The recent promulgation of the International Arbitration Act gave the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration the force of law in South Africa. Given the cross-border nature of shipping disputes, the act promises to enhance the attraction of what is already a litigation-friendly jurisdiction.
The High Court's decision in a recent case involving a protective writ issued by a creditor of Hanjin at the time of the company's collapse was recently appealed before the Supreme Court of Appeal. A number of Hanjin creditors have filed an application for a time extension to serve the writs of arrest pending the outcome of the appeal. In the absence of an extension, the writs will have no further force or effect.
The longstanding practice of issuing a protective writ is directed at preserving the claimant's right to arrest a vessel in rem, notwithstanding a subsequent change of ownership. This matter did not come before the South African courts until recently, when the buyer of a vessel applied to the courts to have the protective writ set aside. The root of the problem lies in the apparent paradoxical Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act provisions relating to the time of commencement of an admiralty action.
In a recent case, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Polisario Front successfully applied to the Eastern Cape Local Division of the High Court for an order restraining and prohibiting the owners, master and charterers of the Cherry Blossom vessel, among other parties, from taking a cargo of phosphate out of the court's jurisdiction, pending the determination of the applicants' claim to ownership and delivery of the cargo.
The Department of Transport recently released the long-awaited draft Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP) for public consultation and comment. The CMTP aims to facilitate the revival, development and transformation of South Africa's maritime transport sector, in order to enhance its contribution to international trade and the development of the South African economy.