Readiness. A Notice of “Readiness” is the “trigger” that commences the counting of laytime.
“Readiness” means that the vessel must be both physically and legally ready for cargo to be loaded into or discharged from it; that is, “ready in all respects”. If the vessel is not so ready at the time that the notice is given, the Notice of Readiness will not be a “good” notice and laytime may not be triggered.
Readiness is a preliminary existing fact, which must exist before a notice describing that fact can be given or “tendered”. Various examples can be given of when a ship can be said to be ready. In an old case, Armement Adolf Deppe v. John Robinson, 1917, the hatch covers had not been removed when the Notice of Readiness was given. However, discharging did not commence immediately. The hatch covers would simply have to be removed then the notice would be good. This is a “physical” form of readiness. In TheAello, 1961, a police permit was required before a vessel could be loaded. The absence of the permit did not prevent the vessel from being ready to “load” while it was at the anchorage. This is a form of “legal” readiness.
Therefore, Notice of Readiness can be given even though there are some further preliminaries or routine formalities to be carried out. It was said in The Tres Flores, 1973, that: “If those things are not such as to give any reason to suppose that they will cause any delay, and it is apparent that the ship will be ready when the appropriate time arrives, then Notice of Readiness can be given.” Presumably, laytime will be triggered.
However, there are certain requirements that are not “preliminaries”. In that case, insects were found in the cargo hold in which it was intended to load grain. Fumigation had to be carried out. The ship was not ready to receive cargo at the time the Notice of Readiness was given and fumigation was not a “mere preliminary, nor a routine matter, nor a formality at all. It was an essential step which had to be taken before any cargo could be received at all”. This was “physical unreadiness” and the notice was not “good”.
In The Albion, and The Nestor, both reported in 1987, the charterparties required the ship to be “entered at Custom House” before Notice of Readiness could be given by the master and before laytime would begin to count. Those two cases deal with Customs procedures and requirements in Indian ports where a number of stages generally have to be followed before Customs clearance is granted and the Notice of Readiness can be given. A number of cases in the 1970s and 1980s raised the issue of the vessel’s not being “legally ready” to discharge cargo if these requirements were not followed. If the legislation in such countries requires a vessel to be “entered at Custom House” this is a conclusion of law. It may be that commencement of discharge would be illegal under the legislation without such entry. Therefore, without such Customs entry, the vessel may not be “legally ready”.
Other forms of physical unreadiness could include: non accessibility or the contractual cargo, nonaccessibility o£ the cargo compartments, unsuitability of the cargo spaces for the contractual cargo and impairment of the cargo hatches or cargo-handling equipment. In addition to Customs clearance, other forms of legal readiness could depend on: obtaining free pratique, obtaining health and quarantine clearance and obtaining proper certification before the contractual cargo may be loaded or discharged.