Damages for Detention

When there is no provision in the charterparty for the payment of demurrage, a charterer will be liable for damages for detention for all the time he detains the vessel after the expiration of the lay days. In this situation damages are at large and will be assessed by the court in relation to the actual loss suffered by the shipowner, and in accordance with the normal principles governing remoteness of damage in contract. Damages for detention is also the appropriate remedy where a charterparty stipulates a fixed number of days for the payment of demurrage, and those days have expired. In the latter case, however, the court will normally assess the damages at a figure corresponding to the agreed demurrage rate, though it is open to either party to prove that such a rate does not represent the actual loss suffered by the shipowner. A shipowner is not allowed to withdraw his vessel during any period for which the payment of demurrage has been agreed, unless the delay is such as to frustrate the object of the charterparty. On the other hand, once the specified demurrage period has expired he is no longer obliged to remain in port to complete the loading operation and to be restricted to a claim for damages for detention. If part of the cargo has been loaded, he may sail and claim compensation in the form of dead freight, or, if the charterer has failed to ship any cargo, he may rescind the charter and sue for damages at large. If, however, the delay occurs at the discharging port, he has little option except to complete the unloading operation and claim damages for detention.