General rule is that the Shipowner will be excused delay on the approach voyage which results from perils which are excepted by the charterparty. So the incorporation of a Clause Paramount in usual terms will generally excuse the Shipowner from liability for delay on the approach voyage caused by events falling within Article IV, Rules 1 or 2 of the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules.
It is extremely important to determine when the approach voyage begins. Clearly, if exceptions within the charterparty do not protect the Shipowner prior to the commencement of the approach voyage, whereas the exceptions within the charterparty do protect the Shipowner after the commencement of the voyage charter, it is extremely important to determine the time of commencement of the approach voyage.
None of the case law provides a definitive answer to the question of when and where the approach voyage begins. Ultimately, it is a question of determining when the ship embarks upon the chartered service as defined in the charter.
Generally the vessel will not proceed on her approach voyage until she is free of all prior commitments. So, if the vessel is leaving drydock the approach voyage will not commence until after the vessel has departed from the drydock.
Similarly, if the vessel is completing cargo operations under a prior charterparty the approach voyage will not commence until the ship is free of cargo.
However, where a Charterer granted the Shipowners liberty to carry cargo to the nominated load port then the laden voyage performed under the liberty was still capable of counting as the approach voyage, Harrison v Garthorne 1872.
Charterparties often require the vessel to provide ETA Notices at certain intervals during the approach voyage. Again, there is limited case law on the effect and implication of such ETA Notices.
It is submitted that provided the ETA Notices are given honestly and in good faith, based on a reasonable assessment of the probable arrival date, the owner will not be liable in damages for reasonable differences between the actual arrival date of the vessel and any ETA given.
Usually, problems arise when the vessel arrives earlier than the ETA, usually through the ETA being given mistakenly, and a berth is not yet available.
In certain circumstances, particularly where the vessel is going to arrive late, the giving of ETA Notices and their acceptance without protest may give rise to a waiver on the part of the charterer to a claim for damages particularly where they have acquiesced in the vessel’s approach voyage. This is particularly the case where specific laycan arrangements are made in the charterparty.