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Notice of Readiness (NOR) and what is an 'arrived ship'

Can charterer’s obligation to provide for a berth upon vessel’s arrival be triggered without the Master tendering notice of readiness? Charterparties normally have separate clauses addressing these two functions, one of which is charterer’s responsibility whilst the other owners’. A question that arises is do these clauses need to be read harmoniously such that charterer’s obligation to provide for a berth will be dependent on NOR being tendered or not? It arose in The Cosmic Jewel [2021].

Vessel had arrived at Forcados, Nigeria but the berth and cargo were not available at Bonga and the vessel therefore did not get the inward clearance to proceed. NOR was not tendered during the waiting period. Owners were claiming damages for the detention period the vessel spent waiting at Forcados.

Charterers contended that the vessel became an arrived ship when she arrived at Forcados, i.e. the usual waiting place before proceeding to Bonga and the Master should have tendered NOR but failed to do so and hence their obligation to provide for a berth never kicked in. Arbitration Tribunal had decided in favour of Charterers. Owners were now appealing in a High Court in India and also contending that Forcados was not the usual waiting place for ships heading to Bonga.

As per the Court it all depended on the interpretation of the expression 'arrived ship'. As per the C/P obtaining inward port clearance was not a pre-requisite to tendering a valid NOR [emphasis added]. Master ought to have tendered NOR upon arrival at Forcados. As for whether it was the usual waiting place, the Court refused to disturb the Tribunal's decision. Yes, charterers were to provide a berth 'reachable on arrival' but this was to be read in conjunction with the NOR clause, i.e. both clauses were to be read harmoniously. Here the charterer’s obligation were never triggered as the vessel did not become an ‘arrived ship’.

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