Unless sooner commenced. Laytime usually begins as specified in the voyage charterparty, either immediately Notice of Readiness is properly and correctly tendered and accepted or after an express period following the tendering and acceptance of the Notice of Readiness.
If the shipper is able to load or the receiver to discharge the cargo before the laytime commences he could do so without the charterer’s losing any laytime. The Charterer thus obtains an unfair advantage of “free time”: This can work against the shipowner, perhaps causing the latter to incur liability to pay despatch.
In one situation, the notice of readiness was tendered on a Thursday afternoon within ordinary office hours. According to the charterparty, laytime would commence from 08 00 hours the next working day, Friday. However, the receiver commenced discharge just after notice of readiness had been given and was able to complete discharging one hour before 08.00 hours on Friday. The charterparty in that situation was silent on the counting of “free time” and the owners could not prove that agreement had been reached on how the free time should be counted. In such a situation, owners cannot claim that the actual time used for discharging should count against the agreed laytime. This is the position under English, American and also Scandinavian law, but W a position may be more favourable to the owners under other legal systems.
The master could refuse to allow the cargo to be handled before the contractual commencement of laytime but not only does this assume that he knows the precise details of the charterparty but also this may be an impractical action.
In order to reduce the chance of laytime disputes, a clause in the charterparty could provide for laytime to be counted either in full or in some agreed proportion of the actual working time used, before the laytime was supposed to commence. For example, a clause can provide:
“At the first loading port laytime shall commence at 1400 hours if notice of readiness is given before noon and at 0800 hours on the next working day, that is not excepted from laytime, if notice is given after noon, unless sooner commenced in which case only time actually used shall count against laytime . . .”
In the GENCON charterparty it also provides, near the end of the laytime commencement clause, that “Time actually used before commencement of laytime shall count”. Depending on the negotiations for the charter, this clause can be- modified to show that time used counts as some fraction, say half, against laytime.
If this clause is not present in the charterparty, loading or discharging before the notice period has expired after the Notice of Readiness is given is not enough evidence of an agreement that laytime is to commence earlier. In The Khios Breeze, 1958, the charterparty provided that time would commence 24 hours after the vessel was ready and written Notice of Readiness was given. Discharge began before the master gave Notice of Readiness: It was held that laytime did not run until the expiry of 24 hours from the notice. The owners’ argument that the charterers had waived their right to a Notice of Readiness before they began to discharge was rejected by the court. Another argument of the owners also rejected was that agreement that laytime would commence from the time at which unloading actually commenced was to be implied.