Laura Prima Berth Charterparty

One legal decision of voyage charter parties and in particular tanker voyage charter parties could with value study is The Laura Prima (1982). It was this case more than any other recent dispute concerning who pays for waiting that has confirmed the previously uncertain view that “if the berth is occupied, waiting is for charterer’s account, if it is not, time will run against him if the impeding of the vessel reaching that (designated) berth is caused by some reason beyond the charterer’s control”. The charter party form used in the Laura Prima was the Asbatankvoy and Clause 6 provides “where delay has caused a vessel getting into berth after the notice of readiness for any reason over which charterer has no control such delay shall not count as used laytime”. The charter party also contains the following sentence in Clause 9: “The ship shall load and discharge at any safe place or wharf or alongside vessels or lighters reachable on arrival which shall be designated and procured by charterers”. The facts were that the vessel arrived at her customary anchorage to load and gave notice of readiness. Owing to port congestion there was no berth ready for her for 9 days. The charterers objected to paying demurrage for the time lost during the delay because they argued that the situation was beyond their control and they were not responsible for it. The House of Lords was able to reconcile the apparent conflict between Clause 6 and Clause 9 by saying that the berth, which was referred to in Clause 6, was that same berth which the operator was duty bound to designate and procure and be reachable upon the ship’s arrival under Clause 9. Because they had not fulfilled that duty of designating and procuring a berth on arrival they were not able to claim the benefit available to them under Clause 6.