In this case the Commercial Court considered the meaning of “within port limits” in the context of a charterparty on an amended Gencon 94 form which provided that:

“[Notice of readiness] to be tendered at both ends even by cable/telex/telefax on vessels arrival at load/disch ports within port limits. The [notice of readiness] not to be tendered before commencement of laydays.”

The underlying decision

In the arbitration which was subject to appeal, the arbitrators had held that as the Vessel had tendered NOR outside the port limits as identified on an Admiralty chart of the port, the NOR was invalid.

The arguments

Owners argued that any area within which vessels are customarily asked to wait by the port authorities and over which the port authorities exercise authority or control over the movement of shipping is within port limits. Alternatively, Owners argued that any place where vessels load or discharge cargo, including places outside the legal, administrative or fiscal area where vessels are “ordered to wait for their turn no matter the distance from that area”, is within port limits.

The decision

  • The Joanna Oldendorff [1973] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 285, while considering generally when a vessel is an “arrived ship”, has the effect that, when determining whether a vessel is within port limits, you consider:

(i) Any national or local law that defines the limits of the port in question. If there is such a law, those limits will apply.

(ii) If there is no such law, the area of exercise by the port authority of its powers to regulate the movements and conducts of ships.

  • That case purposefully did not seek to provide an exhaustive or further definition, so as to ensure that further relevant considerations can be taken into account, where appropriate.
  • The definition of “port” in the Laytime Definitions for Charterparties 2013 goes beyond reflecting what is provided in the Joanna Oldendorff, and will not apply unless expressly incorporated.

The impact of the decision

  • Helpfully sets out the starting point for such questions – ie the Joanna Oldendorff
  • Perhaps less helpfully, effectively says that in every case there may be further circumstances that have to be considered.
  • Reminds parties to ensure that if they have a particular intention in mind they set it out clearly in the contract.