In London Arbitration 25/07 – 731 LMLN 3(2) the vessel was chartered on the NYPE form for “.. 1 time charter trip … within below mentioned trading limits.” It provided for the ship to be delivered “on arrival first sea pilot station Kohsichang”, and for redelivery “on dropping outward pilot 1 safe port Durban/Nouakchott range”.

The charterers ordered the vessel to discharge part of her cargo in Abidjan with the balance being discharged in Lagos. Although the vessel arrived at Lagos anchorage on 18 July she did not berth until 5 April the following year. The delays in discharging and the subsequent off-berthing arose because of financial difficulties experienced by, and ultimately the demise of, the intended receivers in Lagos.

Following an agreement between the parties, the remaining cargo was discharged at Cotonou, where the ship arrived on 20 June, completing and redelivering only on 6 September.

Disputes arose under the charter, which were referred to arbitration. The tribunal ordered that the principal dispute, namely whether the charterers were liable for the delay in discharging the cargo and redelivering the vessel, be determined as a preliminary issue. The main issue was whether, as owners alleged, there was a term implied into clause 8 of the charter that the charterers would discharge the cargo within a time which was reasonable, given the circumstances of the particular port in question.

It was held that, given the delivery location, the tribunal’s experience would suggest that the parties anticipated loading there, at Kohsichang. However, the Durban/Nouakchott range was a substantial range of over 5,000 miles of coastline that included nearly all the major South African ports and numerous ports on the West Coast of Africa: there was no indication of any intended discharging ports, just that it was probably to be expected that they would be amongst the many covered by the very wide redelivery range.

The tribunal found that there was no authority as to what were the precise temporal obligations on a time charter in relation, particularly, to discharging under a time charter trip, but held that as a matter of principle there was no need, in order to give business efficacy to a trip time charter in the present terms, to imply an obligation as argued for by the owners. Such a charter could work perfectly well without it. If the parties wanted a temporal obligation they could agree a period charter; or special provisions as to changes in hire rates if the actual period exceeded a certain duration.

Further, given the fact that the parties probably had very different, albeit possibly reasonable, expectations, a tribunal could not safely form any view as to what, viewed objectively at the date of the charter, was a reasonable duration for the charter, or a reasonable time within which discharging was to take place.

In the absence of authority, the tribunal took comfort from the view expressed by Mance LJ in the Court of Appeal in an application for leave to appeal out of time in Nagusina Naviera v Allied Maritime Inc [2002] EWCA Civ 1147 that charterers under a trip charter with no duration are under no obligation as to the time within which discharge of the cargo is to be effected.

The tribunal’s view was that even if they were wrong, and there was some implication as to reasonable time, it had to include any amount of time that was not frustrating.