Unmanned ships are on the horizon and the Norwegian maritime sector is uniquely positioned to take a leading role internationally in the development and commercialisation of this technology. Autonomous shipping may be Norway's maritime equivalent of Project Apollo, but is the legal framework keeping pace?
The 2019 version of the Nordic Marine Insurance Plan 2013 recently entered into force. Among other things, the revisions introduce an arbitration clause as an option for insurances with Nordic claims leaders. Making arbitration the default position when there is a non-Nordic claims leader aims to align the plan with market practice. However, the change has also been brought about by the looming consequences of Brexit.
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.
In a landmark decision the Supreme Court has set aside a Court of Appeal decision which concluded that the Norwegian courts have jurisdiction under the Lugano Convention in a direct action concerning a ship collision in the Singapore Strait. The decision provides welcome clarification to liability insurers across Europe, as it sets out that the Lugano Convention is a self-contained and exclusive code governing matters relating to insurance.
In 2014 the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority commenced an audit of the Norwegian International Ship Register. Subsequently, the EFTA Surveillance Authority opened a case against Norway for a possible breach of the European Economic Area Agreement. The case concerned a geographical trade limitation applicable to ships flying the flag of the Norwegian International Ship Register.
The High Court recently upheld two worldwide freezing orders in a multinational shipping fraud case were upheld, rejecting the defendant's allegations of breaches of full and frank disclosure. Among other things, the judgment is a useful confirmation and strengthening of the standing of intermediary charterers to sue for the full value of the hire in circumstances where the claimant's ultimate loss may be substantially lower.
A recent High Court decision will provide comfort for vessel owners and serve as a reminder to charterers of the importance of documentary obligations within a bareboat charter. The court held that where a vessel is on bareboat charter, the obligation on charterers to keep the vessel with unexpired class certificates at all times is an absolute obligation and a condition of the contract.
In charterparties where no expected time of arrival or readiness to load at the loading port is stated, the question will be whether an equivalent can be identified which can be used as the basis for an absolute obligation requiring the owners to proceed to the loading port by a particular time. The Court of Appeal recently held that the itinerary for an intermediate voyage was such an equivalent.
A 2017 Commercial Court judgment clarifies the concept of barratry and confirms that there is no qualification to fire when seeking to rely on the fire defence under the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules (assuming that the vessel is seaworthy and that the fire was not caused by the actual fault or privity of the owner). It also confirms that, absent fire, an owner cannot escape liability for deliberate wrongful acts of the crew under the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules even if there is no actual fault or privity on its part.
The High Court recently considered the wording "exposure to sanctions" and ruled that the underwriters of a marine insurance policy could not rely on that wording to avoid a claim on the basis of a "risk of exposure" to the US-Iran sanctions. Rather, for underwriters to do so, there would need to be an actual prohibition on paying the claim in question. This latest judgment deals with a number of key points for drafting effective sanctions exclusion clauses in commercial maritime agreements.