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An Admiralty Court where English can be used is established in Cyprus

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On 12 May 2022 the Cyprus Parliament enacted a law establishing a Commercial Court and an Admiralty Court in Cyprus. In the present article, we focus on the Admiralty Court. You can refer to our article for the establishment of the Commercial Court here.

The establishment of an Admiralty Court to hear and determine admiralty cases will contribute substantially to the speedy adjudication of admiralty cases and it will strengthen the competitiveness of Cyprus as a centre for providing high-quality services. It will also attract foreign investments in the current very turbulent economic environment, contributing to Cyprus’ long-term economic development.

An ‘admiralty case’ is defined in the Establishment and Operation of Commercial Court and Admiralty Court Act 2022 (‘the Act’) as one including any claim, irrespective of the amount:

  1. relating to the possession or ownership of a ship or the ownership of any share therein;
  2. which arises between joint owners of the ship in respect of its possession, employment or profits from the ship;
  3. to enforce a claim for damage, loss of life or personal injury resulting from a collision of ships (amongst others);
  4. by the owners or other persons to limit the amount of their liability in respect of a ship or other asset;
  5. in respect of a mortgage or charge on a ship or share in a ship;
  6. in respect of damage suffered by a ship;
  7. in respect of damage caused by a ship;
  8. in respect of loss of human life or personal injury sustained by a person as a result of a defect in a ship or its equipment or as a result of a wrongful act, negligence or default;
  9. in respect of loss or damage of goods carried on a ship;
  10. arising out of an agreement relating to the carriage of goods on a ship or the use or leasing of a ship;
  11. for or in respect of shipwreck salvage or maritime assistance services similar to shipwreck salvage, whether or not under any contract;
  12. in respect of towing of a ship;
  13. relating to the navigation of a ship;
  14. relating to goods or materials with which a ship is supplied for its operation or maintenance;
  15. relating to the construction, repair or equipment of a ship or to dockage rights or fees;
  16. by a master or a crew member of a ship for wages and any other claim;
  17. by a master, shipper, charterer or agent in respect of any expenses incurred on behalf of a ship;
  18. arising out of an act which is or is alleged to be an act of general average;
  19. which arises from a shipping finance ;
  20. for a confiscation or condemnation of a ship or goods carried or had been carried or attempted to be carried on a ship, or for restitution of a ship or any such goods after confiscation, or for maritime rights;
  21. which falls under the first instance jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as an Admiralty Court immediately before the date of commencement of this Act;
  22. which is provided in any law, convention or agreement ratified by the Republic or in a procedural regulation which states that it shall be brought before the Admiralty Court.

The Admiralty Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine at first instance all admiralty cases, as defined in the Act, in any other law or procedural regulation or any agreement of the parties, or arising under European Union law, an international treaty or any rule of private international law, irrespective of-

(a) whether the ship is of Cypriot ownership or registered in the Register of Cyprus Ships ;

(b) the domicile or residence or place of business of the defendant or the respondent or, in the case of a legal person, the place of its registered office or place of business;

(c) the place where the claims arise;

(d) if there are mortgages and/or charges, whether or not they are registered in Cyprus, whether or not they are legal or according to the equity law, including mortgages and charges established under foreign law.

Notably, an in personam claim may be filed before the Admiralty Court in respect of all admiralty cases, whereas an in rem claim may be filed only regarding paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (t) against a ship, aircraft or property.

Any decision or order of the Admiralty Court shall be subject to appeal to the Supreme Court. Notwithstanding this, an order of the Admiralty Court for a preliminary referral of a matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union or for the dismissal of a party's application for such a preliminary referral shall not be subject to appeal.

It is noted that before this Act was enacted, the Supreme Court of Cyprus had exclusive jurisdiction to act as Admiralty Court. Consequently, admiralty cases pending before the Supreme Court in the exercise of its first instance jurisdiction, the hearing of which has not yet commenced, shall be transferred to the Admiralty Court for continuation of the proceedings and the issuance of a judgment. If a hearing of a case has already commenced, such case will not be transferred.

English language

Prior to the commencement of the Act, the Cypriot Parliament approved the amendment of Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, to allow the use of the English language in the newly established Admiralty Court.

Specifically, the amended Article 3(4) of the Constitution now reads that the Admiralty Court and a higher court thereof, when considering or reviewing a decision or order of the first instance Admiralty Court, may allow the use of the English language in proceedings before it, including the filing of a written address or of a pleading or of a document or evidence in English.

In other words, whereas Greek remains the official Court language, a Judge of the Admiralty Court, may, when the interest of justice so requires, allow the legal proceedings to be conducted and the documents to be filed in English, at the request of one of the parties. In such a case, the Judge shall specify that English is the language in which the proceedings are conducted and in which the judgment of the Admiralty Court will be issued.

The Admiralty Court will consist of two judges with broad knowledge of admiralty affairs and/or proven experience in handling court cases which fall under the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court, having also a very good knowledge of the English language.

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 Marina Hadjisoteriou, Partner at the Limassol office, email marina.hadjisoteriou@kyprianou.com and Stavriani Sofroni, Legal Consultant at the Limassol office, email stavriani.sofroni@kyprianou.com

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