99. Sofial S.A. v Ove Skou Rederi (The “Helle Skou”) [1976] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 205

Effect of premature Notice of Readiness

The facts

Skimmed milk was to be shipped from Europe to India on a Gencon form.

A condition of the agreement was that the holds were to be odourless.

Notice of Readiness was tendered at the loading port and accepted by the charterers after which loading commenced.

When the smell of the previous cargo of fish meal was discovered, loading was interrupted to clean the holds.

The owners contended that laytime began soon as loading recommenced. The charterers argued that laytime should commence on the following day as the reaching of the physical state of readiness (i.e. the achievement of the odourless holds) was tantamount to the giving of a fresh Notice of Readiness.

Findings

The Commercial Court (Donaldson J) held that the notice, though premature, remained effective and that it was not necessary to give a second notice. Laytime accordingly commenced as soon as physical readiness occurred.

Commentary

The court treated the Notice of Readiness as a formal act thereby reinforcing the view that a formal Notice of Readiness is a pre-requisite for the commencement of laytime. Mere knowledge of readiness on the part of the charterers or their agents is not sufficient to dispense with notice – something further e.g. waiver or estoppel is required – see Mexico 1.

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