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On 19 February 2021 the Supreme Court delivered its very first judgment in relation to a collision action.  While the Supreme Court was only established in 2009, it is almost half a century since the highest appellate court in England and Wales has decided such a matter.  In this eagerly anticipated decision, the Court had to consider the application of the International Regulations For Preventing Collisions At Sea 1972 (the ‘COLREGS’), in relation to a collision between the 7.030 TEU container ship Ever Smart and the laden 153,044 DWT VLCC Alexandra 1 off the dredged access channel to Jebel Ali in the late evening of 11 February 2015.
Continue Reading Smart as ever, the Supreme Court provides clarity on the crossing rules

2020 has presented a number of challenges to the shipping industry, certainly none more so than the global pandemic which has significantly disrupted international trade and profoundly affected crew welfare.  The closure of national borders and the curtailment of commercial flights has introduced other limitations, including the ability of lawyers to travel to vessels following a marine casualty.  While this is certainly less of a concern than the plight of many seafarers, who have been stranded on board vessels without any immediate prospect of returning home to their families, it nevertheless presents another unwelcome headache for ship owners.

Evidence collection

Following any significant marine casualty, whether a collision, grounding, fire, or other significant event, it is essential that evidence is properly preserved.  This will be relied upon as the subsequent legal ramifications of the incident play out, which can often take many years.  The early preservation of evidence prevents electronic data being lost, or crew witnesses leaving the employment of the ship owners and subsequently being unavailable or unwilling to provide witness statements.
Continue Reading Remote casualty investigations

Singapore’s accession to the International Salvage Convention is an important step, which will align the city state with other prominent maritime jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and China.

When the Salvage Convention becomes part of Singapore law under amendments to be made to the Singapore Merchant Shipping Act (1), it will enshrine into Singapore law a salvor’s right to recover expenses they have incurred in their attempts to prevent or minimize environmental damage, even if they are unable to salve the vessel or where the value remaining in the salved fund is insufficient.  This type of recovery is referred to as “special compensation,” which is available under article 14 of the Salvage Convention and protects salvors against the traditional consequences of “No Cure, No Pay,” which depended entirely on the successful salvage of the maritime property.  Article 14 is intended to incentivize salvors to invest and maintain the assets, in terms of salvage craft, equipment, and personnel, that are necessary to render prompt assistance to vessels in difficulty.  This is vitally important, and mitigates against the risk of geographical regions having insufficient response capacity.  Such a scenario could have a profoundly detrimental effect on local marine ecologies, particularly in the event of an oil spill.  At a time when the number of professional salvors is declining, providing an assurance to salvors that they will not be left out of pocket is increasingly important.Continue Reading Singapore’s accession to the International Salvage Convention