Free Pratique

What happens if the ship is ready but the charterer’s berth is not available and one will begin to see that the whole subject of demurrage and despatch is a minefield which can never be taken too seriously. Time spent in studying Charter Party clauses relating to all aspects of time counting will never be time wasted. There are a many qualifications about time counting which are fought over during negotiations including WIPON (Whether in port or not), WIBON (Whether in berth or not), WIFPON (Whether in free pratique or not).  Incidentally, the expression Free pratique dates back to the days when serious illnesses, even plagues, moved around the world in ships. Even until quite recently a ship was (and in some places still is) obliged to fly a yellow signal flag on arrival; boarding a ship showing that flag being forbidden until the Port Health Authorities had been on board and granted a clean bill of health, at which time she would be declared to be ‘in free pratique‘.  Nowadays, in most ports, the ship is interrogated by radio about any apparent diseases on board and so long as there is none and she has not arrived from somewhere where some virulent illness is rife, the ship will be granted free pratique by radio. This is, however, not yet universal and the agent’s advice can be valuable here. It is usual for the port agent to be instructed to provide a ‘Statement of Facts’ in which the date and time of every stage of the cargo operation is recorded. Not only such things as when the ship arrived, when the NOR was tendered, when loading/discharge actually commenced, which days were public holidays, etc. but it will also record such things as stoppages due to bad weather, breakdown of machinery, industrial disputes etc.