Nina M. H. Hanevold works as an associate in the Oslo office of Wikborg Rein. She is working for the Shipping Offshore group. Hanevold is a participant in the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association’s Maritime Trainee programme from 2010 until 2012. The Maritime Trainee programme seeks to provide its participants with all-rounded training and understanding of the maritime industry, and to ensure that its participants become competent in handling a broad spectrum and multitude of functions within the maritime industry.
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.
In a recent administrative appeal decision, the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) Head Office reversed the wreck removal order issued by the NCA Emergency Response Centre in respect of a cargo ship which sank in northern Norway in 2017. The decision confirms that the pollution authorities will consider the proportionality of the measures ordered when exercising their administrative discretion.
The 75th session of the International Maritime Organisation Marine Environment Protection Committee recently approved a ban on the use and carriage of so-called 'heavy fuel oil' in the Arctic. The proposed amendments are expected to be formally adopted in June 2021. However, more stringent standards have already been proposed by the Norwegian government for the area surrounding Svalbard.
As noted in the white paper on Norway's Arctic policy, maritime activities in the High North are expected to increase due to improved accessibility resulting from melting sea ice, the high potential for increased commercial exploitation of marine and offshore resources and the successful marketing of the Arctic as a tourist destination. With increased activities comes an increased risk of accidents, and these additional risks must be taken into account by those operating in the area.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Supreme Court recently rendered a decision that may increase shipowners' liability where claims are made by cargo interests based on the master's nautical errors during the voyage, by limiting owners' right to rely on the nautical faults exception in the Maritime Code.
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.
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.