The fast spread of COVID-19 worldwide and the actions taken by regulatory bodies have created challenges for the shipping industry in particular given its international character. Much information is available, but it is fragmented. This article set outs several issues of importance and gives basic information to help parties handle the situation at hand in the best possible manner.
In a recent judgment in the Full City limitation fund proceedings, the Supreme Court clarified how a global limitation fund established pursuant to the Norwegian Maritime Code should be distributed. The court held that the interest component in the limitation fund should be distributed only on the claims for interest and not on the other claims filed in the fund because vessel owners' limitation of liability should remain the same regardless of whether a limitation fund is established.
A recent Agder Court of Appeal decision regarding remuneration for towage of the vessel Kvitnos underscores that where commercial terms have been discussed, a party wishing to claim a salvage award should expressly reserve its rights to do so. The case also illustrates that oral agreements may give rise to disputes when parties have divergent impressions of what has been agreed, especially in distressed situations where time is of the essence and information is scarce.
The Supreme Court recently clarified a number of unsettled issues that will have an impact on other wreck removal cases, including whether vessel owners can use their right to limit liability as a defence against a wreck removal order. Among other things, the decision has clarified the highly disputed interpretation of the relationship between owners' duty to take action and their right to limit liability.
The general rule regarding set-off under Norwegian law is that a party which disputes a declaration of set-off must initiate legal proceedings in order to establish that there is no basis for set-off and that its claim shall be paid in full. But what happens in a case where the two claims are subject to different limitation periods – such as cargo claims and freight claims?
Amendments to the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims recently entered into force, significantly increasing the limits of shipowners' liability. The Norwegian Parliament has passed legislation to implement the new limits, so the increased limits now apply in all cases where the limitation of liability is invoked for property claims or claims for loss of life or personal injury before a Norwegian court.
The government recently proposed that the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea 1996 be ratified and the Maritime Code be amended accordingly. The convention's liability and compensation regime will cover not only pollution damage from hazardous and noxious substances carried by ships, but also the risks of fire and explosion.
Cargo damage is sometimes caused by the packaging of the cargo being insufficient to prevent damage to the cargo during transportation. Whether the carrier is liable for such damage depends on the nature of the packaging and the care which is reasonably required to be exercised by the carrier.
Life as a shipowner is seldom easy. In addition to the commercial challenges that owners face on a daily basis, time must be given to reading law reports to ensure that benefits are gained and warnings heeded from the misfortunes of those who find themselves embroiled in the legal system - particularly when economic conditions demand strict enforcement of legal rights. Three recent decisions may be of particular interest.
In a recent case a Singaporean shipbroker commenced proceedings in Norway against a Norwegian shipowner. Singapore is not a party to the Lugano Convention, which regulates questions of jurisdiction and enforcement in international disputes. The Supreme Court had to decide whether the convention applies where the claimant is domiciled in a non-member state. The outcome is surprising and warrants attention.
In Norway, a pilot is considered the servant of a shipowner, and the shipowner is held responsible for any loss or damage arising as a result of the pilot's negligence. Notwithstanding this general principle, some grey areas exist where the rationale for holding the shipowner responsible can be called into question. A recent court decision concerning state liability for pilotage failed to provide certainty in this area.
The International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea still has not entered into force some 16 years since it was adopted. Eight countries have now signed the 2010 protocol, which was designed to overcome the practical problems that have prevented the convention from entering into force.
The Agder Appeal Court has delivered its final judgment in the criminal case following the grounding of the Full City off Langesund in 2009. The court acquitted the third officer and reduced the master's sentence to six months' suspended imprisonment. The judgment showed a far greater understanding of the maritime industry as compared with the earlier district court judgment.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has proposed amendments to the Maritime Code regarding casualty investigations. Changes include an increased investigative duty for the Accident Investigation Board, a duty to secure evidence after an accident for anyone involved and a 12-month time limit for issuing casualty reports.
The International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea 1996 has not entered into force despite 14 years having passed since it was agreed. A new protocol was recently adopted in an effort to make some changes considered necessary for the convention to enter into force.
The Norwegian Marine Insurance Plan is a comprehensive set of insurance conditions developed by insurers, shipowners and average adjusters. The plan is supplemented by an extensive commentary; both are revised at regular intervals by the Standing Revision Committee. This update provides a review of the most significant changes in the 2010 version.
The new Harbours and Fairways Act recently entered into force, replacing the earlier Harbour Act. Owners of vessels which operate in Norwegian coastal waters may find themselves more likely to become subject to a wreck removal order as Section 35 of the new act increases the grounds on which the authorities can issue wreck removal orders.
Five years after the Rocknes ran aground after hitting an unmarked shoal, the claimants filed a lawsuit against the government claiming compensation for losses incurred. The Norwegian First Instance Court heard the case in February and March 2009. The principal issue was the standard of duty of care that was to be applied with respect to the state's liability.
The Maritime Logistics Chains and the Environment Project, which commenced in October 2008, is a bold, progressive project focusing on how international sea transport may be optimized to reduce fuel emissions. Heavyweight DNV Maritime is the project owner and major players such as Höegh Autoliners, StatoilHydro and MARINTEK are involved.
The Supreme Court has extended the protection for shipowners that establish a limitation fund with a European court against enforcement proceedings in Norway, irrespective of whether Norway and the European country in which the fund has been established are parties to the same maritime limitation of liability conventions.
The phenomenon of pitting corrosion in tanker vessels carrying crude oil products has been recognized for decades, but has significantly increased since the shift to double hull tankers. Pitting can require repairs that disrupt the commercial operation of a vessel, potentially create a risk of pollution and jeopardize the safety of the vessel and crew.
The new system for investigating maritime casualties grants the Norwegian Accident Investigation Board - a professional, independent and permanent body - authority to investigate all maritime casualties that occur within Norwegian jurisdiction and any that occur outside Norwegian jurisdiction but involve Norwegian vessels.
In its ruling on the Rocknes Case, the Supreme Court delivered a rap on the government's knuckles for its over-eagerness to implement the higher limitation amounts on claims set out in the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims.
One of a shipowner’s greatest fears when ordering a newbuild is cash-flow problems at the shipyard. If such a situation arises, the shipowner can protect its interests in various ways depending on whether its main concern is to have the instalments returned or to have the vessel completed.
Hull insurance operates with two kinds of compensation: compensation for total loss and compensation for damage. Disagreements between the insured and the insurer call for clear-cut rules in order to avoid disagreement. For hull insurance provided on the basis of the Norwegian Marine Insurance Plan, the line between total loss and damage is drawn by the condemnation rules in Chapter 11.
After adopting the Protocol to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims in 2000, Norway denounced the convention in 2005. Norway made a reservation for claims for removal of wreck and cargo, and incorporated a new limitation regime for such claims. The limitation amounts for passenger claims and damage caused by oil platforms were increased with effect from the same date.
The system for the protection of mortgagee interest under the Marine Insurance Plan has remained largely unchanged since the 1964 edition of the plan. Among other things, the interest of mortgagees is automatically co-assured under the owner's insurances. Notification of the mortgage by the mortgagee to the insurer is not required in order for automatic co-insurance to take effect.
The adoption of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage is expected to fill a gap in the international regime for compensation of victims of bunker oil spills. The convention imposes strict liability for pollution damage caused by bunker oil onboard or originating from ships. It is expected that Norway will ratify the convention in 2007.
The debate over whether classification societies should be liable for negligence has raged for many years. In Norway, the trend is in favour of increased liability for government bodies dealing with tasks of a typically 'service nature'. Classification societies are unlikely to escape the same fate in the long run.
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law is preparing a new convention for the carriage of goods by sea. It is assumed that the working group entrusted with preparing the convention will complete its task during 2006. The aim of the new convention is to replace existing conventions on the carriage of goods by sea currently in force with a new liability regime.
A recent report by the Permanent Law Commission for Maritime Matters recommends that Norway ratify the Hazardous and Noxious Substances Convention. The convention will strengthen the legal position of injured parties with regard to sea accidents involving certain types of dangerous goods.