Cyprus is an internationally renowned shipping centre and home to some of the world’s leading names of the global shipping industry. The simplified ship registration procedures, the favourable shipping taxation and the high standard of services are some of the competitive advantages which established Cyprus as a key player in the international maritime industry.
Nevertheless, the field of admiralty litigation has, for a long time, been calling for progressive reforms which would enable Cyprus to also become an international centre for the resolution of maritime disputes.
This gap is now filled by the general reforms in the Cypriot justice system which have been adopted and are expected to enter into force in 2023. In the area of admiralty litigation, the reforms point in two directions: first, the establishment of a new Admiralty Court with the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide “admiralty cases” and second, the modernization of the Admiralty Court procedure, including the opportunity to conduct the proceedings in the English language.
The new Admiralty Court
Since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, admiralty disputes have been adjudicated by the Supreme Court in its admiralty jurisdiction which derived from section 19(a) of the Courts of Justice Law of 1960 (Law 14/60). By virtue of section 29(2)(a) of Law 14/60, the powers vested in the Supreme Court in its admiralty jurisdiction were determined by the English Administration of Justice Act of 1956 which provided for the admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice in England at the time of Cyprus’ independence.
In response to the need for major reforms in admiralty litigation, a new Admiralty Court has been established by the enactment of The Establishment and Operation of Commercial Court and Admiralty Court Law of 2022 (Law 69(I)/2022) (“the Law”). The date on which the new Court will be ready to operate will be announced by the Supreme Court.
The Admiralty Court will consist of two experienced judges with exclusive jurisdiction to decide at first instance any type of “admiralty cases” as those are defined in section 2 of the Law and include any claim, regardless of the amount of the dispute:
In addition, any of the above claims related to an “aircraft” also fall within the ambit of jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court.
Depending on the nature of the claim, both actions in rem and in personam may be instituted with the Admiralty Court.
Where an “admiralty case” falls within the ambit of jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court as provided for by the Law, or by any other law or procedural rule or by any agreement between the parties or which derives from the European Union law, international treaty or any rule of private international law, the Admiralty Court will exercise its jurisdiction to hear and decide such case irrespective of:
Having a specialised Court dealing only with maritime disputes and manned with experienced professionals in the admiralty sector is expected to lead to faster adjudication of admiralty claims and to improved quality of maritime services provided in Cyprus.
The new procedure and the language of the court proceedings
Another aspect of the general judicial reform is the implementation of the new Civil Procedure Rules which are expected to enter into force and govern all civil proceedings from September 2023 onwards. Part 43 of the new Civil Procedure Rules provides for procedure rules which will specifically apply in the proceedings instituted before the new Admiralty Court.
This is an important development and a significant step forward in the modernisation of the admiralty litigation in Cyprus, as the new procedure rules will replace the existing, outdated procedure rules which have applied in the exercise of the admiralty jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for over a century.
A major reform is the introduction of the English language in the proceedings before the Admiralty Court. In particular, section 29 of the Law provides that a judge may, upon a request of one of the parties and if this is deemed to be in the interests of justice, allow the proceedings before the Admiralty Court to be conducted in the English language. This includes the filing of pleadings, the conduct of the hearing and adducing of evidence as well as the issue of any order or judgment of the Admiralty Court. Indeed, the Cyprus Parliament amended the Constitution of the Republic in order to provide the possibility of using the English language in the proceedings before the Admiralty Court when this is necessary.
This is a landmark reform which will allow for speedy and less expensive proceedings, without the need to translate documents or evidence before the Admiralty Court or a judgment or order of the Court for use and enforcement out of Cyprus. This reform aims to render the new Admiralty Court an international centre for the resolution of admiralty claims, especially by attracting the players of the global maritime industry to choose Cyprus as the forum for the resolution of their disputes. To further facilitate this purpose, the relevant amendment of the Constitution provides that any higher Court, when dealing with an appeal against a judgment or order of the Admiralty Court, may also allow the use of the English language in its proceedings.
An international maritime hub of quality and progress
The modernisation of admiralty litigation intends to make Cyprus even more competitive in the shipping sector which has been one of the major pillars of the country’s economy during the last decades. It is anticipated that the establishment of the new Admiralty Court will lead to faster and more efficient resolution of admiralty claims. At the same time, the use of the English language in admiralty proceedings will add another advantage in establishing Cyprus as an international centre for the resolution of maritime disputes.
If the aforementioned reforms succeed in serving the purpose for which they have been implemented, Cyprus will offer a complete package of maritime services and will result in attracting foreign investments from the global shipping industry and further enhancing the reputation of Cyprus as an international maritime hub.
The content of this article is valid as at the date of its first publication. It is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you seek professional advice on your specific matter before acting on any information provided. For further information or advice, please contact Andreas Lytras, Senior Associate at the Nicosia office via tel: +357 22 447777 or email at email@example.com