590. Bilgent Shipping PTE/ADM International SARL/ Oldendorff Carriers GmbH (the “Alpha Harmony”) [2019] EWHC 2522 (Comm)

Notice of Readiness required to be given during office hours – laycan dates falling on Sunday – office hours provision determinative under sub-charter but not under head-charter 

The facts

The vessel was let under a Norgrain 1973 form for two voyages from South America to China and sub-let on a Baltimore Form C Berth Grain form for a voyage from Brazil to China. 

Both charters provided for cancellation cut-off times that fell on a Sunday and both required NOR to be given during office hours.

Both charters were cancelled in circumstances where the respective Notices of Readiness were given before the cut-off times but not during office hours. 

Findings

The arbitration panel appointed for the two arbitrations which were held together, decided that neither cancellation was good. 

Whereas the laycan clause was expressly made subject to the office hours provision in the sub-charter, the equivalent provision in the head charter read “See also clause 70 [the office hours provision]”.

Based on this difference, Teare J upheld the cancellation on the sub-charter but not the head charter. 

Discussion

The more compelling argument is that which the arbitrators accepted, namely, that by stipulating a cut-off time on a Sunday ie on a day where there are no office hours, the parties intended to create an exception to the office hours requirement for a NOR for the purposes of the laycan clause. This argument holds good for both charters.

A NOR tendered outside of office hours remains valid but takes effect at the commencement of the next working day cf the Petr Schmidt.

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