Exceptions to laytime. Laytime is the period of time during which the shipowner will make the vessel available for loading and/or discharging. The user of the ship, presumably the charterer, will therefore enjoy a “store” or “stock” of time.
When laytime commences, the store of time will begin to run out and reduce. (‘This is referred to as the “counting of laytime”.) The parties to a voyage charter may agree that certain circumstances and events may interrupt the reduction (or “counting”) of laytime. These will operate as a “protection” for the charterer. For example, a clause dealing with the stoppage of laytime counting because of strikes (a “strike clause”) would be a protective clause.
In the GENCON charterparty the “General Strike clause” states:
“ . . . If there is a strike or lock-out affecting the discharge of the cargo on or after vessel’s arrival at or off the port of discharge and same has not been settled within 48 hours, Receivers shall have the option of keeping vessel waiting until such- strike or lock-out is at an end against paying half demurrage after expiration of the time provided for discharging . . .”
In this situation, the protection for the Charterer is limited to the charterer’s paying half demurrage. The protection can be considered as a period during which the counting of laytime is stopped.
If the strike or lockout occurs on board the vessel, other clauses may protect the Charterer from paying demurrage completely and also provide other exceptions to laytime. For example, the ASBATANKVOY tanker voyage charterparty provides that:
“7 . . . the number of running hours specified as laytime shall be permitted the Charterer as laytime for loading and discharging cargo; but any delay due to the vessel’s condition . . . shall not count as used laytime. If regulations of the Owner or port authorities prohibit loading or discharging of the cargo at night, time so lost shall not count as used laytime. . . . Time consumed by the vessel in moving from loading or discharging port anchorage to her loading or discharge berth, discharging ballast water or slops, will not count as used laytime.
8 . . . The Charterer shall not be liable for any demurrage or delay caused by strike, lockout stoppage ox restraint of labour for Master, officers and crew of the vessel or tugboat or pilots.”
Therefore, demurrage for “time lost” from the allowed laytime, may be reduced or not paid at all and this may also be seen as an “exception” to laytime counting.
An exception to laytime is a period during which time should not count against the Charterer.
The “counting” of laytime can also occur because of other circumstances. Fox example, laytime may be interrupted by weather and by “Sundays and Holidays”. Interruptions by weather are usually related to periods when weather conditions are such that normal cargo operations ate prevented or are impractical. Depending on the wording in the clause, if cargo operations are not actually being tamed on, but if they were the weather conditions would have prevented them, the counting of laytime may also be interrupted. (See Weather working day under Days.)
Holidays can also interrupt the counting of laytime. These days may be Sundays, other “holidays” and, in Islamic countries, Fridays. In some ports, even Saturdays are not “normal” working days, and these may not count as laytime.
Various other causes may also interrupt the charterer’s loss of available time. Generally the reason may be related to the lack of .the charterer’s control over the circumstances. For example, the clause dealing with laytime in TANKERVOY 87 is very wide. It states:
“(b) Time lost owing to any of the following causes shall not count as laytime or for demurrage if the vessel is on demurrage:
(i) awaiting next high tide or daylight to proceed on the inward passage from awaiting place … to a …. berth.
(ii) actually moving from a waiting place … to a …. berth or place nominated by Charterers or waiting for pilot or tugs in order so to move;
(iii) in handling ballast unless earned out concurrently with cargo operations such that no time is lost thereby;
(iv) stoppages on the vessel’s orders, breakdown or efficiency of the vessel, negligence or breach of dory on the part of the Owners or their servants or agents or strike, lockout, or other restraint of labour of the vessel’s crew;
(v) strike, lockout or other restraint of labour of pilot or tug personnel.”
The charterer’s control is significant. If cargo operations are the charterers’ responsibility, but they, or their agents, employ an independent- contractor to carry out the operations, any delay caused by the contractor may not be under the charterers’ “control”. For example, in The Mozart, a charterparty stated that any time lost because of accidents to machinery “ . . . or any cause beyond the control of the Charterers . . .” was not to be counted as part of the laytime and that the cargo was to be loaded by men appointed by the charterer free of expense and risk to the vessel.
The machinery operated by the independent contractor employed by the charterers’ agents broke down and the charterers claimed an exception to laytime. It was held that although the actual Loading was not the owner’s responsibility, the exception clause protected the charterer. The judge made it very clear that certain circumstances should not “ . . . be treated as the charterers’ `fault”‘. While the exception may relate to the lack of charterer’s control, charterers must also take reasonable care to mitigate or reduce or prevent the loss of time. The words apparently protecting the charterer “. . . or any other cause beyond the control of the Charterer . . .” do not give the charterer absolute protection. The cause must be of the same kind as described in the laytime clause.
While exceptions to laytime may be protection of the charterer, appropriate words in the charterparty may affect this protection. For example, a laytime clause could state the laytime would be calculable “Sundays and Holidays excepted, unless used”. In this case, the time during the nominally excepted periods would be counted if cargo operations took place.