Berth Charter

The places of loading and discharging are the next items and it will be here that one sees whether this is a ‘port’ charter or a ‘berth’ charter.  The places of loading and discharging may be one or more named ports to one or more named ports or the charterer may wish to defer stating precisely which port(s) until nearer the time. Thus one may encounter a series of named ports (e.g. Antwerp, Rotterdam or Hamburg) with a time by which a exact nomination has to be made. Alternatively a geographical range may be stated (e.g. United States North of Cape Hatteras) in which case the range is usually preceded with the words “one safe port”. Next will be what are commonly referred to as laydays and cancelling dates.  The word “laydays” is peculiar to ship chartering and its origins are not entirely clear but the best definition is that they are the days allowed for loading/discharging.  The actual words in the clause usually state “Laydays not to commence before (date)”. Thus if the ship arrives before that date the charterers are not obliged to start loading although many charters make provision for an early start if the charterers are so able. The cancelling date is essentially an option; the charter is not automatically cancelled if the ship misses her cancelling date.  The clause gives the charterers the option to cancel the ship if she arrives after the agreed date.  Many charters have wording to cover the charterer having to declare his intention when it is apparent that the ship is running late; otherwise one could have a situation of the ship arriving at loading port, presenting notice only to be told the charter is cancelled. Close to the laydays and cancelling clause is usually the notice of readiness clause which may have stipulations about giving ETAs at certain times but eventually spells out when and how the ship gives its notice to load/discharge.