Historically, a vessel arrives in port when, on voyage-charter, she arrives at the customary anchorage. The Master then tenders Notice of Readiness (NOR).
This basically tells the charterer and, anyone else who is interested, that the vessel is ready, in all respects, to load or discharge her cargo. Effectively it is the end of the sea voyage and this is when the port stay starts. This is important as the charter party will stipulate who is responsible for charges, payment and services (lay time and demurrage).
Nowadays, the customary anchorage can be widely interpreted and provides a good topic for the lawyers! For example: a loaded super tanker may end her sea voyage miles from the customary anchorage and the pilot will board by helicopter. Similarly, if there is a berth ready, the vessel may proceed directly to the berth and not go to the anchorage. We will find that even in this day of instant communication, a lot of the laws date back to the old days where communications were not always efficient.
Now we have arrived we have to 'enter in' and to be 'cleared in'.
A vessel is entered in when the Customs authorities have the following:
We will also need to comply with the requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code).
This then allows the authorities to process the ship and, as one can imagine, it can take anything from minutes to days. Minor infringements of procedural requirements can lead to grossly disproportionate fines or informal settlements depending upon the country.
We can also inspect visits from recognised authorities such as:
The vessel is then cleared in when the authorities are satisfied that everything is in order.
Again, due to instant communication, a vessel can be entered and cleared in almost immediately. Some countries have automated systems, and trading blocs, such as the European Union, have their own requirements.
The key person in making sure that a vessel completes her port stay as efficiently as possible is the agent. The Master will have been in regular contact with the agent, advising them of the vessel’s estimated time of arrival and asking for any other services, such as:
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