Ship Documentary Readiness

All necessary papers must be in order for the vessel to proceed immediately to the loading/discharging place and start work. It is normally necessary for a vessel to have the relevant documentation in order to obtain clearance not only from customs, immigration and health authorities but also other local authorities who may have their own requirements. Taking two of these issues: a. Free pratique i. Free pratique is the health clearance granted by the Port Medical Authorities to a vessel on arrival from a foreign port for her crew to go ashore and for local people to go on board. The ship may fail to get free pratique either because of serious infection on board, or because she has arrived from a place where illness is known to be rampant. ii. Where a vessel fails to get free pratique she cannot be considered ready because work is prevented and the vessel is not at the effective disposal of the charterers. In the Delian Spirit (1971) 1 LLR 506 the Court of Appeal said that a vessel did not need free pratique before she could be ready if it had no reason to believe there will be a delay on crew health grounds, and where the inspection would be a mere formality. iii. Where the ship might have reason to fear a delay, or where inspection was not a mere formality, then the vessel must obtain free pratique to be ready. As an example, where there has been a suspected outbreak of disease aboard the ship inspection by the health authorities would not be a mere formality and free pratique must be obtained before the vessel can be ready. iv. If the health inspection took place after the NOR had been given and the vessel failed to get free pratique that NOR will be invalid and a second NOR must be tendered once free pratique is granted. b. Customs clearance v. The principle is similar to that of free pratique and if it appears that customs clearance is a mere formality, then the Delian Spirit judgement will apply and the validity of the NOR will not be affected. Where there are often disputes is whether time taken or lost to obtain customs clearance counts as lay time or (if the vessel is on demurrage) as time on demurrage. This will very much depend on the specific wording of the charterparty. iv. Specific clauses containing provisions such as WICCON (Whether Customs Cleared Or Not) and WIFPON (Whether In Free Pratique Or Not) can be agreed which will allow a valid NOR to be given even if the vessel is not customs cleared or in free pratique. However, in a London arbitration, it was held that a vessel which failed a free pratique inspection where it was not a formality was not ready and could not give a valid NOR even though the charterparty contained a WIFPON clause. Therefore, these additional clauses do not appear
to alter the position set out in the De/ian Spirit.