Ship’s physical position is concerned, it is now clear that notice of readiness to load can be given even though it is impossible to commence the loading operation because the vessel is not in berth. Thus, providing the other requirements are met, a vessel may be ready to load when it becomes an ‘arrived ship’ under a port charterparty or where the charter provides that laytime shall begin to run ‘whether the ship is in berth or not’. From the physical standpoint, ‘a vessel is not ready to load unless she is discharged and ready in all her holds so as to give the charterer complete control of every portion of the ship available for cargo, except so much as is reasonably required for ballast to keep her upright’. The charterer is entitled to immediate access to all the cargo space and consequently the vessel is not ready to load so long as even the smallest proportion of the previous cargo remains to be discharged, or ready to unload if overstowed cargo has to be removed before access can be gained to the charterer’s cargo. A further facet of physical readiness is the requirement that the vessel must be ‘cargoworthy in the sense that it must be fit to receive the agreed cargo’. Thus the holds must be clear and free from contamination,
the required loading gear must be fixed, and any special equipment required for particular cargoes must be available and in position.
But where the charterer is given the choice between a range of cargoes, the vessel may legally be ready to load even though not fit to receive the particular cargo selected by the charterer. The requirement of readiness to load is, however, subject to the principle of de minimis and here, it would appear, a less stringent test is applied in respect of port charters than in the case of berth charters. Thus, while berthed vessels have normally to be prepared in all respects to receive cargo before notice of readiness can be given, it has been held that an ‘arrived ship’ under a port charter could give notice of readiness even though the hatches had not been removed or the discharging gear rigged, provided that such work could be completed by the time the vessel berthed. The final aspect of readiness requires that the vessel has complied with the port regulations by satisfying the health requirements and obtaining the necessary documentation. Here
again, several of these requirements have been regarded as mere formalities and shipowners have been allowed to give notice of readiness even though they have not received free pratique, or a police permit to move up river. Presumably such notice would be ineffective if the master did not obtain the required documentation by the time, or shortly after, the vessel berthed.