103. Christensen v Hindustan Steel Ltd [1971] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 395

Actual readiness of ship required for effective notice of readiness

The facts

The vessel was chartered on an amended Gencon form to load cargo at Vizagapatam, India, destination Odessa.

The material clauses were as follows:

“5. Time to commence at 24 hours after 1pm if notice of readiness to load is given before noon and at 24 hours after 8am next working day if notice given during office hours after noon.

24. The Notice of Readiness at the port of loading and discharging to be served during normal office hours. Time not to count between noon on Saturday and 8am on Monday, nor between noon on the last working day preceeding a legal holiday and/or port Labour Holiday and 8am on the first working day thereafter even if used.

33. The Master is to give Charterers’ Agents at Vizagapatam three days and 24 hours notice of vessel’s readiness to load.”

(Compliance with clause 33 is not mentioned in the judgement. This gives rise to the inference either that there was compliance or that it was dispensed with by consent.)

A (second) notice was given at 9am on Saturday that the vessel would be ready to load at 00h00 on the next day, being Sunday.

As time on Sunday was not to count, the owners argued that in terms of clause 5, laytime commenced at 8am on the next working day i.e. Monday.

The charterers contended that the notice, by its very terms, indicated that the vessel was not ready when it was given i.e. at 9am on Saturday. Notice was therefore to be taken to have been given at 08h00 on Monday, the next day following Sunday, when the vessel would have reached a state of readiness. In terms of clause 5, time would begin to count 24 hours after 1pm on the Monday i.e. at 1pm on Tuesday. As the following day, Wednesday, was a holiday, the provisions of clause 24 would make laytime begin at 8am on the day following the holiday, i.e. Thursday.

In effect, the parties were in dispute over 1½ days’ laytime which translated into the sum of USD4060.97.

Findings

The arbitrators, Summerskill and Barclay, found in favour of the owners but stated a special case for the decision of the court.

Donaldson J, in the Commercial Court, held that, generally, as stated in the then current edition of Scrutton (17th, 1964) the vessel, save for minor details not entailing delay, had to be ready to give a valid Notice of Readiness.

As the Notice of Readiness given indicated prospective readiness i.e. 00h00 on Sunday, it would have been invalid in terms of general principles.

The court held nevertheless that as clause 33 specifically provided for an anticipated readiness, so did clause 5 and the notice therefore activated the commencement of laytime.

Commentary

The judgement is valuable for its exposition of the default rule to the effect that Notice of Readiness is required for loading but not for discharge and its endorsement of the proposition in Scrutton that actual readiness is a requirement of a valid notice.

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