New Era in Admiralty Litigation in Cyprus


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:

  1. concerning the possession or ownership of a vessel or the ownership of any share in a vessel;
  2. which arises between co-owners of a vessel in relation to its possession, employment or profits from the vessel;
  3. for the enforcement of any claim for damage, loss of life or personal injury resulting from the collision of vessels, the manoeuvring or omission of manoeuvring or the non-compliance with collision rules;
  4. from owners or other persons for the limitation of liability in relation to a vessel or other assets by virtue of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims of 1976 and of the Protocol of 1996 which amends the said Convention;
  5. regarding a mortgage or a charge over a vessel or a share in a vessel;
  6. regarding a damage suffered by a vessel;
  7. regarding a damage caused by a vessel;
  8. in relation to loss of life or personal injury suffered by a person as a consequence of a defect in a vessel or in her apparel or equipment, or of the wrongful act, neglect or default of the owners, charterers or persons in possession or control of a vessel or of the master or crew thereof or of any other person for whose wrongful acts, neglects or defaults the owners, charterers or persons in possession or control of a vessel are responsible, being an act, neglect or default in the navigation or management of the vessel, in the loading, carriage or discharge of goods on, in or from the vessel or in the embarkation, carriage or disembarkation of persons on, in or from the vessel;
  9. in relation to loss or damage to goods carried on a vessel;
  10. arising out of an agreement relating to the carriage of goods in a vessel or to the use or hire of a vessel;
  11. for or in relation to salvage or maritime assistance services similar to salvage, whether or not pursuant to a contract;
  12. in relation to the towage of a vessel;
  13. in relation to the navigation of a vessel;
  14. in relation to goods or materials supplied to a vessel for her operation or maintenance;
  15. in relation to the construction, repair or equipment of a vessel or dock charges or dues;
  16. by a master or member of the crew of a vessel for wages and any claim by or in respect of a master or member of the crew of a vessel for any money or property which, under any legislative provision regulating matters of merchant shipping, may be recovered as wages or in the court and in the manner in which wages may be recovered;
  17. by a master, shipper, charterer or agent in respect of any disbursements made on account of a vessel;
  18. arising out of an act which is or is claimed to be a general average act;
  19. arising out of bottomry;
  20. for the forfeiture or condemnation of a vessel or of goods which are being or have been carried, or have been attempted to be carried, in a vessel, or for the restoration of a vessel or any such goods after seizure, or for droits of Admiralty;
  21. which falls under the first instance jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as an Admiralty Court immediately before the date of commencement of the Law;
  22. which is provided in any legislation, convention or agreement ratified by the Republic or in a procedural regulation which provides that it shall be raised before the Admiralty Court.

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:

  • whether the vessel is of Cypriot ownership or is registered in the Cypriot Ship Registry;
  • the permanent residence or domicile or the place of business of the defendant or, in the case of a legal entity, of the place of its registered office or place of business;
  • the place where the claims arise;
  • whether there are mortgages or charges; whether or not they are registered in Cyprus; whether or not they are legal or equitable, including mortgages and charges established under foreign law.

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 andreas.lytras@kyprianou.com