Per hatch per day. This expression may be used to calculate laytime with reference to the number of cargo hatches serving cargo compartments on the vessel.
(The cargo hatch is the opening on the deck through which cargo is loaded into and out of cargo holds.) A hatchway could lie over a cargo compartment that may be empty. If there is no intention to work a particular cargo space through the hatchway that serves it, that hatch is still a “hatch” although it may not be in the legal category of a “working hatch”.
The number of hatches and their category will influence the rate at which cargo is to be handled and therefore the rate of calculating laytime allowed for the cargo operations. The owner and the Charterer will attempt to consider “hatches” in a manner that will be of advantage to that parry. For example, a charterparty may provide that a cargo of 50,000 metric tons is to be “loaded at the average rate of 1000 metric tons per hatch per day” and that “the vessel has five hatches which shall be always available for loading and discharging”. The shipowners may treat this as a loading rate of 5,000 metric tons per day for the whole ship. According to the owner the laytime will be five days.
However, these dues not take into consideration the fact that each hatchway (and cargo hold) may be worked at different rates. Nor does it take into consideration that the vessel’s holds may be served by more than one hatch. (If that is the case, the owner will try to reduce the laytime by using the actual number of hatches serving the holds.) The reasons for the different rates could be various. For example, different sizes of cargo holds, different numbers of stevedore gangs, different cargo handling equipment or a specific plan for the stability and safety of the vessel influencing the sequence of loading or discharging). Therefore, if one cargo hold is very large in comparison with the others, or if one cargo hold is to be worked by one gang of labourers but two gangs work the other holds, and so on, the entire cargo may not be loaded in five days.
Suppose the vessel had cargo holds of different sizes:
No. 1 -7,000 tonnes; No. 2 -15,000 tonnes; Nos. 3 and 4 -10,000 tonnes each and No. 5 -8,000 tonnes.
Assuming no special loading sequence, the sequence may depend on the safety and stability o£ the vessel. Assuming continuous loading, at 1,000 tonnes per hatch per day, No. 1 will be loaded in seven days, No. 5 in eight days, Nos. 3 and 4, two days later, leaving another five days of loading to complete. The Charterer may have to pay demurrage. Therefore the Charterer will undoubtedly attempt to argue that the laytime should be calculated on the basis of 1,000 metric tons loaded into the largest hold because it would not be possible to load one hold at the rate of 5,000 tons per day.
The owners may be more successful because one important word, describing the category of the hatches, is absent from the relevant clause. That word is “working” and its effect was established by the case of The Sandgate, 1929. (See: Per workable hatch per day.) For such a clause to be of same advantage to the Charterer, the hatch must be qualified by the word “working” or “workable”.
In a case similar to the example given above, The Theraios, 1971; one judge stated:
“All that matters to the Owners is the actual time occupied by those (cargo-handling) operations. . . . Since this vessel has five hatches, the clause seems to me to be a round about way of saying that the vessel shall be loaded . . . at an average rate of . . . tons per day, that is to say, five hatches at . . . tons per hatch. This meaning could certainly have been more clearly expressed by saying simply that `the cargo is to be loaded . . . at the average rate of … tons a day’. But charterparties are hardly renowed for the invariable clarity and simplicity of their language . . .”
Therefore the expression “per hatch per day” means:
“that laytime is to be calculated by multiplying the agreed daily rate per hatch of loading/discharging the cargo by the number of the ship’s hatches and dividing the quantity of cargo by the resulting sum.
A hatch that is capable of being worked by two gangs simultaneously shall be counted as two hatches.” (“Charterparty Laytime Definitions 1980”.)
This method is as “simple” as providing for an overall rate of loading or discharging for the vessel, for example, the laytime clause could state: “ . . . cargo to be loaded at the rate of 5000 metric tons per day . . .”
The English House of Lords confirmed this principle of “overall rate of loading or discharging” in November 1990, in The General Capinpin. In that case, the charterparty contained a mixture of words for calculating laytime, with reference to “hatches”. The clause provides:
“. .. Cargo to be discharged by consignee’s stevedores free of risk and expense to vessel at the average of 1000 metric tonnes basis 5 or more available workable hatches, pro rata if less number of hatches per weather working day.”
This was clearly a poorly drafted laytime clause and the drafters would have been well advised to consider the words of the judge in The Theraios, extracted above. The choice of words caused some dispute between the owner and the charterer because of the assumption each made to calculate laytime.
The charterers contended that the effect of the clause was that the contractual rate of discharge would reduce as the holds became empty. Therefore the laytime should be calculated by dividing the quantity of cargo in the hold with the maximum cargo by 200 tonnes per day. This argument was based on the wellknown rule established in The Sandgate, 1929, relating to “working hatches” or “workable hatches”.
However, the charterers failed to take into account another case, The Giannis Xilas, 1982, in which, although the laytime clause also dealt with “workable hatches”, it was said:
“If the relevant clause provides that cargo is to be loaded at an average rate of X tonnes per hatch per day, omitting reference to `working’ or `workable’ or `available workable’ hatches, and the vessel has Y hatches, the time permitted is achieved by dividing the total cargo loaded by the product of X and Y. Thus if X were 150 tonnes and Y were 5 hatches and the total cargo loaded were 4189, the permitted loading time would be 5.58 days.”
In The General Capinpin the English House of Lords decided that despite the words “basis five or more available workable hatches” the main effect of the laytime clause was to refer to an average, overall rate of discharge for the vessel, not as a rate per hatch. The Court of Appeal decision was confirmed. There it was also said that the average rate for the vessel “ . . . is only to be reduced pro rata if, at the time when loading or unloading begins, the number of workable hatches is less than five . . .”.
Therefore, the decision in 1990 in the above case confirms what was the understood method of calculating laytime by reference to “per hatch per day” as was the explanation when the “Charterparty Laytime Definitions” was published in 1980.