The limitation fund established following the grounding of the Full City near Langesund in 2009 was recently distributed. The limitation fund proceedings, which ran parallel to the proceedings concerning the limitation fund established following the Server casualty in 2007, have helped to clarify several procedural aspects of limitation funds. This article examines the key takeaways from the limitation fund proceedings now that they have come to an end.
Parliament recently decided that Norway will ratify the Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention and that the convention will be given effect not only in Norway's exclusive economic zone, but also in its territorial waters. Parliament also adopted legislation to implement the convention into Norwegian law once ratified. The legislation will introduce a dual system where the national rules on wreck removal will continue to be in effect and the convention rules will be introduced as a parallel set of rules.
A year and a half after the entry into force of the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, the Ministry of Transport has completed a consultation process on a proposal to ratify the convention and implement it into Norwegian law. The ministry has suggested that the convention be implemented on a dual basis, alongside existing legislation.
The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks will enter into force in April 2015. The convention provides the first set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks. Owners will now be required to take out compulsory liability insurance and strict liability will be imposed on an owner for the costs of locating, marking and removing a wreck.
A recent study of case law confirms that courts will place significant weight on evidence arising from or collected in the immediate aftermath of an incident. Parties facing a potential dispute should take care to collect all relevant documentary evidence and be cautious when issuing preliminary reports or other documents until all relevant facts are identified.
Norway has now implemented EU Directive 2009/20/EC, which obliges shipowners to take out liability insurance for all claims covered by the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1996. Vessels are required to carry onboard a certificate as proof of insurance. The directive has been implemented in the Norwegian Maritime Code 1994.
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.
In May 2007 the International Maritime Organisation adopted the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks. The convention fills a gap in the existing international legal framework by providing the first set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecked ships. It is expected that sufficient states will ratify the convention for it to enter into force during the next two years.
On January 1 2011 the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargo (IMSBC) Code became mandatory. The aim of the code is to promote the safe carriage of solid bulk cargoes. All vessels carrying solid bulk cargoes in general, and dangerous solid bulk cargoes in particular, are now required to comply with the new IMSBC Code irrespective of their size or year of build.
Recent maritime accidents in Norway have led to the extensive seizure of property and documents by the police and the Accident Investigation Board. Although such seizures may be a necessary part of the investigative process, they are also an interference with property, and may cause delay to vessels and result in other problems, in particular with regard to civil claims.
The Nedre Telemark District Court's sentence for the master and third officer of the tanker Full City, which grounded off Langesund in July 2009, has heightened concern that Norway is following an unfortunate international trend of increased criminalisation of seafarers. The court found both the master and the third officer guilty of violating the Pollution Act due to their failure to take adequate measures to prevent pollution.
In 2008 Norway implemented a new investigation system which separated the safety and criminal aspects of accident investigation. Following an international trend, the new rules gave the Accident Investigation Board the authority to investigate accidents to identify the circumstances of importance to improve overall safety at sea. The investigation of the grounding of Full City was the first test for the new system.
The Ministry of Justice has issued a consultation paper requesting views on whether Norway should sign the Rotterdam Rules at the signature ceremony on September 23 2009. Signing the rules will not oblige Norway to comply with them, since a subsequent ratification will be required. However, a signature will have a symbolic effect, showing that the government supports the adoption of the convention.
In the event of a marine casualty the shipowner may be ordered to remove the shipwreck or to cover the costs of having the wreck removed. If the shipowner is unwilling or unable to remove the wreck or to cover the wreck removal costs, the question arises as to whether the government may bring a claim for the wreck removal costs directly against the relevant protection and indemnity club.
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.
Existing international liability and compensation regimes covering oil spills do not include bunker oil spills from vessels other than tankers. This significant gap is set to be closed with the entry into force of the Bunkers Convention. Provisions in the Norwegian Maritime Code incorporating the convention will enter into force on the same day that the convention enters into force internationally.