About. Many charterparties contain the word “about” when describing something, such as the speed of the vessel or its fuel consumption or the cargo to be loaded.

The word tends to remove the strict responsibility that would be placed on the party making the statement that the description is absolutely correct if there was some departure from the description. The word “about” means “more or less” and gives some (uncertain) margin of accuracy or allows some (equally uncertain) tolerance.

A common use of “about” is in rime charterparties. An example is found in the New York Produce Exchange form in the Preamble describing the vessel to be chartered:

“. . . of about . . , cubic feet grain capacity . . . and about . . . tons . . . deadweight capacity . . . inclusive of permanent bunkers, which are of the capacity of about . . . tons of fuel, and capable of steaming, fully laden, under good weather conditions about . . . knots on a consumption of about . . . tons . . .”

In a time charterparty, also using the NYPE as an example, the charter period can be qualified by “about”:

“. . . the Owners agree to let and the Charterers agree to hire the vessel from the time of delivery for about . . .”

In an arbitration in New York in I988, this issue of an approximate period under the time charter was dealt with. The vessel was fixed for a trip charter for a duration of “… about 80 days without guarantee …” The owners claimed that the charterers had underestimated the voyage because the voyage occupied 97 days instead of the agreed 80 days. It was decided that the owner’s claim for compensation for the overlap in period was unfounded because there was no misrepresentation by the Charterer of the voyage duration.

In a voyage charterparty , the speed and fuel consumption are not very significant but the deadweight is also qualified by “about” as it is m the MULTIFORM charterparty. In such a charter if the cargo quantity is to be qualified by some factor of tolerance, a percentage is used for the same effect as “about”, for example “and there load a cargo of 50,000 metric tons, 5 per cent more or less in Owner’s option”.

“About” can be an uncertain factor in assessing the tolerance allowed to either an owner or a charterer. In early decisions, factors of between 3 and 5 per cent seemed to be the norm but today this would no longer be the case. Judges and arbitrators would take into account various other factors, such as the weather conditions, the agreed quantity of cargo, any port restrictions and commercial margins allowed in certain trades. In some cases, the charterparty may give the owner the option to load more or less cargo than a specified amount (see MOLOO) and if the master gives an “approximate” quantity in his Notice of Readiness, this may be the same as “about”.

With regard to a speed description in a time charter, it was assumed in the past that a margin can be allowed of about 0.5 knot or 5 per cent. In The Al Bida, 1987, it was decided that this assumption was no longer acceptable. In this case, the vessel was described as being “capable of maintaining under normal working conditions an average sea speed of about 15.5 knots . . .”. On delivery, the vessel’s bottom was fouled so that for some time it was unable to reach the described speed on the agreed fuel consumption. It was decided that the owners failed to make the ship fit on delivery. It was also stated in the English Court of Appeal that the word “about” was not restricted to a definite margin of 0.5 knots or 5 per cent but depended on the vessel’s size, draught and trim. With regard to fuel consumption, “about” meant 3 to 5 per cent but this must also be reconsidered in the light of the above legal decision, the weather conditions may always be relevant to the margin.


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