If a vessel finishes before the allowed time – or ‘laytime’ – has been used, a charterer may be entitled to a ‘reward’ in the form of payment of ‘despatch’ money – usually payable at half the daily rate of demurrage. Laytime calculating is not an activity to be undertaken lightly. There may be considerable sums of money at stake, which will have a noticeable effect on a ship’s profitability, or on a charterer’s income. The calculation of laytime can be divided into ‘Seven Stages’: Read the relevant clauses in the governing CONTRACT. Obtain the STATEMENT OF FACTS. Determine how much laytime is available – i.e. its DURATION. Establish the COMMENCEMENT of laytime. Allow for INTERRUPTIONS to laytime. Establish when laytime will cease – i.e. CESSATION, and, Calculate how much DESPATCH or DEMURRAGE is payable. CONTRACT: The relevant charterparty or the sales contract should specify laytime terms, so that by referring to the contract in relation to the details supplied by the statement of facts form, a ‘time sheet’ can be drawn up which shows whether the allowed laytime has been exceeded or is not fully used. The interpretation of many of these clauses and their true significance is almost an art in itself, and careful wording needs to be employed in the drafting of laytime clauses, guided by knowledge of specialised case law on the subject. STATEMENT OF FACTS: One of the prime functions of a port agent is to produce a written record of events occurring during a vessel’s port visit this is sometimes referred to as a ‘port operations log’. Thus are recorded a ship’s arrival date and time: when berthed or shifted to another berth; worked cargo, bunkered and departed; the time ‘notice of readiness’ was tendered and accepted; weather conditions; and whatever else is relevant.