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The term bareboat charter signifies an arrangement for the hiring of a boat or ship without crew and the people renting the boat from the owner are responsible for appointing the crew and making other arrangements. In such a case, the chartered takes over the vessel for a stated period of time with a minimum of restrictions for a stipulated sum.
A bareboat charter is different from voyage or time charter like a crewed or luxury yacht charter, where the charterer charters the ship for a particular voyage or for a set period of time. In such cases charters the charterer can direct where the ship will go but the owner of the ship retains possession of the ship through its employment of the master and crew. However, in a bare-boat charter, the owner gives possession of the ship to the charterer and the charterer hires its own master and crew. The giving up of possession of the ship by the owner is the defining characteristic of a bare-boat charter. The bare-boat charterer is sometimes called a "disponent owner".
Bareboat is also different from "skippered" charters. When persons pool their finances to bareboat so that the qualified master among them may skipper for the group, even though s/he is not ostensibly a paid skipper s/he now takes on the legal responsibilities of one. This can have far-reaching consequences in the event of negative occurrences at sea.