32. Tidebrook Maritime Corporation v Vitol Sa (The “Front Commander”) [2006] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 353; [2006] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 251

Voyage Charterparty – Notice of Readiness – charterers’ request for early loading tantamount consent to commencement of laytime.

The facts

Oil was to be loaded in West Africa and shipped to Europe. The time charterparty was on the Asbatankvoy form with special provisions inserted by the charterers.

Clause 31 read as follows:-

The vessel shall not tender Notice of Readiness prior to the earliest layday date specified in this charterparty and laytime shall not commence before 06h00 local time on the earliest layday unless charterer consents in writing.

Clause of 33 read as follows:-

If charterer permits vessel to tender NOR and berth prior to commencement of laydays, all times from berthing until commencement of laydays to be credited to charterer against laytime and/or time on demurrage. Saved time to be split 50/50 owners/charterers.

The vessel arrived at the loading port early and was requested by the charterers to commence
loading before the specified period. A Notice of Readiness was tendered at the charterers’ request.

The owners, relying on clause 33, credited the charterers with only half the time saved in terms of
the clause. The charterers argued that their request for early loading did not amount to written
notice in terms of clause 31.

Findings

The charterers were successful in the Commercial Court (HHJ Mackie QC) but failed in the Court of Appeal (Buxton, Rix and Scott Baker LJJ).

Commentary

The matter was argued in the first instance by solicitors on a stated case with no pleadings.

The answer given by the Court of Appeal is surprisingly obvious. The Commercial Court appears to have been misled by the charterers’ reliance on the judgment by Diplock, J in Pteroti decided on substantially different facts.

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