Voyagecharter

It is continually surprising that for such a professional and long-established activity as international shipping, contract clauses are frequently poorly drafted and open to various interpretations. “This timecharter is for 18 months, with Charterers’ option of a further 12 months, to be declared minimum 3 months prior expiration of first period. Plus or minus 1 month in Charterers’ option on final period”. It is clear that no later than fifteen months into the charterparty period the Charterer has to declare whether the option to extend the charter by a further twelve months is to be exercised or not. It is also clear that, having declared that option, the Charterer can redeliver the vessel somewhere between 29 and 31 months after delivery on to timecharter. What is not clear is what happens if the Charterers do not declare the extension option. It is almost impossible to redeliver a vessel after exactly eighteen months, unless the vessel is kept idle for some time following completion of her discharge immediately previous to the expiration of eighteen months. This might mean leaving the vessel idle for some days, if not weeks. Yet on the face of it that is what the clause requires the Charterers to do. There is no ‘one month more or less’ to be applied to the straight eighteen months period. This may be legally implied. Equally it may not. It is an example of a poorly drafted clause. “The cargo to be loaded at Pusan (South Korea) and discharged at Bangkok and Port Kelang”. The Charterers ordered the vessel first to Port Kelang and then to Bangkok to discharge, lightening at Port Kelang down to Bangkok draft. The Owners insisted on discharging first at Bangkok (lightening locally at Kohsichang) and then completing at Port Kelang, because this would save them extra steaming and bunker consumption. Study the atlas and you will see what the argument was all about. No mention was made in the charterparty of discharging in geographic rotation, nor was there any clause making discharge port rotation in Charterers’ or in Owner’ option. There is apparently no legal precedent in English Law which indicates who was right or wrong, but advice ranged from discharging in the order as shown in the charterparty (but if this was so what would the owner say if discharge was to be at Bangkok and Bombay – and Bombay was first mentioned?) to reference to standard textbooks which refer to the “reasonable, direct route”. Is it “reasonable” to allow for lightening at Bangkok or to disregard this? Another example of a poorly worded clause!