Free Pratique, NOR and LOP
Posted on 30th January 2020 at 12:03
Seeking to prevent the spread of formerly incurable diseases, in centuries past a port would bar a vessel until it promised that it carried no communicable sickness.
Free Pratique, NOR and LOP
The associated idea of quarantine comes from a historical minimum 40 days for which vessels had to wait, as captured by the Italian approximation quarantena (ironically, given the very public example on Italy's doorstep), and while with modern medicine the maritime world is now very different, one related notion remains alive and well. Some think it is obsolete, but it occurs often enough to warrant specific standard wording and still causes charterparty issues.
Pratique, or free pratique (“FP”), as it is generally known, is clearance to enter when the Master has by assurance convinced the port authority that there is no risk of contagion. It does not apply everywhere and local procedures vary, but it is often tied to NOR and can have costly consequences. As in for example clauses 6.3.3 of BPVOY4 and 10.5 of BPVOY5, grant of FP can be one of the preconditions for starting time, and we will use these provisions to highlight this and some other recent issues.
This says that even a valid NOR will not be, or become, effective as part of triggering laytime or demurrage unless and until:
“free pratique has been granted or is granted within six (6) hours of the Master tendering NOR. If [that does not happen] through no fault of [the vessel interests], the Master shall issue [a LOP] to the [port interests] failing which [the relevant time only starts] when [FP] has been granted;”
So a valid NOR is not enough, and there seems no exception for the very many ports where FP does not even arise. Unless already granted on tender of NOR (which, subject to any other requirement, makes the NOR effective immediately), FP must somehow be dealt with. Thus:
Grant of FP at any time within NOR+6 likewise makes the NOR effective when it was tendered; afterwards
The NOR becomes effective on issue of a LOP; if not
Time starts to run only when FP is granted - but what if it never is?
What of any gap between NOR+6 and issue of the LOP?
NOR being effective means that time can start, not that it necessarily immediately does : many fixtures say that time actually starts some hours after the NOR has become effective.
These matters have created much dispute and some case law, but problems should not happen if FP is always dealt with, either by getting quick grant or ensuring rapid issue of the LOP.
In one long paragraph this says that:
“If [FP] is required ... and ... has not been granted at the time of NOR the Master shall issue a LOP [to the port interests, in which case, and subject to any other precondition] the NOR shall become effective [on the earlier of] the issue of the LOP or grant of FP. [Time due to any vessel interest fault does not count.]
Without prejudice to the validity of such NOR, the Master shall in all cases re-tender NOR immediately upon any grant of FP, failing which all time from the grant of FP until the sooner of a) such re-tender; b) commencement of loading or discharge … shall not count ... .”
Plainly arising only if FP does, this removes any consideration here of NOR+6. It likewise applies no further if, on tender of NOR, FP has already been granted. If not, the spelt-out waypoint is a sooner-the-better LOP or any later grant of FP.
But there may be one more hurdle.
If FP is then overlooked things rest with the effect of the LOP. But if as more usual it is granted, but the Master delays, the vessel loses all time until he re-tenders NOR. Completely forgetting re-tender forgoes the time from grant of FP to a maybe distant start of cargo operations.
What to remember
Unamended BPVOY4 and BPVOY5 both make even valid NOR tender subject to preconditions as regards FP, though (arguably unlike for BPVOY4) under BPVOY5 such only arises if FP does.
Owners should first see if FP has been granted by the time NOR is tendered, and then consider what follows if so, and if not.
Timing is crucial and any required LOP must be prompt, likewise any prescribed re-tender of NOR.
Owners must not assume that one of these things, or some other event, removes the need for the other. They should follow carefully, and if necessary seek advice on, whatever is prescribed for time starting to run in their favour as soon as possible.
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