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A written contract between the owner of a vessel and the one (the charterer) desiring to empty the vessel setting forth the terms of the arrangement, i.e., freight rate and ports involved in the contemplated trip.

A contract of affreightment in writing by which the owner of a ship or other vessel lets the whole, or a part of her, to a merchant or other person for the conveyance of goods on a particular voyage in consideration of the payment of freight. This term is derived from the fact that the contract which bears this name was formerly written on a card and afterwards the card was cut into two parts from top to bottom, and one part was delivered to each of the parties, which was produced when required, and by this means counterfeits were prevented.

This instrument ought to contain, 1. the name and tonnage of the vessel; 2. the name of the captain; 3. the names of the letter to freight and the freighter; 4. the place and time agreed upon for the loading and discharge; 5. the price of the freight; 6. the demurrage or indemnity in case of delay; 7. such other conditions as the parties may agree upon.

When a ship is chartered this instrument serves to authenticate many of the facts on which the proof of her neutrality must rest and should therefore be always found on board chartered ships. When the goods of several merchants unconnected with each other, are laden on board without may particular contract of affreightment with any individual for the entire ship; the vessel is called a general ship, because it is open to all merchauts, but where one or more merchants contract for the ship exclusively it is said to be a chartered ship.