Most often when a contract of affreightment (an agreement for a ship owner to make the whole or part of his ship available to the shipper for carriage of
goods by sea) is arranged between a shipper (charterer) and a ship owner (carrier), the ship owner as part of the contract is under an implied obligation as per common law to among other obligations provide a sea worthy vehicle (vessel or Ship). The sea worthiness of a vessel should be right enough to make it suitable for the contracted voyage and the following factors are usually considered to determine the sea worthiness of a vessel or ship.
Firstly, the physical state of the ship is very paramount with regards to its fitness for the intended journey. What this means is that the physical state of the ship with regards the hull and machinery as well as other operational parts of the ship should be fit enough to embark on the said journey with serious considerations of the hazards or weather conditions at that time of the intended journey.
Secondly the vessel must be cargo worthy, the cargo worthiness of a ship here implies that, the conditions of the cargo spaces, holds etc should be suitable to carry the intended cargo. This could include proper ventilation systems, water tight compartments etc of the cargo holds with consideration of the loading, storage and transportation requirements of the said cargo.
In addition, a sea worthy vessel is expected to have adequate and competent crew to ensure safe manning of the vessel. The crew should have the required training and certifications and the ship should also have enough fuel, stores, navigational charts etc for the intended voyage.
Lastly, the ship must satisfy all local and international mandatory rules including surveys on board, necessary documentations, operational standards etc and must be in conformity with the ISM code as well.
It is important to note however that, under the Hague-visby rules, a ship must be sea worthy as at the time of sailing however , if the ship develops a fault after sailing or during the process of leaving the harbor, the requirement of sea worthiness have been fulfilled anyway. (Note that under common law , a ship is deemed to sail if it leaves the mooring of a port or berth with no intention of returning to berth)
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