Performance of a voyage charterparty falls into four separate and distinct stages: 1. The preliminary voyage to the place specified as the loading point. 2. The loading operation, covering both loading and stowage. 3. The carrying voyage to the place specified for delivery of the cargo. 4. The discharging operation. In normal circumstances the performance of stages 1 and 3 will be the sole responsibility
of the shipowner, while stages 2 and 4 will be joint operations, though primarily under the control of the charterer. While the charterparty will specify in some detail the respective obligations of the parties in relation to each particular stage, one matter of overriding concern to
them both is the question as to which of them will have to bear the risk of loss resulting from delay in performance of the charter which is beyond the control of either party. Voyage charters are particularly exposed to the risk of delay caused by such factors as bad weather or
engine trouble on the voyage, or by adverse tides, strikes or the unavailability of berths on arrival at the designated port. As a general rule, in the absence of specific terms in the charter, the risk of any such accidental delay has to be borne by the party responsible for performing the particular stage during which the delay occurs. It is, of course, possible for the parties to include a clause in the charter transferring this risk, such as, for example, incorporating an exception suspending the running of laytime in the event of a strike. Nevertheless, it remains important to be able to establish with precision the time at which one stage ends and the next
stage begins. Little practical difficulty has been experienced in establishing a workable test for identifying the conclusion of the loading and discharging stages, but the courts have found it no easy task to devise a simple formula for identifying the point in time when the respective voyage stages are completed and laytime begins to run. There is general agreement that three requirements need to be satisfied before laytime can commence: the chartered vessel must have become an ‘arrived ship’ at the agreed destination, notice of readiness to load must have been given, and the vessel must in fact be ready to load. The problem has been to devise
an acceptable definition of an ‘arrived ship’. Before proceeding to consider in detail the respective obligations of the parties in relation
to each of the four stages, it might therefore be useful to examine more closely the concept of the ‘arrived ship’.