Pratique. This is permission from the port health authorities for a ship to come into and to use a port.
The ship must be a “healthy ship”, that is, the people on board must be free from any symptoms of infectious diseases, for example, cholera, plague, smallpox and yellow fever. There must be no plague-infected rat on board nor any abnormal mortality among rats on board. There are other circumstances, which may cause the ship to be considered either an “infected ship” or a “suspected ship” and not a “healthy ship”.
Before the ship arrives, the ship’s agent will usually report to the port health officer, on the master’s behalf, that the ship is a healthy ship, having ascertained from the master that this is indeed the situation on board. The port health officer may then authorise the agent to transmit “free pratique” by radio (“radio free pratique”) to the ship. When the ship arrives at the port it may proceed to its berth and a “Maritime Declaration of Health” may have to be made by the master at a later stage to confirm the information given to port health authorities by the agent.
To obtain pratique is a port formality and if the port authorities are strict about this before the ship is permitted to handle cargo, this can affect the vessel’s (legal) readiness and may delay the commencement of laytime. If the charterparty contains a clause stating that the Notice of Readiness may be given “whether in free – pratique or not” (“WIFPON”), this may work to the advantage of the shipowner.