Safe Ports

In charter parties, whether they be for voyage or time charters, the most general restrictions upon the areas to which a ship may trade is that of requiring the vessel to be directed to ‘safe ports or berths’. This is a requirement which has been held by the English courts to cover both geographical and political safety. The now widely accepted definition of safety was given by Sellers L.J. in the ‘Eastern City’ (1958) where he said that, for a port to be safe, the particular ship must be able to: “Reach it, use it, and return from it without, in the absence of some abnormal occurrence, being exposed to danger which cannot be avoided by good navigation and seamanship”. It is clear from this that if the vessel is unable to do this, the port may be unsafe even if the nature of the danger arises from political factors rather than the physical configuration of the port itself. Many time and voyage charters contain an express warranty on the part of the charterer that the vessel will only be traded between safe ports. In the case of a time charter, such a term may, in most cases, be implied, even in the absence of express wording. The position in relation to a voyage charter which is silent on the port is, however, more difficult. Where the charter contemplates loading or discharging at any port within a geographical range, so that the charterer is still required to nominate a port which may not be specifically named, the position is likely to be similar to that of a time charter and the charterer may therefore be held to warrant the safety of the port which he nominates. This is not an absolute rule.