There are many different terms found in a charter party, which is a charter agreement between the shipowner and the charterer. These terms stipulate the terms of the agreement and how the vessel is made available to the charterer. One of these terms is AAAA.
Always Afloat Always Accessible (AAAA) is a charter party term, which means that the charterer is only allowed to utilize the vessel at locations where it will not be aground (always float) and can be reached at any point in time (always accessible), regardless of tidal flows or any other circumstances.
In this article, we explore what the term Always Afloat Always Accessible means in detail and also highlight what the benefits of this term are. We also made sure to provide you with several examples for better understanding.
What Is Meant By “Always Afloat”?
The term “always afloat” is defined in Gencon 1994, which is a Uniform General Charter by Bimco and is a commonly used agreement between shipowners and charterers. In their terms, you’ll be able to find below excerpt:
“. . . the vessel shall proceed to . . . or so near thereto as-she may safely get and lie afloat . . . and being so loaded the vessel shall proceed to the discharging port(s) or place(s) . . . as ordered on signing Bills of Lading . . . so near thereto as she may safely get and lie always afloat and there deliver the cargo”.
In essence, this section stipulates that once the vessel has been chartered, the charterer may only order it to ports or places, where it always “lies afloat”, meaning that it may not make contact with the seabed at any point in time.
In the charter party, this term may be indicated as follows: “Loading Port: 1 safe berth always afloat, always accessible”. The shipowner may require this term for ports with high tidal ranges, where during an ebb some berths are completely dry, where a vessel may make contact with the seabed.
The shipowner may not want this to occur, as these types of ships typically require a reinforced hull and they may also incur additional inspection costs or hull damage, which may not have been factored into the charter party. In summary, the chartered vessel is required to lie afloat at all times.
What Is Meant By “Always Accessible”?
In this section, we’ll look at the second component of the term, which is “Always Accessible”. This clause is a little harder to understand and leaves more room for interpretation.
When a charter party refers to Always Accessible, the charterer is required to ensure that the vessel is conveniently reachable. This means that it should be berthed near an accessible port, shore or other location where loading and similar activities can be carried out.
Take note that Always Accessible may also include any activities that occur after vessel arrival and departure, such as the actual voyage. This can sometimes cause confusion in charter parties, especially with additional charges such as detention.
Similar occurrences have been documented in the case of “The Aconcagua Bay”. Therefore, it’s always best to ensure that both shipowner and charterer are clear to what degree and in what capacity the Always Accessible clause applies.
Benefits of Always Afloat Always Accessible
There are various benefits of having an AAAA term in the charter party – mainly to the shipowner. Let’s explore them in more detail.
- Vessels Are Never Aground – If the charter party indicates Always Afloat, in no case may the charterer leave the vessel aground. This makes the vessel also accessible and also requires less maintenance, as vessels that may run aground have reinforced hulls and are prone to damage.
- Ready Port Access – Being Always Accessible allows for immediate berth access to start unloading and loading operations and avoid departure delays. Delays contribute to additional laytime and unwanted accessorial costs.
- Despatch Entitlement – Assuming loading operations are completed before the laytime period is over, the ship owner is expected to pay the difference for the time saved. This more commonly occurs when vessels are afloat and accessible.
Always Afloat Always Accessible (AAAA) vs Not Always Afloat But Safely Aground (NAABSA)
The main difference between the two terms is that with Always Afloat Always Accessible the vessel may not touch the seabed at any time, whereby the term Not Always Afloat But Safely Aground (NAABSA) allows the vessel to do so.
This is commonly part of a shipowners request, which the charterer is required to follow if the term was agreed in the charter party. A vessel that is aground is subject to tidal flows, which don’t make it always accessible.