Gibraltar is bound by the same laws and conventions as the United Kingdom and maritime law and procedure is essentially the same. All proceedings are brought under the Admiralty Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar and all hearings are dealt with by judges.
The Admiralty Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar is fast and efficient. By way of example, a ship lying in Gibraltar waters can be arrested within hours and, in cases of urgency, even at weekends and on public holidays.
Our firm is experienced in all aspects of this area of work which includes:
- Ship arrests including “Sister Ships”.
- Making/Defending claims for goods or services supplied to a ship, for example, bunkers, supplies and provisions, repairs, agency services etc.
- Making/Defending claims for breach of any Contract in respect of a charter, transportation of cargo or any Shipping Agreement.
- Entering Caveats against an arrested ship to secure a claim.
- Obtaining security for arbitrations or proceedings in other jurisdictions.
- Crew representation for the recovery of wages etc.
- Representation of owners of ships under arrest in Gibraltar.
- Drawing contracts for a charter, transportation of cargo, hire of crew and all nature of maritime agreements.
- Drawing up Contracts and Bills of Sale for the purchase and sale of ships and yachts.
- Yacht and Ship Registration at the Registry in Gibraltar.
Actions in rem are proceedings which can be brought against the Ship itself. The principal advantage of this is that, as long as the claim falls into one of the allowed categories, it is immaterial who the owner is and the ship itself can be arrested and ultimately sold to satisfy the claim. The main categories of such Claims are as follows:
- Claims as to ownership, possession, employment or earnings of a ship.
- Claims as to mortgages or charges over ships.
- Claims for damage done or received by a ship.
- Claims for loss of life or personal injury on a ship.
- Claims arising for the carriage of goods by or for the use or hire of a ship.
- Claims for salvage.
- Claims for towage or pilotage.
- Claims for goods or materials supplied to a ship.
- Claims regarding construction, repair, equipment or dock charges of a ship.
- Claims of Master and Crew for wages.
- Claims for disbursements made on account of a ship.
- Claims arising out of a general average act or out of bottomry.
- Claims for forfeiture or restoration of a ship or of goods carried on it or for droits of Admiralty.
- Claims for Maritime Liens (for more details see section below).
- Applications to retain an arrested ship in Gibraltar as security whilst dispute is subject to arbitration or determination by a foreign Court.
- Generally, all of the above claims can also be made against “Sister Ships” (for more details see section below).
Claims in personam lie in admiralty matters directly against owners of ships.
Maritime Liens are claims which follow the ship even if there is a change of ownership. Therefore, if such a claim is made after a ship is sold, it can still be enforced even if the owner is different. The categories of Maritime Liens are very limited and are as follows:
- Damage done to a ship.
- Bottomry and respondentia.
- Seamen’s wages.
- Master’s wages and disbursements.
Generally, any claim against a ship can be enforced against its “Sister Ship”. For a ship to qualify as a “Sister Ship” it must generally be owned by the same person or Company which is not very common nowadays since most ships are owned by individual ship-owning companies.
When a ship is sold by Court order, it is common for there to be many creditors competing for the money realised from the proceeds of sale which is often insufficient to pay everyone in full. There is an established ranking as to the order of payment which is as follows:
- The charges and expenses of the Admiralty Marshal of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar.
- The costs of the party arresting a ship and obtaining an order for its sale.
- Maritime Liens.
- Any other claims pursuant to an action in rem.
- Any other claims.
- If any money is left this is held for the benefit of the owner of the ship.
It often happens that there is more than one creditor within a particular ranking. When this happens the fund is distributed by paying each creditor a proportionate sum of money depending upon the size of their claim. The legal term for this is that all such claims rank pari passu.