Readiness of holds of a ship is the second important factor to start the laytime clock, after having been arrived ship at the agreed port. As long as the ship is not ready to start loading or discharging, laytime clock cannot start to run. In other words, ship must be:
- Physically Ready (for cargo operations)
- Legally Ready (all documents and permits)
Readiness of Holds
Under English law, ship’s holds must be clean and dry, without odor. In every way, ship’s holds must be suitable to take, carry and discharge the cargo. In the case of the Tres Flores (1973), a ship was chartered to load a cargo of maize. After the ship arrived and gave NOR (Notice of Readiness), hold inspection was delayed because of bad weather. When ship’s holds were inspected, ship’s holds were found to be infested with insects. Hence, fumigation was necessary for ship’s holds. Court of Appeal held that the ship was in breach of duty to present holds in every way fit to carry the cargo. Therefore, ship was not ready so laytime did not start. Shipowner was held responsible for all delays until a valid NOR (Notice of Readiness) could be given. In the case of the Epaphus (1987), cargo on board of a ship was infested. Nevertheless, the ship’s readiness was unaffected as the infestation was most likely brought on board the ship with the cargo. The condition of the ship’s holds is important. In some cases, different parcels of cargo are carried on the same voyage at the same time, but under different contracts. If ship has cargo which cannot be accessed until the cargo above has been discharged, the inaccessible cargo is referred to as over-stowed. NOR (Notice of Readiness) cannot be given regarding the over-stowed cargo until that cargo is accessible. Notwithstanding, it is not required that all the cargo stowed on top is discharged before a valid NOR (Notice of Readiness) can be tendered for the over-stowed cargo. Over-stowed cargo must simply be accessible and able to be worked.
Readiness of Equipment
Under English law, besides readiness of ship’s holds, ship’s equipment and gear for loading or discharging must be ready on arrival at the agreed destination. Ship’s equipment such as cranes, hatches, pumps etc. must be available for use when required.
Ship’s equipment and gear 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 instance, in the case of Armement Adolf Deppe v Robinson (1917), it was pronounced that ship’s hatches need not be opened if a ship is waiting for a berth. In the case of the Virginia M (1989), the ship arrived without sufficient fresh water for the boilers to work ship’s steam winches. Ship was able to discharge some but not all the cargo. Court held that the NOR (Notice of Readiness) was invalid since the ship would have to stop discharging in order to take on fresh water so waiting time for berthing, in receiving a supply of fresh water, would not count as laytime. Court’s decision might have been different if the ship could have taken water on at the same time as discharging, therefore discharge would not be interrupted. Occasionally, tankers require to de-ballast during loading/discharging to be able to take/deliver cargo. When de-ballasting and loading is accomplished simultaneously, there is often a dispute about readiness of the ship and Segregated Ballast Tankers. In Segregated Ballast Tankers (SBTs) the ballast tanks, pumps and lines are totally separated Segregated Ballast Tankers (SBTs) from the cargo system. Hence, there should be no interruption to cargo operations. Prior to the introduction of oil cargo would have been loaded into tanks that would, on arrival, contain ballast water. Ballast water was required for the purpose of stability and charterers would not be able to claim that the ship was not ready because all the tanks were not available. Practically, loading would commence in the empty tanks whilst de-ballasting took place and even though there was a delay because of de-ballasting, it would be groundless to claim that the ship was not ready.