Voyage Charterer

In The Berge Sund (1992) the arbitrator, and on appeal the High Court, adjudged the vessel to be off-hire by reason of ‘any other cause preventing efficient working of the vessel’, the cause being cleaning between cargoes being accidentally required and involving the fault of neither owner nor charterer. This was, however, overturned on appeal (1993) on the basis that the cleaning itself was part of the service given by the owners to the charterer. Staughton LJ said that each off-hire clause should be considered individually on its own wording. The voyage charterer does not have the range of liabilities which a time charterer has; he is merely using the ship as a carrier for his own or someone else’s cargo for carriage between stated ports. It is, however, amazing how many voyage charterers do not think that they have any liabilities, particularly if they are carrying their own cargoes. It should be understood also that the law relating to rights and liabilities of each principal party is the same whatever the type of cargo carried, be it dry, bulk, packaged, liquid, dangerous, heavy or whatever. There are numerous different trade charter parties to which it would be impossible to refer in the brief confines of this section but, whereas there are obviously special customs and stipulations in particular trades, all voyage charter parties, whether in an oil or dry trade, are governed by the same basic legal rules. One of the most common disputes to arise from the performance of a voyage charter is about Laytime and/or Demurrage. Laytime is that period of time which is allowed to the charterer to load or discharge the vessel free of any further expense beyond the freight charge for actual carriage of the goods. How laytime is to be calculated is the subject of prior agreement by the parties. It might be a reasonable rate of discharge, e.g. 3,000 tons per day.