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Can vessel be put off-hire for failing pre-inspection of cargo holds?

Vessels being put off-hire for cargo holds failing inspection at the load port is not that uncommon. But what if charterers make it clear to owners beforehand that the inspection will only be advisory in nature and not official, and the report is also titled to indicate such. Can the vessel then be put off-hire if holds are found to be unsuitable? Question came up in London Arbitration 9/22.

Vessel was to load mineral sands cargo. Before the first inspection was carried out, owners sought clarification from charterers if this was to be an official holds inspection or just pre-inspection, to which charterers replied that it will be a pre-inspection and the final inspection will take place once alongside. Owners agreed to bear 50% of costs for this inspection. The pre-insp. report was titled 'advisory to Master only' and it stated that holds were not suitable for loading. A subsequent inspection was carried out a few days later that was official. Vessel failed that too. Charterers decided to put the vessel off-hire from the date of first inspection. In the alternative, charterers also contended that owners had been in breach of charter in presenting the vessel with unclean holds.

As per the Tribunal. the use of words 'pre inspection' in contrast to final inspection & officially inspected indicated that the first inspection was supposed to be a trial run. Also, the first report did not mention that it was being carried out on behalf of charterers whereas the subsequent inspection done a few days later did mention that. The alternative argument was a non-starter since the only remedy for unclean holds as per C/P was putting the vessel off-hire. Here the vessel was off-hire from the 2nd inspection.

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