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Are there any circumstances in which a master could tender an invalid notice of readiness, but laytime could still commence?

Yes. 

The Court of Appeal held in 2002 that under a voyage charter party which requires a notice of readiness to be served, laytime can commence even when no valid notice has been served, where the following all apply: (1) a NOR in the required form is served on charterers or receivers prior to the vessel’s arrival; (2) the vessel subsequently arrives and is, or is expected to be, ready to discharge, to the knowledge of the charterers; and (3) discharge commences to the order of the charterers or receivers without either having given any indication of rejection or reservation about the NOR already served, or any indication that a further NOR is required before laytime commences. In these circumstances, charterers can be deemed to have waived their right to rely on the invalidity of the original NOR as from the time of commencement of discharge, and laytime will commence in accordance with the charter party as if a valid NOR had been served at that moment.

 

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What are “laytime exceptions” or “exceptions to laytime”?

What happens if notice of readiness is tendered whilst at anchor, before a required hold survey is made, and the ship then fails the survey?