Laytime Suspension

What extent will hindrances and obstructions encountered during the loading or discharging operation interrupt the running of laytime? Where no specific period of laytime is fixed, or the charterer is required to load ‘with customary dispatch’, it would appear that any obstruction which effectively interrupts the loading will excuse the charterer, provided that it is outside his control and that otherwise he has conducted the operation with reasonable dispatch. Thus laytime will be suspended during such time as the loading or discharging operation is interrupted by a strike of dock labourers, by the lack of an available berth due to congestion in the port or by the arrest of the vessel. On the other hand, when the agreed laytime is specified in the contract, the charterer is under a strict obligation to load within the prescribed time limit and must bear the risk of any intervening obstructions unless they are covered by exceptions in the charterparty or arise through the fault of the shipowner. Thus charterers have been held liable to pay for time lost as a result of congestion in the port, strikes of stevedores employed by the shipowner, the need to take on ballast to keep the ship upright during loading, and the need to remove the vessel temporarily from the port for her own safety during bad weather. However, time will not run against the charterer if the delay is attributable to the fault of the shipowner or results from action taken entirely in his own interest as, for example, when the vessel is removed from a loading berth for bunkering purposes. In the majority of cases, however, the charterparty will include exceptions providing for the suspension of laytime on the occur- rence of the more frequent causes of delay in loading or discharge such as congestion in port, strikes, bad weather, civil commotions or even ‘any other cause beyond the control of the charterers’.