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Controversial holidays in a laytime context

Published: 21 April 2022

Holidays are reflections of the culture we live in, however laytime holidays are detached from cultural context. As our perception of current and historic event are biased by personal views, it should come as no surprise that holidays may be disputed – and even controversial. Having clarification on laytime exemptions may avoid disputes.

Easter is Easter, Ashoora and Ashura are derived from the same semitic linguistic root, while New Year’s Day and 1 January are both used to define the most common holiday in the World. The holidays we observe is a reflection of the culture we live in – holidays can be viewed as a mirror of society. The Mexican public holidays are thus secular, even though the dates themselves correlates with major religious events. On the other hand are the extensive two-tiered Indian holiday schedules reflections of the country’s immense cultural diversity.  

In a laytime context, on the other hand, holidays as a concept are detached from the cultural context. According to BIMCO’s definition, as derived from a 1979 London Arbitration award, shall a day only be considered if it meets the following criteria: 

  • Be declared as a holiday
  • Be declared by a comptent authority 

Still, it leaves room for interpretation as many countries do not declare holidays in English, but rather the national native tongue. The French public holidays as outlined in the Labour Code are declared as jours fériés, while common Arabic terms used in holiday legislation are يوم الاجازة or عطلة. Depending on the distribution of administrative power, the competent authority will be one or more entities in the public administration. In unitary states there are usually only a single competent authority, while federal states will usually have more than one.  

Holidays in a laytime context is thus an arbitrary construction which does not necessarily reflects the culture. In most cases, laytime holidays can be recognised as cultural holidays such as religious festivals or commemoration of national events – even celebrations of achievements by the national rugby team. However, considering the definition of laytime holidays, it should come as no surprise, that laytime holidays are often disputed – and even controversial.  

2020 not only saw the outbreak of a pandemic – and extensive use of public holidays as mitigating measures in it’s wake. The death of George Floyd, an unarmed, black civilian, at the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA sparked civil unrest across the USA and a surge in traction of the Black Lives Matter movement. Previous attempts at making Juneteenth a federal holiday had failed, but in 2021 19 June was recognised as a federal holiday in commemoration of the 1865 emancipation declaration in Galveston, Texas following the defeat of the Confederacy States of America in the American Civil War the same year. 

The laytime holidays in the USA are regulated at state level. Juneteenth is observed by several states, but notably are a few Southern states also commemorating significant historic persons siding with the Confederacy – e.g. general Robert E. Lee, commemorated with a holiday in Louisiana according to the Revised Statutes on his birthday 19 January every year. As declared by a competent authority, the Louisiana State Legislature, as a “legal holiday”, the day is inserted by its name in the BIMCO Holiday Calendar.   

By inserting holidays by their names in the BIMCO Holiday Calendar, BIMCO is not endorsing any commemorated event. Our perception of current and historic events are biased by our own views. BIMCO is using the names of even controversial commemorations to provide clarification to laytime holidays, noting that in order to avoid disputes it requires mutual transparency and clarification to which days may or may not be exempted from laytime.  

BIMCO members have access to routinely updated information on assessed holidays at the BIMCO website in the port directory. In case of disputes on holidays, BIMCO members are encouraged to contact BIMCO Maritime Information using for support and advice on matters related to holidays.  

Follow the link to purchase a printed copy of the BIMCO Holiday Calendar 2022 

Johan Conrad


Johan Conrad

Manager, Maritime Information

Copenhagen, Denmark