Saturday, June 22, 2024

Laytime reversible – statement of facts mentions “bad weather”

The vessel was chartered on an amended EUROMED 1983 charter party to load from 1 sb or 1 sa (A) and discharge at 1sb/sa (B) + 1sb/sa (C) in Nigeria. The parties disagreed on calculating laytime (reversible or not) at the 2nd discharging port, including for bad weather stoppages resulting in a dispute of circa 60k.

The relevant clause for the 2nd port stated, “X mt per WWD of 24 consecutive hours Saturday, Sunday, holiday included, always excluding super holidays.  NOR to be tendered UPON ARRIVAL ANY TIME Monday to SUNDAY. laytime to count upon arrival provided within working hours otherwise from 1st resumption of work unless vessel already on demurrage“.

The vessel arrived at the 2nd discharging port and was waiting her turn to berth due to congestion. At that time, the SOF recorded bad weather periods. So, the Charterers’ laytime calculations excluded these periods because the vessel was not on demurrage by applying reversible laytime. 

The Owners contended that based on their non-reversible laytime calculations, as supported by the wording “unless vessel already on demurrage“, the ship was on demurrage from the first discharging port and remained on demurrage upon her arrival at the 2nd port. Therefore, no weather interruptions apply based on the old maxim “once on demurrage, always on demurrage”.

Alternatively, if the Owners’ interpretation of the clause is wrong and reversible laytime applies, the Charterers submitted insufficient evidence to prove that the ‘bad weather’ affected the operation at the berth. Therefore, time counts without interruptions. To support this contention, the Owners said that ‘bad weather’ entries in the SOF were insufficient to interrupt laytime while the ship waited at the anchorage. These entries are much too general and could be interpreted as the presence of differing degrees of bad weather. Adding to this, the SOF was unhelpful in determining whether the operations were suspended at the berth. Then, the parties provided additional evidence to support their position but lacked consistency. Therefore, the issue turned on the quality of the evidence.

If the Owners’ construction of the clause is correct, they were entitled to about 60k demurrage. Otherwise, there was a minor despatch amount due to Charterers. 

Therefore, the main issues were:

(a)   whether laytime is reversible or non-reversible on the true construction of the charter party, and

(b)   Whether the ‘bad weather’ periods (either part or all of them) should be excluded from laytime. 

Finally, the parties disagreed on the construction issue but agreed on some vague entries of “bad weather” periods in the SOF to count. Thus, the agreed demurrage amount was reduced to circa 10k. Likely, the parties would have avoided protracted exchanges if the clause stated “Laytime to be reversible between 1st and 2nd discharging port” or similar wording. Other interesting cases on this point will be added in due course to this section.

Some of the arbitration decisions considered or referred by the parties are London Arbitration 6/12, London Arbitration 7/92, London Arbitration 9/11, London Arbitration 21/00, London Arbitration 8/16 & (1981) 32 LMLN 3.

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