Per workable hatch per day or Per working hatch per day. This expression is more in the charterers’ favour than the preceding expression.
The Word “workable” or “working” when qualifying a hatch means that the hatch can be worked because there is (or will be) cargo in the hold below it. If the cargo hold beneath the hatch in question is empty or is to remain empty, it is not a “workable hatch”. Therefore the “workability” refers to the cargo in the hold and not to the fact that the vessel may have cranes or derricks above the hatch in question. This was confirmed, among other matters, in the English Court of Appeal in The General Capinpin, 1989.
In that case, vessels were ordered to be discharged at small ports where discharging had to take place in mid stream so that no shore cranes could be used. No floating cranes were available. The vessels’ own cargo handling gear had to be used. However, although each vessel had five hatches, each carried only four cranes. The laytime clause provided for laytime to be calculated at 1,000 tonnes per day based or. “ . . . 5 or more available workable hatches . . .”. Therefore the charterers argued that because the vessel had only four cranes, the hatch without a crane serving it was not “workable” and the discharging rate would have to be 800 tonnes per day.
This was rejected by the arbitrator, the judge at first instance and also by the Court of Appeal. The argument failed because of an earlier case, The Aegis Progress, 1983, in which it had been said:
“. .. laytime provisions are designed to set a standard so that the shipper can be rewarded if he does better and can be deterred, by having to pay compensation to the Shipowner, if he does worse. Such a purpose would not be met if the clause was interpreted so as to allow the shipper arbitrarily to manipulate the amount of laytime by his method or speed of loading.”
Therefore the charterers’ choice of discharging port where no shore facilities were available did not have any bearing on the calculation of laytime. The Court of Appeal did allow for the possibility of one or more hatches being unworkable because of a defect in the hatch or hold beneath it, or cargo handling machinery such as winches, but in the case before it, this issue did not arise.
Although “workable” can refer merely to hatches through which it is possible to discharge cargo it is more relevant to use the word for hatches through which cargo is actually to be discharged. Therefore a hold, from which all relevant cargo has been discharged, will not have a hatch above it, which is “workable”.
The words “workable” or “working” were given their present meaning in the case of The Sandgate, 1929, in which the laytime clauses stated:
“The cargo to be taken from alongside by consignees . . . at the average rate of 125 tons per working hatch per day . . .”
“. . . consignees shall not be obliged to take cargo from alongside . . . at a higher rate than 500 tons per day.”
The vessel had four hatches.
The charterers’ argument was successful because when a hold became empty, the rate for the vessel reduced proportionately while the rate per hatch remained the same. If the number of hatches being discharged remained unchanged until all the cargo was discharged, there would have been no need to have inserted the words “per working hatch per day” because the laytime could then have been calculated simply on a daily rate of discharge, based on the same number of hatches.
This decision led to the current meaning and effect of the words “per workable hatch per day” in a laytime clause to be calculated thus:
A hatch that is capable of being worked by two gangs simultaneously shall be counted as two hatches.” (“Charterparty Laytime Definitions 1980”.)
The expression may contain the word “available”, for example, “cargo to be discharged at the average rate of 200 tonnes per available workable hatch per day . . .” In this situation the availability of the hatches is similar to the workability and the remarks of the Court of Appeal in The General Capinpin, 1989, may be relevant. It was said that “ . . . a hatch over an empty hold is not a workable hatch”. This implies that a hatch over a hold with cargo in it is workable. It was also said that “Clearly the position might have been different had one or more of the hatches been unworkable by reason of a defect in the hatch or hold itself”. Unavailability can thus result from winch breakdowns, which may interrupt loading or discharging.