Arrest of Ships in Malta: Practical Guidelines Issued
On the 18th of December 2019, the provisions found in the
Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure relating to the arrest of ships were formally amended. These
amendments have introduced a new mechanism whereby the party issuing the
warrant may nominate (in the arrest application) any natural or legal person
responsible to affect service of the warrant onto the vessel and not solely
depend on the executive officers of the courts (the court marshals). Act XXXI
of 2019 thus created a new method on how a warrant of arrest may be served.
The Chamber of Advocates together with the assistance of the Malta
Maritime Law Association have recently published practical guidelines relating
to such amendments in order to assist practitioners with the proper
implementation and use of such procedure as amended.
Below are some of the key points (including clarifications) as outlined
in the guidelines:
Responsibilities of the Executive Officers of the Courts.
Has there been a shift in the responsibilities of the Executive Officers
of the Courts?
The responsibilities of the executive officers of the Courts haven’t
changed. They shall remain responsible for affecting service on the authority
for Transport in Malta (Transport Malta) and other local authorities.
The only additional responsibility on the executive officers of the
Courts are now to affect service on the Nominated Person (as explained above)
who will then be tasked with serving the warrant of arrest on vessel.
Who can act as
The nominated person may be any service
provider or any natural person including any Executive officer of the Courts
acting in his own capacity or the party’s lawyer. The nominated
well-suited, knowledgeable, appropriate, and properly briefed by the
practitioner to carry out the role expected from him/her.
Importance of Acceptance
It shall be
the responsibility of
the party issuing the warrant to ensure, from beforehand, that the nominated person has accepted to affect
service on the vessel and has agree on the remuneration. When filing an application, the party
issuing the warrant shall confirm on oath that the Nominated Person has
accepted to carry out this mandate.
When Conveyance is Necessary.
When transportation is required to take the Nominated
Person to a vessel, they should only engage commercial vessel operators which
are duly licensed and authorised by the Authority for Transport;
When on board the vessel
What is the nominated person expected to do?
Upon boarding the vessel, the nominated person will be expected to serve an
official copy of the Warrant of Arrest on the Vessel’s highest ranking officer
(nominally the Master), briefly explain to that officer that the vessel is
under arrest and demand that officer to hand over the ship’s documentation and
certification as will be explained below.
To whom must the warrant be served?
According to the COCP, the warrant
must be served on the person whose ship or vessel is arrested, the master or
other person in charge of such ship or vessel, or the agent of such ship or
person must also take note
of the name of the Vessel’s highest-ranking officer (nominally the Master)
present on the vessel to whom the Warrant of Arrest was served.
What documentation are to be seized by the Nominated
The Certificate of Registry of the Vessel;
The International Load Line Certificate, where applicable;
Cargo Ship Safety Radio
Certificate, where applicable.
How long may the nominated person retain the ceased
The nominated person has 1 day to return the documents he/she has
seized back to the registrar of Courts.
Notification to the Traffic Management Unit (TMU- Port
Notification to the Vessel
Traffic Services (VTS – commonly known as Turretta)
of Arrest are handled by the TMU
and the VTS of the Authority for Transport in Malta, which are both located in
Marsa. All Warrants and Counter
Warrants are to be notified to the Authority at its Marsa offices.
Other beneficial recommendations
Parties should submit with their warrant a
map/chart indicating the location within Maltese waters of the vessel in question
especially when such is on anchorage;
Parties should issue a translated version of
the warrant in English in order to
better ensure that the master is made
aware of the fact that the vessel has been arrested.
This news item was written by Dr Sean Xerri de Caro.