Laytime and Demurrage

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Interruptions and exceptions to laytime

Interruptions and exceptions to laytime

4.1 In this book, the term “interruptions to laytime” is used to cover those periods when laytime does not run because they are outside the definition of lay-time as expressed in the laytime clause. Excepted periods, on the other hand, are those periods that are within the definition of laytime, but nevertheless excluded by an exceptions clause. The principal difference between the two is that with the latter it is necessary to show a causal connection between what is excepted and the failure to work cargo, whereas with the former all that need be shown for causation is that the excluded state of affairs exists at the place where cargo would have been worked. 4.2 The same phenomenon may be either an interruption or an exception to laytime, depending on the terms of the charter concerned. Thus, adverse weather would be an interruption to laytime where this was defined in terms of weather working days because these are not words of exception but a definition of the only kind of time that may count. On the other hand, an additional clause providing that “any time lost through bad weather is not to count as laytime” is an exception, so a causal connection must be shown to prove that time was actually lost because of weather. Clearly, time could be lost only if the vessel concerned was in a berth or position where loading or discharging, as the case may be, could take place, whereas time may be interrupted whether the vessel was in berth or not once adverse weather is shown to exist. 4.3 As has already been mentioned,1 if a Charterer has agreed to load or discharge within a fixed period of time, and therefore the charter is a fixed laytime one, the Charterer is answerable for the non-performance of this agreement after laytime commences whatever may be the nature of the impediments, unless they are covered by provisions in the charter interrupting laytime or excepting the particular impediment or they arose through the culpable fault of the shipowner or those for whom he is responsible.2 4.4 In a customary laytime situation3 the position is usually reversed with the risk of delay after laytime has commenced normally falling to the shipowner. In this type of charter the Charterer’s obligation is merely to perform his part in the operations of loading and discharging within a reasonable time in the circumstances

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prevailing in the particular port at the time in question. In this type of charter, there can only therefore be exceptions and not interruptions to laytime.

The contra proferentem rule

4.5 In a fixed laytime charter, the interruptions and exceptions will normally be in favour of the Charterer, whereas in a customary laytime charter, where they are usually much less frequent, exceptions will be intended to increase the burden on the Charterer and protect the shipowner. Exceptions clauses are construed against the party for whose benefit they are included in the charter. As was said by Lord Wilberforce in Photo Production Ltd v Securicor Transport Ltd,4 after setting out a particular exclusion clause:

These words have to be approached with the aid of the cardinal rules of construction that they must be read contra proferentem and that in order to escape from the consequences of one’s wrongdoing, or that of one’s servant, clear words are necessary.

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