Voyage Charters. River Ports Clause. Last updated 25-Feb-2015

To my mind the contract provided with absolute clarity what step must be taken to start the laytime, and I find it impossible to say that the taking of this wrong step is somehow to be deemed as the taking of the right step.
Per Thomas J in TA Shipping Ltd v Comet Shipping Ltd (The Agamemnon) [1998] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 675.

BIMCO and INTERTANCO developments

Discussion on various aspects of application of both limbs of Reid’s test on "Within the port limits" and "At charterers’ disposal" pages shows that remoteness of ship’s location at the moment of tender of NOR from its ultimate destination often lead to disputes between the owners and the charterers as to when laytime starts (or resumes in case of discharge port) to accrue. Arrival at river port naturally provide grounds to dispute commencement or resumption of laytime/demurrage, unless clear words used in contract. That is especially true with regard to "at immediate charterers’ disposal" concept.

As we seen on "Within the port limits page" commercial practice is to deduct sailing time from waiting point to the berth from laytime calculations, therefore passage up the river either from waiting place or directly from pilot boarding ground is understood by commercial men to be for owners’ account.

It is said that incorporation of BIMCO definition of port (Laytime Definitions for Charter Parties 2013) which extends meaning of port to "any area where vessels load or discharge cargo and shall include … places outside the legal, fiscal or administrative area … no matter the distance from that area" should bring clarity and serve to the best interests of both the owners and the charterers. There are, however, serious doubts whether charterers will welcome such wide interpretation unless it is amended to reflect particular situation and risks that need to be considered.

In 2013 the INTERTANKO came up with its own attempt to regulate ship’s arrival at places situated rather away from her ultimate destination, namely, at river port. Model River Ports Clause was announced to provide clarity on the commencement of laytime and demurrage in river ports. INTERTANKO suggests that the use of clause will restrict charterers’ ability to "say that owners failed to tender NOR at the terminal where they do not allow owners to stop and tender; NOR can be tendered ‘at or passing’ the first inbound pilot station." The clause is a general clause and has to be adopted for any particular river port.

INTERTANKO

Model River Ports Clause


Notwithstanding any other terms in this charter party, if the vessel is to load or discharge at any river port or place, NOR may be tendered at or when passing the first inbound pilot station. Laytime or time on demurrage shall commence 6 hours later and shall cease at or passing last outbound pilot station, less the notional steaming time calculated at the vessel’s service speed for the inbound and outbound passages.

Source page: INTERTANKO

Applied as it is clause is very favourable to the owners and if used on voyages to such ports as Quebec, Montreal, Mississippi, etc. where pilotage up the river takes some 20 plus hours, gives to the owners unrestricted right to start laytime counting 6 hours from the moment of first pilot boards vessel. On the other hand it is seemingly in line with The Agamemnon [1998] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 675 decision, which required an absolute clarity in provision defining what steps must be taken to start the laytime, and as one of such steps, a valid notice can usually be given only when the vessel reaches the point designated in the charter as the place where the charter says it can be given.

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