A charter party is a maritime contract for the hire of a vessel. The party who hires a vessel out is usually the owner. The party who rents a vessel is the charterer. There are various kinds of charters, but the basic ones are the demise charter, often called a "bareboat" charter because the charterer lends the vessel, but provides his own master and crew, and controls the vessel's operation. The time charter simply hires the vessel for a period of time, but the vessel is operated by the owner and its crew. The voyage charterer hires the ship for one or more voyages, rather than a period of time. It all depends on the terms of the charter.
In a recent case in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a crewmember was injured when he was thrown from his seat due allegedly to the vessel's excessive speed. The seaman sued the time charterer, alleging that it was the "owner pro hac vice" and his Jones Act employer who were responsible for the negligent operator. But the Fifth Circuit ruled that a non-demise charterer is not liable for claims of negligence of the crew or the unseaworthiness of the vessel.
The Appeals Court pointed out that Article 15 of the charter party unambiguously established that the contract was a non-demise time charter. The article, entitled "Charter Not a Demise," provided that nothing in the charter "is to be construed as a demise of the VESSEL to the CHARTERER,
VESSEL OWNER shall at all times remain responsible for the navigation of the VESSEL, acts of pilots, tug vessels, crew and all other similar matters as if trading for its own accounts." It also provided that the "decision to proceed on a trip in the face of adverse or changing weather or sea conditions shall be the sole decision of the VESSEL OWNER or the designated master." Kenneth W. Barron v. BP America Production Company (Fifth Cir., Oct. 1, 2014).