Off Hire

Off Hire. Clause 15 of the ASBATIME provides a valuable summary of some of the many reasons why a charterer will be entitled to place a time chartered ship ‘off-hire’. Whilst a time chartered vessel will remain ‘on-hire’ whilst fully at the service of charterers for the purpose in hand, inevitably, even for the best run vessel, a time will come when that ship will be placed ‘off-hire’. Such occasion may occur through mechanical break-down, either of a ship’s motive power or cargo gear, or it may be that the vessel has to deviate from her course to land a sick seaman. An off-hire clause normally covers such eventualities fully and there should be no reason for any differences of opinion. However, much the same as when a vessel delivers on timecharter at sea instead of at a convenient and easily identifiable place – such as ‘dropping outward pilot Elbe No. l’ – it may be very difficult to establish the exact limits of off-hire and, consequently, the equivalent amount of hire. One situation which can be considered under the same heading as ‘off-hire’ is that of poor performance when the charterer claims that the vessel has failed to perform in terms of speed and fuel consumption as provided for in the charterparty. Most modern ships are able to provide a range of combinations of speed and fuel, allowing charterers to select whichever combination is most suitable for their purpose. They may for example have a tight schedule to meet in which case they will want the highest speed even though this means higher fuel costs. Conversely time may not be so important and economical use of bunkers is preferable. However, whichever speed range is selected the charterparty will specify that such a speed and consumption is only achievable in fair weather conditions. In a dispute over speed and consumption the owner will claim the weather was at fault whilst the charterer will argue otherwise and demand financial compensation for the alleged poor performance. As we have seen in Lesson Four, it is usual for a vessel’s log books to be made available to a time charterer and it may well be that it is also agreed that in such disputes, reference will be made to an outside body such as Oceanroutes, to assess whether a vessel performed poorly or not and, if so, the financial extent of the poor performance.