The concept of limitation of a shipowner's liability is well known in maritime law and is generally the same across many maritime jurisdictions. However, the government's failure to ratify the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 and its Protocol of 1996, coupled with an unclear amendment to the regime set out by the Code of Navigation, suggests that Italy may have forgotten the importance of the limitation regime.
The Civitavecchia Tribunal recently considered a vessel owner's application to exercise a maritime lien on a quantity of coal carried on board the vessel to secure its freight balance, demurrages and expenses towards the charterer after the charterer applied to open insolvency proceedings. The decision was based on two precedents of the Genoa Court and reinforces the principles that under Italian law, a lien on cargo can be placed under the authority of only the local courts.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case concerning the defence of lack of jurisdiction due to state immunity claimed by Rina SpA in the matter concerning the sinking of the Al-Salam Boccaccio 98. The decision contains precise guidance as to immunity from jurisdiction with regard to the classification and certification of ships, thereby making it improbable that any such defence will be successfully pleaded in the future by a classification society before an Italian court.
The Court of Genoa recently referred a jurisdictional immunity claim to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on whether it should decline to hear the case on the basis of said immunity exception or whether it must apply the EU Brussels Regulation. The case concerned a compensation claim by survivors and relatives of the deceased of a ferry accident.
The Supreme Court recently upheld the decision of the Agrigento Criminal Court in the Sea-Watch 3 case. The appeal decision has given a clear and straightforward interpretation of the concept of 'place of safety' in search and rescue operations: the rescuing vessel cannot be deemed a place of safety.
Can a coastal state prevent a ship from exercising the right of innocent passage into its territorial waters to access one of its ports in a maritime distress scenario deriving from rescuing migrants at sea? This question has been the focus of attention due to legislation that the government passed in 2019 in order to restrict such rights and the case of Sea Watch 3, which entered the Italian port of Lampedusa despite a government veto.
A recent Genoa Court of Appeal decision interpreted the principle of the limitation of a carrier's liability under the Hague-Visby Rules. The decision affirms that receivers must give actual evidence of a carrier's knowledge that damage would probably have resulted as a consequence of its reckless conduct in order to claim the exclusion of the carrier's limitation of liability, with no recourse to factual presumptions.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision regarding the sale and purchase of a second-hand vessel – in particular, the construction of the words 'as she lies'. While Italian jurisprudence has historically considered the words a mere standard clause with no legal effects, Italian maritime scholars have confirmed the validity of the clause aimed at contracting out the sellers' guarantee to remedy any hidden defects in the goods being sold.
A recent decision of the Genoa Court of Appeal dealt with two interesting issues arising under the London International Convention on Salvage 1989: whether, for the purposes of fixing a salvage reward, the judge should consider not only the value of the salved vessel, but also that of the cargo on board; and the apportionment of a salvage reward between co-salvors where only one salvor brought proceedings for its remuneration.
One of the final pieces of legislation that the government enacted before the March 2018 general election was the eagerly awaited reform of the so-called 'Nautical Code'. The changes include a new definition of 'superyachts', the introduction of an electronic registration system for yachts and superyachts, a streamlined cancellation procedure for the Italian yacht registry and restrictions to the occasional chartering regime.
The most recent edition of the Nautica e Fisco booklet issued by the Nautical Association Industry and the Revenue Agency covers legal and fiscal developments in the nautical industry, including issues from registration to customs and fiscal matters. In particular, the booklet provides guidelines on exporting a yacht from Italy, value added tax exemptions for the use of yachts in the high seas and the temporary importation regime and refitting services.
The Milan Court of Appeal recently addressed a demurrage claim under a voyage charterparty. The decision dealt with the issue of contract formation and focused on the choice of law provision contained in the charterparty. This case has confirmed that, when so called, the Italian courts are keen and ready to pronounce judgments in line with commercial shipping practice.
Bareboat-in registration in the Italian International Ship Registry has recently been made available to ships from EU registries and ships owned by EU persons or entities, to which access was previously denied. After almost two decades of silence regarding this crucial matter regulating ship registration, the government and legislature are again concentrating their efforts on a strategically important area.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning the interpretation of Article 3.2 of the Brussels Convention and a free in liner out clause contained in a bill of lading. The case concerned compensation for the loss of and damage to cargo and focused on whether a terminal operator had acted as a servant of the carrier or the shipper and, as a consequence, on the limitation period applicable to the action brought against the terminal operator.
The Genoa Court of Appeal recently issued its decision in Redwood, which concerned the liability of classification societies. The appeal court quashed the first-instance decision, which had found Lloyd's Register liable for damages suffered by the time charterers of the vessel Redwood. The decision will undoubtedly attract the attention of maritime lawyers around the world.
The European Court of Justice recently issued an interesting decision regarding marine fuel emissions in response to a preliminary question submitted by the Court of Genoa. The case involved a vessel found to have been burning marine fuel with a sulphur content exceeding that permissible under the Environmental Code while in the port of Genoa.
The Court of Genoa has issued a decision regarding interpretation of both contracts for the supply of food to ship crew members and of the applicable rules in the related collective bargaining agreement. It is the first time that an Italian court has taken a view on the construction of such a contract. The decision shows that food quantity and quality provisions should be taken as general guidance, not as strict parameters.
Two decisions represent the Italian courts' only interpretations of the wording of the Institute Classification Clause. The notion that the cargo classification clause requires full classification of a vessel without recommendations is controversial - it takes no account of the evolution of the clause or the differences between its literal formulation and that of the corresponding classification clause for hull and machinery insurance cover.
The Court of Genoa has considered the problematic issue of the liability of classification societies, holding Lloyd's Register liable for damages caused to time charterers as a result of the detention of their vessel. This is the first time that an Italian court has specifically addressed the issue.