The Final Voyage

The Final Voyage   It is accepted as virtually a commercial impossibility for a charterer, having taken a vessel for a longish period, to be able so to plan his voyages ahead during the charter period that he can, without difficulty, “dovetail” his redelivering of the ship to be in exact conformity to the charter party stipulations. The general rule, then, is that if the charterer sends the ship on a last voyage in the reasonable expectation that she can still be redelivered on time but she is nevertheless delivered late (even including the marginal extra) the owner cannot claim more than the pro rata extra hire at the contract rate. It is irrelevant that the market rate may have fluctuated up or down: See the Dione (1975). It probably goes without saying that for the charterers to have the benefit of this “legitimate last voyage” rule, they must not, after sending the ship on its last voyage, commit some breach of contract which would have the effect of so delaying the ship further that it would arrive at its redelivery port well beyond the expiry of the charter period. It is important to note, as was demonstrated in the case of the Democritis [1976] that the legitimacy of the final voyage is judged from when the vessel sets out on that voyage, not when the order was given.  Thus if, between giving the order for the last voyage and its commencement, supervening events render it impossible to redeliver on time the charterer will be in breach of contract, even if the failure was due to circumstances beyond his control.