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Leaving the berth due to bad wx - laytime clock stops?

Ordering a vessel off the berth in anticipation of bad weather is standard protocol ports follow for safety reasons. This could (and does often) result in commercial disputes between owners and charterers, usually on the topic of laytime & demurrage.

In London Arb. 21/19, the terminal ordered the vessel to leave 2.5 days before the hurricane’s landfall. The reason was that anchorages were filling fast and pilotage service was going to be suspended soon. Weather in port was benign at the time. Vessel returned to berth only after a month. So, did the laytime clock stop? Exception cl. stated that if loading is suspended or delayed due to bad wx…or any other reason not attributable to charterers, then the time shall not count as laytime. Owners’ demurrage claim was for $320k.

On the issue of bad wx owners argument was that the earlier the vsl leaves the berth in such circumstances, the cause of cessation will be safety rather than bad wx, & suspension of cargo in anticipation of bad wx was not enough to stop laytime. Tribunal decided for owners. However, the words ‘any other reason’ in the exception clause won it for the charterers. Discussion on force majeure clause was merely moot, but tribunal did indicate that charterers’ reliance on it would have failed.

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