How much laytime is allowed?
In tanker charterparties it is usual to agreed a fixed period of laytime in the charterparty, for example, 36 hours at each port or 72 hours in total. This is the best and most straightforward provision because it specifies a particular number of running hours.
Where a cargo is to be loaded or discharged in a fixed number of running hours time runs continuously, irrespective of normal working hours, except for any times which are expressly excluded. Quite often, however, laytime is expressed as a number of days.
There are, broadly, two ways of expressing the time allowed for loading and discharging in terms of days. The first is simply to specify the time allowed expressed as a fixed number of days or hours. The second is to specify a rate of working cargo such as laytime calculated on the basis that a specified number of tonnes will be worked per day. In either case, if the period is expressed as a number of days, you need to establish what kind of day you are dealing with.
Identifying the point at which laytime expires, even when a fixed number of days is specified, is not as simple as it sounds given the different qualifications which may be placed on the word ‘day’ and the numerous interruptions to laytime which might occur depending upon the exact wording used.
At its simplest, a provision allowing five (5) days would be presumed to mean five calendar days commencing and ending at midnight. The effect of this is that where only part of a day is worked that would count as a whole day’s lay time. Thus, where the charterer is allowed five calendar days to load and lay time commences on Monday afternoon, the charterer has until midnight on Friday to complete loading which might, in practice, be nearer four days than five.
The presumption that ‘days’ means calendar days can be relatively easily rebutted, for example by a provision that time should start six hours after giving Notice of Readiness to load. By implication, the parties did not intend the days to be calendar days given that the start of laytime would, by virtue of this provision, be unlikely to coincide with the start of a calendar day. The court would therefore interpret the word ‘day’ as indicating a conventional day consisting of 24 consecutive hours from the start of laytime.
Where there is a custom that no work is done on certain days such as Sundays, the unqualified use of the word day will be taken to mean continuous days with the exception of those days on which, by custom, no work is done which would not necessarily include Sundays. Establishing that there is a custom not to work on a particular day is more difficult than expressly excepting that day from the definition of laytime.