Gas free or not gas free

In October 2008, a North American ship agent was nominated for the call of a ship scheduled to load at a terminal on the east coast of USA.

After the ship agent notified the terminal of the ship’s pending arrival, the terminal foreman advised the agent that the ship had to be “gas free” prior to loading. This information was passed to the Master of the ship. The Master replied that his tanks were inerted to less than 2%. The ship agent did not pass this information on to the terminal

The ship received loading instructions and proceeded to clean tanks while en route to the terminal. Just prior to arrival, the terminal sent a message again to the agent to the effect that the tanks would need to be gas free prior to loading. The ship agent passed this information to the Master who said that he would require 24hours to make the ship gas free. This procedure was followed but the shipowner found subsequently that the terminal would have considered the ship ready to load in either a gas free state or an inerted state. A demurrage claim of USD 67,375 was incurred and this was claimed from the agent.

There were arguments on behalf of the agent as to why the charterers and the owners had not taken more care to ensure that the ship complied with the terminal’s requirements, but the agent had to accept responsibility for an element of the demurrage claim. An amicable settlement was reached.

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