In recent years there has been a decrease in the number of vessels registered in the Norwegian International Ship Register due to strong competition from other registries. The government-appointed Trading Limit Committee has now proposed significant changes in order to make it more attractive for owners to register their vessels in the Norwegian International Ship Register.
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.
The Maritime Code states that a maritime lien becomes time barred one year from the date when the secured claim arose, unless the vessel is arrested and the arrest leads to a forced sale. A recent Supreme Court decision shed light on the level of activity that is required from a creditor after an arrest has been secured in order to maintain a maritime lien.
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.
A non-resident company that participates in business being carried out in, or managed from, Norway will be liable to pay tax. However, an exemption to this rule exists. The exemption results in non-Norwegian shipowners not being liable to tax in Norway on shipping income – even if the shipping business is managed from Norway – provided that certain conditions are met.
A financing bank will usually secure a loan by obtaining a mortgage for a vessel and seek to protect its interests in the mortgaged vessel by way of insurance. The bank has several options to ensure that its interests are protected by insurance, depending on the conditions under which the owner's insurances are placed, the degree of risk that is acceptable and the costs of taking out various insurance covers.
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.
In Norway, as in most other jurisdictions, there are separate rules governing the time bar of maritime claims. It is crucial not only to be aware of these rules and the claims to which they apply, but also to keep in mind that the general time-bar rules may supplement the special maritime rules.
The Borgarting Court of Appeal recently considered the applicable time bar for claims for damages caused by delay of goods carried by sea. The court held that claims for delay are subject to the same limitation period as claims for damage to or loss of the goods, and consequently are time barred one year after the cargo has been or should have been delivered.
In the existing financial climate, there is an emerging trend for yards to provide their buyers with a new form of sellers' credit – by participating with equity in the project companies that are ordering newbuilds. The choice of corporate entity and its jurisdiction can have both favourable and detrimental tax consequences for the different participants.
It is becoming increasingly common for charterers to place their own specific equipment on board the vessels that they charter. For example, in the offshore sector, seismic and pipe-laying equipment is often owned by charterers. As this kind of equipment is valuable, it is important for charterers to protect their legal rights to the equipment.
Where a seller grants a buyer the right to defer payment of part of the purchase price, the seller is in effect giving the buyer a credit for the part of the purchase price which is deferred. Seller's credit is commonly used in the sale of goods in shipping and offshore construction contracts. Although versatile and functional, the use of seller's credit may give rise to legal challenges which are best addressed at an early stage.
The Nordic Marine Insurance Plan 2013 recently entered into force. While the plan is largely based on its predecessor, some important changes have been introduced. These amendments will better facilitate use of the plan in other Nordic countries, as well as in the international market. The plan will no doubt provide greater certainty to both insurers and assureds as to the extent of insurance cover.
In 2012 Norway and Poland ratified an amendment protocol to the Polish-Norwegian Tax Treaty 2010, which aimed to restore former tax exemptions for Polish workers on Norwegian ships. The Norwegian shipping market has shown little enthusiasm for the change, as there appears to have been limited take-up of the restored tax exemptions. As the amended protocol will not become effective until 2014, its impact remains to be seen.
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.
In Norsk Tillitsmann ASA v Silvercoin Industries AS the Supreme Court dealt with the distinction between an ordinary guarantee triggered by the principal debtor's default and an on-demand guarantee. The Supreme Court confirmed the long-held view that the guarantor's liability is triggered by the principal debtor's default, unless there is a reasonably clear basis for a different interpretation.
Ensuring that adequate insurance is in place is essential for a vessel under construction as the losses can be substantial if a peril strikes. Shipbuilding contracts will invariably address which of the parties is required to take out insurance cover, and will often specify the standard insurance terms to be used.
The Norwegian tonnage tax regime stands out as one of the most favourable and competitive in the world today. It provides a stable and attractive option for ship owners and operators. Their growing confidence is demonstrated by the fact that the Norwegian tonnage tax regime currently has more vessels registered than any other regime.