What is Freight in Ship Chartering?

What is Freight in Ship Chartering?

Freight is the reward payable to the Carrier (Shipowner or Ship Operator) for the carriage and arrival of the goods in a merchantable condition, ready to be delivered to the merchant.

Under a simple contract to pay freight, no freight is payable if the goods are lost on the voyage or for any other reason, except the fault of the merchant alone, are not delivered at the port of destination.

Typically a consignee is not entitled to take delivery of the goods unless freight has been paid. Freight payable may be stated on a Bill of Lading (B/L) or Charterparty and we will concentrate on the charterparty. It will be useful to consider what the shipowner does for the freight.

In The Johanna Oldendorff Case, Lord Diplock identified the operations in the adventure contemplated in the voyage charter so that when a ship is chartered under a voyage charter the charterer pays the shipowner freight. In return the ship performs four basic operations which comprise the voyage and form the contractual consideration:

Operation Costs included in the Freight

1. Ballast to load port Distance steamed plus preparation for cargo
2. Load cargo Agreed Laytime and port costs, securing cargo
3. Laden voyage Distance steamed plus care of cargo
4. Discharge cargo Agreed Laytime and port costs

These stages are consecutive and each must be completed before the next can begin.
There cannot therefore be any gap between them, nor is there any overlap.

Freight Clause 

Within a Voyage Charterparty the Freight Clause should stipulate:

1. The amount of freight and/or its method of calculation
2. When freight becomes due
3. Method of transfer to shipowner’s bankers
4. Exact details of shipowner’s bankers.

What is Freight in Ship Chartering?

In the context of ship chartering, “freight” refers to the compensation or payment made for the transportation of goods by sea. The term can relate to both the cargo being transported and the payment or rate itself.

When parties charter a ship, the agreement or contract can take various forms, each with distinct ways of calculating and charging freight. Some of the most common types of ship chartering contracts include:

  1. Voyage Charter: This is where a shipowner agrees to transport a specified quantity of goods from one place to another for a previously agreed price, or freight. The shipowner pays for the ship’s operating costs, including fuel, port charges, and crew wages. The freight in this type of charter is often calculated based on the quantity of the cargo (e.g., per ton).
  2. Time Charter: In this arrangement, a charterer rents the ship for a specific period, during which they decide the ports of call and the cargo. The charterer pays for fuel and port charges, while the shipowner pays for the ship’s operating costs. The freight, in this case, is a daily hire rate for the vessel.
  3. Bareboat Charter (or Demise Charter): This is more of a lease agreement where the charterer takes over the ship for a longer period, even handling the ship’s operations, including crewing and maintenance. Here, the freight is also a form of hire rate, but the charterer is more involved in the ship’s operations.
  4. Contract of Affreightment (COA): This is a series of voyage charters where the shipowner agrees to transport a fixed quantity of cargo over a certain period, but not in one single shipment. The freight rate will be predetermined, often based on the amount of cargo moved or per voyage.

Freight rates can be influenced by various factors including demand and supply of vessels, type and size of the vessel, route, market conditions, type of cargo, and the duration of the charter, among others.

In charter parties (the contract between the shipowner and charterer), the terms regarding the payment of freight, any possible rebates, laytime (time allowed for loading/unloading), and demurrage (penalty for exceeding laytime) will be explicitly outlined.

When establishing a charter party, several specific clauses and terms are negotiated between the shipowner and the charterer, which would dictate how freight will be paid and under what conditions. Some important considerations and terms related to freight in ship chartering include:

  1. Freight Payment Terms: This specifies when the freight is to be paid. For instance, it might be payable in advance upon loading or upon safe discharge of the cargo. Sometimes, a letter of credit is used to guarantee payment.
  2. Laytime and Demurrage: As mentioned earlier, laytime is the amount of time agreed upon between the shipowner and the charterer for loading or unloading the cargo. If the charterer exceeds this time, demurrage fees apply, which are essentially penalties for delay. On the flip side, there’s “dispatch,” which is an incentive payment from the shipowner to the charterer if loading or unloading is completed ahead of schedule.
  3. Deadfreight: This is a term used when the charterer fails to supply the full agreed quantity of cargo for the voyage. The charterer is then often required to pay for the unused or “dead” space.
  4. Freight Taxes and Duties: Depending on the jurisdiction or the route, there might be taxes or duties applicable on the freight. It’s essential to determine in the charter party who is responsible for these – the shipowner or the charterer.
  5. Freight Rate Fluctuations: In some long-term agreements, especially Contracts of Affreightment (COA), there might be provisions related to potential adjustments in freight rates based on market fluctuations or benchmark indices.
  6. Brokerage: Often, a broker facilitates the agreement between the shipowner and charterer. Their commission or fee, often a percentage of the freight rate, would be outlined in the charter party.
  7. Liens on Freight: In some cases, the shipowner might have the right to a lien on the freight if there are unpaid charges or disputes. This provision ensures they have some form of security for unpaid dues.
  8. Bill of Lading: This is a crucial document in shipping and chartering. It acts as a receipt for the cargo, a document of title to the cargo, and evidence of the terms of the contract of carriage. The freight terms, like when and how freight is to be paid, are often mentioned in the bill of lading.

The intricacies of freight in ship chartering make it imperative for both shipowners and charterers to thoroughly understand their obligations, rights, and the terms of the charter party. It’s also common for both parties to engage maritime lawyers or specialists to ensure that the charter party is fair and to navigate any potential legal complexities.

Cargo vs. Freight: What’s the Difference?

“Cargo” and “Freight” are terms frequently used interchangeably in the shipping and logistics industry, but they have distinct meanings:

  1. Cargo:
    • Definition: Cargo refers to the actual goods, commodities, or merchandise being transported, whether by sea, land, or air.
    • Usage: It is the physical item or items being shipped, regardless of the quantity or size.
    • Example: “The ship was loaded with a cargo of grain.”
  2. Freight:
    • Definition: Freight often refers to the charge or compensation for transporting goods, but it can also mean the actual goods being transported (especially in North American usage). In many contexts, it denotes the overall movement and transport of goods.
    • Usage: It’s used more in relation to the commercial aspects of shipping, like charges, rates, or the process itself.
    • Example: “The freight charges for transporting the grain amounted to $5,000.”

While both terms refer to goods in transport, “cargo” emphasizes the physical goods themselves, whereas “freight” often emphasizes the commercial or logistical aspect of transportation. However, it’s crucial to be aware of regional variations in the usage of these terms, as in some contexts, “freight” can also directly refer to the goods being transported.


What is a Freight Bill?

A Freight Bill, also known as a bill of lading (BOL) or freight invoice, is a legal and binding document provided by the carrier to the shipper as a receipt of shipment. This document is critical for the transportation of goods and serves several purposes:

  1. Proof of Contract: It represents a contract between the shipper and the carrier, outlining the obligation of the carrier to transport the goods to their intended destination in exchange for payment.
  2. Receipt of Goods: The freight bill serves as proof that the carrier has received the goods in proper condition as described in the document.
  3. Description of Goods: The document lists details about the cargo, such as type, quantity, weight, dimensions, and any special handling requirements.
  4. Document of Title: In some cases, the bill of lading can act as a title to the goods, meaning it represents ownership. A negotiable or “order” bill of lading can be endorsed and transferred, giving possession rights to another party.
  5. Freight Charges: The freight bill often includes details about the charges associated with the shipment. This might include the basic transportation fee, any surcharges, and additional services like insurance or special handling fees.
  6. Payment Terms: This section will detail how and when the freight charges should be paid. For instance, terms could be “prepaid” (paid by the shipper), “collect” (paid by the receiver), or “third party” (paid by someone else).
  7. Other Details: The document will typically include the names and addresses of the shipper and consignee (receiver), date of shipment, expected delivery date, place of origin, destination, and any terms or notes related to the delivery.

It’s worth noting that while the terms “Freight Bill” and “Bill of Lading” are sometimes used interchangeably, they can have distinct meanings in some contexts:

  • A Bill of Lading (BOL) primarily serves as evidence of the contract of carriage, a receipt for goods, and a document of title.
  • A Freight Bill, when distinguished from a BOL, often refers to the invoice that specifically demands payment for the shipping services provided.

In any shipping transaction, it’s essential to review these documents carefully to ensure accuracy and to protect the interests of all parties involved.


What is Sea Freight?

Sea freight, also known as Ocean Freight, refers to the transportation of goods via sea routes aboard cargo ships or vessels. It’s one of the oldest and most commonly used methods of international trade, especially for large volumes of goods. Here are some key aspects of sea freight:

  1. Containers: Most of the goods transported via sea are packed into containers. These are standardized metal boxes that come in common sizes, with the 20-foot and 40-foot containers being the most prevalent. These containers are then stacked onto container ships for transport.
  2. Bulk and Break-bulk: Some goods, like grain, coal, or liquid products like oil, are transported in bulk, without containers. Break-bulk refers to cargo that is not containerized and is loaded individually onto the ship. This was more common before the widespread adoption of containerization.
  3. Less than Container Load (LCL) and Full Container Load (FCL):
    • LCL: When a shipper does not have enough goods to fill a whole container, they can book a Less than Container Load. Multiple shippers’ goods are consolidated into a single container.
    • FCL: A Full Container Load means a shipper books an entire container for their goods.
  4. Types of Cargo Ships:
    • Container Ships: Designed to carry standardized cargo containers.
    • Bulk Carriers: For transporting bulk commodities like coal, grain, or minerals.
    • Tankers: Designed for liquids like oil, chemicals, or liquefied natural gas.
    • General Cargo Ships: Carry mixed cargoes, often in a non-containerized form.
  5. Cost-Effective for Large Volumes: One of the primary advantages of sea freight is its cost-effectiveness for transporting large volumes of goods over long distances. However, it’s generally slower than other modes like air freight.
  6. Documentation: Sea freight involves intricate documentation due to international regulations, customs processes, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders. The bill of lading is a crucial document in this context, serving as proof of shipment, a contract of carriage, and sometimes as a document of title.
  7. Freight Forwarders: Given the complexities involved in sea freight, many shippers rely on freight forwarders. These are intermediaries who facilitate the shipping process, handling aspects like booking space on ships, arranging transport to and from the port, and managing documentation.
  8. Environmental Concerns: While sea freight can be more environmentally friendly per ton-mile than air freight, the shipping industry still contributes to global CO2 emissions. Efforts are ongoing to improve the efficiency of ships and explore cleaner fuels to mitigate these effects.

Sea Freight plays a pivotal role in global trade, facilitating the movement of vast quantities of goods across continents. Its choice over other modes of transport often depends on factors like the nature and volume of goods, transit time considerations, and costs.


What is the Difference Between Hire And Freight?

In the context of shipping and maritime industry, “hire” and “freight” are two distinct terms that relate to the compensation or payment for the use of a ship or the transport of goods, respectively. Let’s break down the differences:

  1. Hire:
    • Definition: Hire refers to the payment made for the use of a ship itself. It’s essentially the “rent” you pay to utilize the ship for a certain period.
    • Applicability: The term is typically used in “time charter” and “bareboat (or demise) charter” scenarios. In a time charter, the shipowner provides the vessel but retains responsibility for running it, while the charterer decides the cargoes and routes. In a bareboat charter, the charterer takes on more responsibility, including manning and maintaining the ship.
    • Payment Structure: Hire is usually charged at a daily rate, known as the “daily hire rate,” and continues for the duration of the charter agreement.
  2. Freight:
    • Definition: Freight is the payment made for the transportation of goods. It’s the charge for moving cargo from one place to another using the ship.
    • Applicability: The term “freight” is commonly associated with “voyage charter” agreements. In this arrangement, a shipowner agrees to transport a specified quantity of goods from one port to another, and the charterer pays freight as compensation for this service.
    • Payment Structure: Freight charges can be calculated in various ways, often based on the volume or weight of the cargo being transported. It might be expressed as a rate per ton or based on the entire volume of cargo for that particular voyage.

While both “hire” and “freight” are forms of payment in maritime transactions, they apply to different aspects. “Hire” relates to the use of the ship itself, and “freight” pertains to the service of transporting goods.

  1. Duration:
    • Hire: The payment structure for hire is time-based. For instance, under a time charter agreement, the charterer agrees to hire the vessel for a particular duration, be it days, months, or even years. The charterer pays for every day the ship is under their command, regardless of whether the ship is in use or idle.
    • Freight: Payment for freight is related to a specific voyage or task. Once the cargo has been safely delivered to its destination, and all conditions of the charter party have been met, the shipowner’s obligation usually ends, and freight is payable.
  2. Risks and Responsibilities:
    • Hire: In a time charter, the shipowner typically bears the operational risks of the vessel (like machinery breakdowns). However, in a bareboat charter, the charterer assumes most of the operational risks.
    • Freight: In a voyage charter, the shipowner bears both the operational risks of the vessel and some commercial risks, like delays due to unforeseen circumstances, unless specified otherwise in the agreement.
  3. Economic Implications:
    • Hire: Time charter rates (hire rates) can fluctuate based on factors like overall shipping market conditions, demand for vessels, or geopolitical events. Charterers and shipowners sometimes fix longer-term charters to hedge against potential market volatility.
    • Freight: Freight rates are influenced by cargo demand and supply, fuel prices, port charges, and other variables. For instance, a sudden increase in oil demand could drive up freight rates for tankers.
  4. Termination:
    • Hire: The charterer can typically return the vessel to the owner at the end of the charter period. Some agreements might also allow early redelivery, but this could come with penalties.
    • Freight: The relationship between the shipowner and charterer ends after the successful delivery of cargo and settlement of freight and any other charges (like demurrage if applicable).

While “hire” and “freight” both revolve around compensation in maritime contexts, they serve different functions. “Hire” is about leasing a vessel, while “freight” is about the service of transporting goods. When engaging in maritime contracts, understanding these differences is vital to ensure clarity in obligations, rights, and responsibilities.