Neap Tides

A study of the rules would show that the very first elements to be defined are ‘port’ and ‘berth’. This is particularly relevant because many charters specify particular berths for loading or discharging while others only mention the port. If the charterer intends to work the ship at a specific berth it may be in his interest to name the berth and thus make the fixture a ‘berth charter’. There are many reasons why the charterer may want to nominate a particular berth but from a practical point of view as regards laytime the important difference between berth and port charters is that if a named berth is not available for a reason in which time would not count (such as neap tides) then the risk of incurring demurrage is lessened. Under a port charter time would count if other berths within the port were not affected by the tidal reason stated. There are probably more arbitration and court cases connected with ‘time counting’ than any other single aspect of charterparties. One needs to keep up to date by reading newspaper and magazine articles. For example, in addition to the (many say perverse) judgement in the case of the ‘VORRAS’ referred to earlier, an apparently simple dispute recently went all the way to the English House of Lords. This concerned the ‘KYZIKOS’ which had been fixed with time commencing to count ‘whether in port or not’, ‘whether in berth or not’, ‘whether in free pratique or not’ and ‘whether cleared at the Customs House or not’. She had to wait for the berth to become free so time started to count but when the berth became available, the ship was unable to move immediately because of fog. The charterers argued that bad weather impeding navigation was a ship’s concern so time should not count between calling the ship onto the berth and her actually getting there including the delay caused by the fog. The owners contended that had the charterers not been tardy in providing a ready berth, the fog would not have caused any trouble. In the event their Lordships ruled in charterer’s favour. By no means every commercial/shipping person agreed with that decision.