London Arbitration 31/22 is another reminder that once laytime starts it runs continuously unless interrupted by a laytime exception or a laytime definition or through delay due to the fault of the ship owner.
The vessel was chartered on an amended Gencon 94 form to carry wheat from Russia to Turkey. On Friday 17 September the vessel tendered NOR and was ordered by the harbour master to remain at anchor pending authorisation being given for cargo samples to be taken and analysed. The charterers’ agent then told owners’ operations manager not to send cargo documents to the discharge port agents and not to allow sampling, berthing and discharging as the receiver had not yet paid for the cargo. Eventually charterers permitted sampling and discharge on 29 September and discharge completed on 2 October.
As well as the laytime provisions, under which time would have started to run on 20 September, the voyage charter in question had two separate provisions dealing with time lost, and the question was which applied in the circumstances attending the vessel’s delay at the discharge port.
These two provisions were:
“TIME LOST WAITING FOR CARGO ANALYSES AND/OR LABORATORY TESTING AND/OR IMPORT AND/OR EXPORT FORMALITIES IF ANY TO COUNT AS LAYTIME OR TIME ON DEMURRAGE W/O WEATHER INTERRUPTIONS AND/OR ANY EXCEPTIONS.” (Provision 1.)
“TIME LOST DUE TO CHARTERERS’ INSTRUCTIONS AND/OR FAULT TO BE REIMBURSED BY CHARTERERS AS DAMAGES FOR DETENTION.” (Provision 2.)
The owners claimed damages for detention at the demurrage rate under Provision 2 for the period from tender of NOR on 17 September until 29 September when the charterers authorised the taking of samples. The tribunal held that this claim must fail because the time lost waiting for cargo sampling clearly fell under the express terms of Provision 1. The arbitrator found that time lost on arrival was due to the failure by the charterers to authorise/arrange for cargo samples to be taken, a problem that was caused by lack of payment for the cargo which fell within Provision 1. Provisions 1 and 2 appeared consecutively in the fixture recap and the parties could not have intended there to be any overlap between them, and time lost for reasons covered in Provision 1 could not come within the time lost in Provision 2.
Had the arbitrator found that Provision 2 applied, he would have been inclined to accept charterers’ argument that laytime would have started on 29 September and demurrage would have been unlikely to have accrued. Therefore, the arbitrator might have accepted that, given the evidence of lower demurrage rates in similar charters, damages for detention up to 29 September would have been assessed at a rate lower than the charter demurrage rate.
The owners also presented two alternative laytime statements and the arbitrator held that their second was correct. Under this laytime began at 08.00 on Monday 20 September and the vessel went on demurrage from 13.30 on 23 September until discharging was completed at 17.00 on Saturday 2 October.
The charterers argued that “cargo analyses and laboratory testing” did not include “cargo sampling” but the arbitrator considered that the wording in Provision 1 covered any delay in the import formalities after arrival at the discharge port, including the charterers authorising the taking of samples, analysis, communication of the results and allocation of a berth.
The arbitrator also rejected charterers’ claims that time did not count during ‘port congestion’ nor for ‘weather interruption’, alternatively was suspended by duty pilot due to bad weather. Time lost on arrival was due to the failure by the charterers to authorise/arrange for cargo samples to be taken, a problem that was caused by lack of payment for the cargo which came within Provision 1 and the charterers were wrong to argue that congestion was a circumstance obstructing the sampling/berthing/discharging, which was beyond their control. Once a valid NOR was tendered and took effect, laytime ran continuously against the laytime allowed. Congestion was therefore a charterers’ risk.