together with charterers shall participate in loading of cargo on board and, unless provided otherwise in charterparty, bear all risks for stowage of cargo on board.

Fifthly, when loading completed the law implies an obligation onto the shipowner not to deviate and to proceed to the port of destination with reasonable despatch. As Moore-Bick, J. said in The Kriti Rex [1996] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 171 at p. 191:

This obligation arises from the nature of the contract and is necessary in order to give it commercial efficacy. Its existence is by now so well established that it can be regarded as an ordinary incident of any contract of carriage by sea which exists unless the parties have expressly or by implication provided otherwise.

Finally, on arrival at discharge port or ports, by analogy with loading operation discussed above, owners and charterers undertake to unload vessel and risk for the goods, generally, passes to the charterers or cargo interests when the goods cross ship’s rail.

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