What is Laytime? What is Demurrage? What is Despatch?

What is Laytime?

The amount of time the ship is expected to be in port, mainly for loading and discharging the cargo, is agreed upon, and this is known as Laytime.


What is Demurrage?

If the ship is delayed due to the charterers or other causes that could reasonably be said to be the charterer’s responsibility, then the shipowner may be entitled to claim compensation in the form of Demurrage.

Demurrage is payable by the charterer, who is in breach of the charterparty terms and is therefore under an obligation to compensate the shipowner.

Demurrage is the payment of liquidated (pre-arranged) damages for keeping the ship in port for loading or discharging purposes for a longer period than the agreed time.

Demurrage rates are based on the ship’s Daily Running Cost or the Time Charter Equivalent.


What is Despatch?

If the loading or discharging operation is completed earlier than expected, the shipowner pays Despatch to the charterer at a daily rate which is usually half the equivalent daily rate for demurrage but this only applies in dry cargo chartering. There is no Despatch in tanker chartering.


What is Laytime’s Commercial Purpose?

Laytime is the amount of time which the owner and charterer agree it will take to load and discharge the cargo carried on board the vessel. When negotiating a charterparty, the owner will calculate how much freight they require to compensate them for performing the voyage. A key factor is how long the voyage will take to perform, that is, the approach voyage, loading, the carrying voyage and discharging.

Usually, shipowner usually has no control over the loading and discharging, and therefore the charterer will accept an obligation to load and discharge the cargo within a fixed time called laytime.

Therefore, the commercial purpose of lay time is to compensate the shipowner for the time spent by the charterer loading and discharging the cargo over which the owner has no control. If, for example, the shipowner had calculated his freight on the basis that time spent loading and discharging would take four days, but the charterer in fact spent eleven days, the shipowner would have made no profit, and would have probably made a loss, from the employment of the ship for that voyage.

The shipowner always remains the carrier and when the master signs the bills of lading, they are signed on behalf of the shipowner. This means that in the event of any claims for shortages or other discrepancies in the cargo, the shipowner is responsible and not the charterer. The exception to this is when the bill of lading states that certain cargoes are carried, for example, on deck at charterer’s risk.

What is Laytime in Ship Chartering?

Laytime is a fundamental concept in ship chartering, specifically in maritime commerce. It refers to the amount of time agreed upon between the charterer and the shipowner, during which the charterer is allowed to load and/or discharge the cargo without having to pay extra charges. This time period is usually specified in the charter party agreement, which is the contract between the charterer and the shipowner.

Laytime starts when the ship is ready to load or discharge cargo and has given notice of readiness (NOR) to the charterer. If the loading or discharging operations exceed the agreed laytime, the charterer has to pay demurrage, which is a penalty for the extra time used. Conversely, if the operations are completed before the laytime is exhausted, the charterer may earn despatch, a bonus for quick turnaround, if it is provided for in the charter party.

The terms and conditions of laytime, demurrage, and despatch, including how they are calculated and when they start and end, are all detailed in the charter party agreement. They are important aspects of ship chartering as they directly impact the cost, efficiency, and profitability of the shipping operation.

The length of the laytime is influenced by a number of factors, including the type of cargo, the size of the ship, the efficiency of the loading and discharging equipment at the port, and the conditions of the charter party agreement. For example, bulk cargoes like coal or grain may require longer laytime compared to containerized cargoes because of the different handling methods and equipment required.

Laytime can also be classified as “reversible” or “non-reversible”. In a reversible laytime, the time for loading and discharging is pooled together, meaning that if less time is used for loading, the extra time can be used for discharging, and vice versa. In a non-reversible laytime, the times for loading and discharging are separate, and time saved on one operation cannot be used for the other.

Another important term related to laytime is “laydays” or “laycan”. This is the timeframe within which the charterer expects the ship to arrive at the loading port and present the notice of readiness. If the ship arrives before or after the laydays, the charterer may have the option to reject the ship.

Laytime calculations can be complex, involving factors such as weather working days (days when the weather does not prevent cargo operations), Sundays and holidays, and periods of exception such as strikes or unforeseen events. Understanding these factors and how they affect the overall cost and efficiency of the shipping operation is critical for both the shipowner and the charterer.

In the complex environment of shipping logistics, laytime plays an essential role in managing the cost and efficiency of port operations. However, laytime disputes can occur, typically revolving around when laytime begins or ends, or how it should be calculated. Disputes can arise over whether a ship was indeed ready to load or discharge cargo when it issued the notice of readiness, whether the cargo was available to load or discharge within the laytime period, or if certain delays should be counted towards laytime or considered exceptions.

A frequent area of disagreement is about what constitutes a “working day”. This can be a regular working day, a weather working day, or a day when work is not normally conducted such as weekends or public holidays. The specific definitions of these terms in the context of laytime can be detailed in the charter party agreement, but they can also depend on local customs at the port of loading or discharging.

Sometimes, even natural occurrences like high tide or bad weather can cause disputes. These are generally treated as exceptions and do not count towards the laytime unless otherwise specified in the charter party agreement.

In order to avoid or resolve these disputes, it’s crucial to have a thorough understanding of the charter party agreement and to maintain good communication between the shipowner and the charterer. Additionally, having a clear and comprehensive log of all the operations carried out on the ship, including times and any delays or interruptions, can be very helpful in dealing with any potential disagreements.

While laytime is a fundamental concept in ship chartering, it’s also a complex one with many factors and potential complications. Proper understanding and management of laytime are critical to the successful and profitable operation of a chartered ship.


What is Reversible Laytime in Ship Chartering?

Reversible laytime in the context of ship chartering is a concept related to the period of time agreed upon between the charterer and the shipowner for loading and discharging operations.

Laytime is the amount of time allowed for the shipowner to make the ship available for loading or discharging cargo at the agreed port. It’s an agreed timeframe specified in the charter party (the contract between the shipowner and charterer).

In a normal or “non-reversible” laytime scenario, separate laytimes are set for loading and discharging operations. This means the charterer has a specific amount of time to load the cargo, and then a separate specific amount of time to discharge it at the destination.

In a “reversible” laytime scenario, however, the laytimes for loading and discharging are not separate. Instead, a total amount of time is given for both operations, and this time can be used interchangeably between loading and discharging. This means if the charterer finishes loading quicker than the allocated time, the saved time can be used during the discharging operation, and vice versa.

The benefit of reversible laytime to the charterer is that it provides more flexibility in how the total laytime is used. However, it might not always be beneficial to the shipowner if the operations at one port take longer than expected, thereby delaying the ship’s departure for its next charter.

Reversible Laytime Example

“Laytime” refers to the time allowed for loading and unloading a vessel under the terms of a charterparty. It can be calculated in several ways, including “reversible laytime.”

Reversible laytime is a concept where the laytime for loading and unloading is not kept separate, but instead is pooled together. This means that if the time used for loading is less than the agreed laytime, the remaining time can be used for unloading, and vice versa.

Here’s an example to illustrate the concept:

Let’s assume a ship is chartered to load cargo at Port A and unload at Port B. The charterparty agreement stipulates that the laytime for loading is 48 hours and the laytime for unloading is 72 hours. However, it also allows for reversible laytime.

In this scenario, the total laytime for both loading and unloading is 120 hours (48 hours for loading + 72 hours for unloading).

  1. Loading at Port A: If the loading operations at Port A are completed in 36 hours, which is 12 hours less than the stipulated 48 hours, these remaining 12 hours are not lost. Instead, they are added to the laytime for unloading at Port B.
  2. Unloading at Port B: Now, the unloading laytime at Port B is not just 72 hours, but 84 hours (72 hours + 12 hours saved from Port A).

This arrangement can be beneficial for the charterer, who can use the saved time at the second port. However, if the total reversible laytime is exceeded, demurrage (a penalty for exceeding the laytime) would apply.


What is Non-Reversible Laytime in Ship Chartering?

Non-Reversible Laytime is a term used in ship chartering, particularly in the context of voyage charters, and it concerns the amount of time agreed between the charterer and ship owner for loading and unloading the cargo.

When the laytime is specified as non-reversible, it means that the time allowed for loading and unloading operations are separate and cannot be combined. If the charterer finishes loading in less than the agreed loading laytime, the unused time cannot be added to the unloading laytime, and vice versa.

For example, if the agreed laytime is 5 days for loading and 5 days for unloading, and the charterer finishes loading in 3 days, the remaining 2 days cannot be used for unloading. The charterer still has only 5 days for unloading.

The consequence of not adhering to the laytime is usually payment of demurrage by the charterer to the shipowner. Demurrage is a penalty for exceeding the agreed laytime.

On the other hand, if laytime is specified as reversible, the time saved on loading can be used for unloading, or vice versa. The specifics of each charter party can vary, so the precise details and definitions should be laid out in the charter party contract.


Non-Reversible Laytime Example

Let’s take an example to understand non-reversible laytime.

Non-reversible laytime is a term often used in the shipping industry, specifically in charter party agreements. It refers to the concept that the time used for loading cannot be used for unloading, and vice versa. This is different from reversible laytime where the time used for both operations is combined.

Consider the following example:

  1. Charter Party Agreement: Under this agreement, a vessel is hired for a specific voyage from port A to port B.
  2. Laytime: The laytime agreed in the charter party is 5 days for loading at port A and 5 days for unloading at port B.
  3. Scenario 1 (Non-reversible Laytime):
    • Loading: The vessel begins loading at port A, and it takes 4 days to complete the loading operation.
    • Unloading: The vessel arrives at port B and begins the unloading operation, which takes 6 days to complete.

    In this scenario, even though the loading operation was completed 1 day ahead of schedule, this ‘saved’ day cannot be used to offset the extra day taken for unloading at port B. This is because the laytime is non-reversible. So, the charterer will have to pay demurrage for the extra day taken for unloading.

  4. Scenario 2 (Reversible Laytime):In contrast, if the laytime were reversible, the 1 ‘saved’ day from loading could be used to offset the extra day taken for unloading. Therefore, no demurrage would be payable in this case.

We hope this example helps in understanding the concept of non-reversible laytime.


What is Demurrage in Ship Chartering?

Demurrage in ship chartering refers to the compensation paid by the charterer (the party who hired the ship) to the shipowner for delaying the vessel beyond the agreed time for loading and unloading. The agreed time is known as “laytime”.

When a ship is chartered, a contract is drawn up specifying the amount of time allowed for the ship to be loaded and unloaded. This time period, referred to as the laytime, is usually specified in days or hours. If the charterer exceeds the laytime, they are required to pay demurrage to the shipowner.

Demurrage is essentially a penalty for detaining the ship beyond the agreed period. It compensates the shipowner for the loss of potential earnings because the ship cannot be used for other contracts or voyages during the period it is delayed.

The rate for demurrage is often negotiated during the charter party agreement and is usually expressed as a daily rate. The actual calculation can be complex, often taking into account various factors such as the nature of the cargo, the type of ship, and market conditions.

It’s worth noting that the concept of demurrage is not unique to shipping and can also be found in other transport industries, such as rail and trucking, where it refers to similar penalties for delays.

It’s important to understand the conditions under which demurrage applies. Demurrage typically kicks in when the cause of the delay is attributable to the charterer, or the cargo receiver, such as a delay in providing cargo for loading or in removing cargo from the vessel upon arrival at the destination.

The exact terms and conditions for laytime and demurrage are stipulated in the charter party agreement, a legally binding document that outlines the terms of the ship charter. This includes the amount of laytime allowed, the rate of demurrage if laytime is exceeded, and the terms and conditions under which demurrage is payable.

There are instances where the shipowner cannot claim demurrage, even if the loading or discharging operation exceeds the laytime. This usually happens when the delay is caused by events beyond the charterer’s control, such as adverse weather conditions, strikes, or equipment failure on the ship. These exceptions are typically specified in the charter party agreement.

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a counterpart to demurrage known as despatch. Despatch is a reward paid by the shipowner to the charterer if the loading or discharging operation is completed within a time shorter than the laytime. However, despatch is not as commonly applied as demurrage in many charter party agreements.

In summary, demurrage in ship chartering is a significant concept as it affects the cost and efficiency of maritime transport. It creates a financial incentive for charterers to load and unload the ship within the agreed time, thereby promoting efficient use of the ship and minimizing downtime.


What is Despatch in Ship Chartering?

In the context of ship chartering, “despatch” is a term used to refer to the money paid by the ship owner to the charterer if the loading or unloading of the ship is completed in less time than specified in the charter party agreement.

In essence, it’s a sort of bonus or reward for efficient turnaround. The rate of despatch is usually the same as the rate of demurrage, though it can be different depending on the terms agreed upon in the charter party agreement.

Just to provide further context, the counterpart to despatch is “demurrage”, which is a fee that the charterer pays to the ship owner if the ship is detained beyond the agreed “laytime” for loading or unloading. It’s essentially a penalty for delaying the vessel.

In both cases, the goal is to encourage efficiency and minimize delays in the loading and unloading process, since time is a critical factor in shipping operations.