Notice of Readiness (NOR) is normally tendered by the shipmaster (by radio or in writing) to the charterer or charterer’s agent and indicates that the ship is ready to load or discharge cargo. Notice of Readiness (NOR) is tendered when the ship is still at anchorage or where ships usually lie ready to perform cargo operations. In order for the Notice of Readiness (NOR) to be valid, the ship must be ready and physically capable of performing cargo operations. In other words, ship’s holds must be clean and ready to receive cargo. Time lost in cleaning holds is almost always excluded from laytime.
Notice of Readiness (NOR) can be given even though there may be “some further preliminaries to be done or routine matters to be carried on or formalities observed. If those things are not such as to suppose that they will cause delay and if it is apparent that the ship will be ready when the appropriate time arrives, then notice of readiness may be given” (per Lord Denning M. R. in the Tres Flores 1978). In order for a notice of readiness to be valid, the vessel must be ready at the time that the notice is given, not at a time in the future. For a Notice of Readiness (NOR) to be binding it must be accepted by the charterers. In case it is not accepted, shipowner should continue tendering NORs to safeguard against a later potential dispute. Charterparties provide protection to shipowners in case of delays that may occur for various reasons. Shipowners agree to certain terms to provide them with such protection. For instance, lay time will commence:
- whether in berth or not (WIBON)
- whether customs cleared or not (WICCON)
- whether in free pratique or not (WIFPON)
Clauses indicate that lay time commences irrespective of whether:
- ship has clearance from local customs
- ship has been cleared by port/state health authorities (in free pratique)
- there is a berth available that the ship can sail to
In case a berth for the ship is occupied upon the ship’s arrival, in a port charterparty, charterparty may specify that Notice of Readiness (NOR) can be tendered from a “normal waiting place“. Normal waiting place includes the anchorage where ships normally lie waiting for a berth, as per the local port custom. Shifting from a waiting place to the first cargo berth does not count as laytime.
If a Notice of Readiness (NOR) is given prematurely, then this does not amount to a breach of contract. As stated by Moore-Bick J. in The Nikmary (2003): “To give notice of readiness prematurely is not a breach of charter; it is simply ineffective to start time running. Once the vessel had been properly cleaned a valid notice of readiness could be given and was given. Only then did the charterers’ obligation to load within the laydays arise.” If the Notice of Readiness (NOR) becomes invalid, either due to the charterer’s breach of contract or without fault from either side, then laytime will not begin and the shipowner will not be entitled to demurrages. Instead, damages for detention will be payable to the owners. This distinction is connected to clause 6 of the ASBATANKVOY form and the “reachable on arrival” provision: Upon arrival at customary anchorage at each port of loading or discharge, the Master or his agent shall give the charterer or his agent notice by letter, telegraph, wireless or telephone that the vessel is ready to load or discharge cargo, berth or not berth and laytime as hereinafter provided, shall commence upon the expiration of 6 hours after receipt of such notice or upon the vessel’s arrival in berth (i.e. finished mooring when at a sea loading or discharging terminal and all fast when loading or discharging alongside a wharf), whichever occurs first. However, where delay is caused to a vessel getting into berth after giving NOR for any reason which charterer has no control, such delay shall not count as used laytime. Lord Roskill in The Laura Prima (1981) indicated that the berth is required to have two characteristics: Berth must be safe and it must be reachable on arrival.