20. Leonis Steamship Company Limited v Joseph Rank Limited No. (1) 96 LTR 458; [1907] 1 KB 344; [1908] 1 KB 499

Locus classicus of laytime consequences in port charter

The facts

The vessel was ordered to Bahia Bianca, a South American river port to load a cargo of wheat.

Due to congestion, the vessel was unable to reach a berth. The vessel waited three ships’ lengths away from the pier but within the port.

The charterers argued that the risk of delay in reaching a berth was upon the ship.

Findings

Channell J recognized that the order to go to a named port did not require the ship to find a berth in order to arrive. Following Pyman v Dreyfus, he found that it would be sufficient to qualify for arrival if the ship reached the usual loading place within the port.

On evidence led specifically on this point, the nature of which is not specified in the Law Times Report, he found that the ship was not lying at the usual loading place and held in favour of charterers.

The Court of Appeal (Lord Alverstone CJ, Buckley and Kennedy LJJ) reversed Channell J’s decision.

Commentary

The test applied by both courts was the same ie. whether the ship had reached the usual loading place. The Court of Appeal (judgments delivered by Buckley and Kennedy LJJ) found that Channell J had applied the incorrect test. In reality they overturned his decision on the facts.

The judgment by Kennedy LJ is the more articulate and half recognizes that the true enquiry is not the physical location of the vessel but rather its accessibility to the charterers.

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