Naabsa: what does this term mean and how important is it for vessels?

  • 12/01/2022
  • 10 分钟

Transport for maritime export and import is a complex logistical procedure, which depends on intentions, possibilities, limitations and structural variables, such as the vessel itself and the ports where it will dock.

Therefore, the optimization and efficiency of the operation depend on good planning and a contract that covers all the specifics of each trip. The Naabsa clause is an example of this.

To help understand what this acronym means in a chartering contract, we invited two experts on the subject! Larry John Rabb Carvalho, Managing Partner and Head of Shipping at RC Law, and Johann Luporini, Navigation Specialist at Companhia Siderúrgica do Pecem. We couldn’t be better accompanied!

What is the Naabsa clause?

Naabsa means not always afloat but safely aground.

This term, registered in the contract, allows the charterer to use ports certified with that denomination, where the vessel can occasionally have its hull safely leaning against the bed, without risk of damage.

“In navigation there is a practice that, in some ports, the ship is safely aground at low tide rather than remaining afloat at all times,” says Larry. “Thus, the term is used to describe ports where the seabed is suitable for the vessel to ‘rest’ at low tide without damaging the hull, provided it is customary practice for that pier and for ships of similar size, construction and type ”, he completes.

Ports that receive ships authorized to Naabsa have specific characteristics: generally, soft beds of mud or sand, without significant presence of stones.

“It is an agreed-upon clause between the parties to the detriment of the normally closed standard of ‘1SPB AAAA (1 Safe Port/Berth Always Afloat Always Accessible)’”, explains Johann, “where 0.50m UKC (Under Keel Clearance) is normally required, or free space below the keel)”.

Why was it created?

The biggest motivation for the creation of Naabsa was the optimization of operations in ports with large tidal variations. With the guarantee that this bed is safe and does not cause damage to the hull, there is more flexibility in the ideal conditions when loading cargo at these terminals.

Johann gives two examples of historic ports that have this determination: on the River Thames and on the River Plate. “Its main objective is to optimize the loading/unloading of the ship, preventing the operation from being stopped at low tide and allowing the ship to maximize its loading capacity in ports with draft restriction (cradle depth) and large tidal variation”.

In terminals where Naabsa is not possible, due to bed characteristics, the berthing/unberthing of loaded ships must only be done during high tide and/or the ship may only receive a limit volume that respects the UKC.

In other words, the clause was created mainly to allow ships to receive more cargo and the port to operate longer in those locations with the ideal conditions for this.

Can oil tankers use the clause?

Even though they are robust and resistant structures, precisely due to the nature of what they carry, oil tankers are not suitable for using the Naabsa clause.

This limitation does not mean that there is more risk for these vessels, but that even a minimal probability of an accident in this case can generate very serious consequences. Johann details the issue: “Basically, ships were made to float. When they touch the ground or are momentarily ‘stranded’, in addition to possible damage to the hull – if there are rocks or some other hard material -, the structural effort of the ship increases considerably.”

When the hull is compromised on oil tankers, the chance of a major environmental accident is serious. Even a small spill could spread across the region, affecting marine life, the region’s economic activity and tourism. Therefore, carriers and P&I of Tankers ships expressly recommend not accepting this clause in their closings.

Johann and Larry even remember that there are some smaller Tankers that are being built exactly with the Naabsa clause in mind. But it is a limited production and a very small percentage of the total vessels in operation in the world today.

Why is it important?

The international trade scenario and the necessary infrastructure for such demonstrate how important the variety of characteristics is for the expansion of global relations and the development of companies around the world.

Brazil is perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this diversity. With a continental extension and an immense amount of navigable rivers and geographical conditions on its coast, the expansion of possibilities for types of cargo and ships brings advantages and progress for every business that wants to import and export.

“There are still many trades and ports that are heavily affected by the tidal wave. Therefore, the Naabsa clause serves as a guarantee both for the charterer from which the shipowner will stopover at a port/pier that offers safe conditions, even if the vessel is not always afloat, and for the shipowner to be indemnified in the event of any damage to the vessel’s hull”, emphasizes Larry.

By allowing safe contact between the hull and the bottom, it opens up the possibility of port terminals in more internal regions of a country, in addition to increasing productivity in river and maritime ports, capable of working under these conditions. This creates more jobs, lowers costs and attracts new entrepreneurs.

Johann even concludes by saying that “this clause is extremely important for the development of the trade, especially in certain regions of rivers with high tidal variation, optimizing the ship’s capacity, improving its productivity and reducing both operating and freight costs”.

The clause can give more volume and capillarity to maritime charter itineraries. It is a contribution so that such transport does not become a productive bottleneck for those who sell abroad and bring new resources into the country.

Combining this with investments in terrestrial infrastructure, mainly railways and highways, a development is created that is less dependent on the region in which the product is located. It becomes another valuable element in the creation of a growth network that covers the entire national territory.

It may seem that the consequences of a clause with Naabsa are having their impact exaggerated, but it is not a question of just one condition, one term. Any help to optimize and increase security at the port is added to provide efficiency and accessibility to companies that want to consolidate themselves on the global level.

Did you like to learn more about this important clause of maritime charter? So, subscribe to our newsletter now to receive more content like this, directly to your email!