Start of laytime. Know your port limits.

The Arundel Castle [2017] EWHC 116 (Comm) involved a question of the effectiveness of a NOR given at a waiting place some 1250 metres outside the limits of the loading port of Krishnapatnam. The charter was on GENCON 94 form, cl 6 of which provides “If the loading/ discharging berth is not available on the Vessel’s arrival at or off the port of loading/discharging, the Vessel shall be entitled to give notice of readiness within ordinary office hours on arrival there…” In the fixture recap, which the arbitrators held prevailed, the wording was as follows: in the fixture recap the wording is “on vessels arrival at load/disch ports within port limits”. The arbitrators identified “port limits” by reference to the relevant Admiralty chart and it was common ground that the vessel anchored outside the “port limits” shown on that chart.

Knowles J upheld the arbitrators’ finding, by reference to Lord Reid’s test in House of Lords in The Joanna Oldendorff [1973] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 285, 291:

“… I think it ought to be made clear that the essential factor is that before a ship can be treated as an arrived ship she must be within the port and at the immediate and effective disposition of the charterer and that her geographical position is of secondary importance. But for practical purposes it is so much easier to establish that, if the ship is at a usual waiting place within the port, it can generally be presumed that she is there fully at the charterers’ disposal.”

The position was not altered by the wider definition of ‘port’ in the 2013 Laytime Definitions for Charterparties and the 2014 Baltic Code, as follows:

“PORT shall mean any area where vessels load or discharge cargo and shall include, but not be limited to, berths, wharves, anchorages, buoys and offshore facilities as well as places outside the legal, fiscal or administrative area where vessels are ordered to wait for their turn no matter the distance from that area.”

This definition could only be taken to  provide a definition of “port limits” where the parties deliberately choose it as their definition, which was not the case here.


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