Readiness of Holds

Having arrived at the agreed destination this is the second trigger to start the laytime clock running. Laytime cannot commence unless she is ready to start loading or discharging. This means that the ship must be both physically ready for cargo operations and legally ready (ie she must have all the papers and permits necessary).

Readiness of Holds: English law requires that the vessel’s holds must be clean and dry, without smell and in every way suitable to receive, carry and discharge the cargo. In the case of the Tres Flores (1973) 11 LLR 247, a vessel was chartered to load a cargo of maize. After the vessel arrived and gave NOR, hold inspection was delayed because of bad weather. When its holds were inspected, they were found to be infested with insects and fumigation was necessary. The Court of Appeal held that the ship was in breach of her duty to present holds in every way fit to carry the cargo. The vessel was therefore not ready as a result of which the laytime did not start and the owner was held responsible for all delays until a valid NOR could be given. Contrast this with the Epaphus (1987) 2 Lloyds Rep. 215. In this case the cargo on board was infested. However, the vessel’s readiness was unaffected as the infestation was most likely brought on board the vessel with the cargo. It is the condition of the vessel that matters. On occasion, different parcels of cargo are carried on the same voyage at the same time, but under different contracts. Where the vessel has cargo which cannot be accessed until the cargo above has been discharged, the inaccessible cargo is referred to as ‘overstowed’. NOR cannot be given in respect of the overstowed cargo until that cargo is accessible. However, it is not necessary that all the cargo stowed on top is discharged before a valid NOR can be tendered for the overstowed cargo. The overstowed cargo must simply be accessible and able to be worked.

Readiness of Equipment: In addition to the readiness of the holds, the vessel’s equipment and gear for loading or discharging must be ready on her arrival at the agreed destination and available for use when required. This will include cranes, hatches, pumps etc. Such equipment need not be absolutely ready, but must be in a state so that it can be made ready and available for use when required. For example, in the case of Armement Adolf Deppe v Robinson (CA) (1917) 2 KB 204, it was noted that hatches need not be opened if a vessel is waiting for a berth. In the case of the Virginia M (1989) 1 Lloyds Rep 603 the vessel arrived without sufficient fresh water for the boilers to work her steam winches. It could discharge some but not all the cargo. The court held that the NOR was invalid since the vessel would have to stop discharging in order to take on fresh water so waiting time for berthing, in obtaining a supply of fresh water, would not count as laytime. The decision in this case may have been different if the vessel could have taken water on at the same time as discharging, so that discharge would not be interrupted. Tankers often need to deballast during loading/discharging to be able to take/deliver cargo. Provided deballasting and loading is carried out simultaneously there is rarely a dispute about readiness and, in these days of Segregated Ballast Tankers (SBTs), where the ballast tanks, pumps and lines are totally segregated from the cargo system, there should be no interruption to cargo operations. Prior to the introduction of SBTs oil cargo would have been loaded into tanks that would, on arrival, contain ballast water. This ballast water was required for the purpose of stability and charterers would not be able to claim that the vessel was not ready because all the tanks were not available. In practice, loading would commence in the empty tanks whilst deballasting took place and, even if there was a delay because of deballasting, it would be impractical to suggest that the vessel was not ready.