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.
The regulatory framework that exists within the shipping and offshore industries is long established. The general principle is that maritime assets above a certain size must be registered in a national ship registry, and vessel registration plays an important role in the financing of maritime and offshore assets. While the existing framework effectively extends to the offshore floating wind sector in Norway, the same cannot be said for deep-water fish farms.
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.
Due to the inherent multi-jurisdictional nature of shipping disputes, the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments can be crucial. Judgments often require enforcement over assets which are located in another jurisdiction. The Lugano Convention made this possible with regard to the enforcement of UK judgments in signatory states and vice versa. However, when the Brexit transition period ended, the United Kingdom ceased being a party to the convention.
The Collision Regulations are the 'rules of the road' for mariners navigating vessels worldwide. However, it has been nearly 50 years since a case involving their interpretation has reached the jurisdiction's highest court. This changed recently when the Supreme Court handed down a judgment which considered the matter. The judgment provides clear and understandable guidance to mariners which will be of use to them when waiting outside the entrance to narrow channels in locations globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the shipping industry and led to many disputes. However, owing to the prevalence of arbitration in resolving shipping disputes, and the time taken for cases to progress through the courts, there have been few reported cases detailing the pandemic's impact on the industry. The Admiralty Court recently handed down one of the first judgments dealing with this matter.
The Commercial Court recently provided guidance on the interpretation of consent provisions in a transport and processing agreement where such consent was not to be "unreasonably withheld". The issue of withholding consent arises regularly under long and short-term shipping charterparties. A key takeaway from this judgment is that to establish whether consent may be withheld, the parties' bargain as a whole must be considered and not the consent provision in isolation.
The Supreme Court recently examined the requirement that an arbitrator must disclose related or linked appointments, which is a long-running debate, particularly in specialist fields (eg, maritime disputes), where there has traditionally been a limited pool of arbitrators. This decision is likely to fundamentally change the way in which shipowners, charterers and traders proceed with arbitrators in the future.