Ship Reasonable Despatch

Obligation to proceed with reasonable despatch, the owner must have the vessel set off from wherever it is berthed in sufficient time to allow the vessel to arrive at the designated load port by the stated date. However, if the vessel is delayed en route due to reasons beyond the owners’ control, or for which there is an express exception in the charterparty, then the owner will be relieved of liability should the vessel arrive late. It is important to note that the exceptions in the charterparty would not extend to relieve an owner of liability for delays suffered by the vessel under a preceding charterparty. For instance, see the case of the ‘Saleares’ 1993 Court of Appeal, which involved a dispute over a claim for damages by the charterer due to massive variations in the value of propane which had resulted from the vessel’s failure to arrive at the load port by the expected ready to load date. In the ‘8aleares’ case the charterparty contained an ETA at the load port of 31 January 1987. The vessel was unable to make that date and the charterers exercised their right to cancel the charterparty. They claimed damages on the basis of their supplier’s increase in the price of propane which took place between 20 January and the beginning of February. The fluctuations in the pricing of propane affected their supply contracts with their own sub-purchasers and resulted directly from market knowledge of the likely delay in the vessel performing the voyage. It transpired that at the date of the charter, 12 January
1987, the vessel was already employed on a voyage from the Gulf to Tarragona in Spain where she only arrived on 4 February, completing discharge on 7 February. It would then have taken the vessel almost one day to sail from
Tarragona to the Algerian load port under the new charter. The case is also interesting in that the owners were held liable for the damages caused by the fluctuation in the price of propane. The court heard and accepted that the fluctuation in the price of propane arose solely because the market was aware of the unavailability of the vessel. The owners were held liable for the fluctuation in the price of the cargo caused by the vessel’s lateness. It should be noted that the vessel during the preceding voyage charterparty suffered an engine breakdown which would have delayed her. Had the vessel been on her approach voyage an engine breakdown which caused delay (save where caused by want of due diligence in relation to the seaworthiness of the vessel) would probably be an excepted event for which the owners would bear no responsibility.