The Wreck Removal Convention

28 Apr 2015

5 min read

The removal of wrecks is not the easiest of tasks and it has proven to be quite costly. Undoubtedly, the financial costs dealing with wrecks have been on the increase over the past ten years. Wreck Removal mainly involves the removal of dangerous wrecks which have some value or none at all. As of the 14th of April 2015, Malta and the other sixteen signatory states shall be governed by the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007.

The Convention will certainly have an impact on Malta’s maritime activities, since in relation to the Maltese Territorial waters the Convention intends to bar incoming or outgoing ships of 300 gross tonnes or more which are not in possession of a valid insurance certificate or other valid financial security.

Across the board, the Convention establishes a legal framework by providing a set of systematic international rules which are intended to ensure an expeditious and an efficient way of removing wrecks. Additionally, the Convention seeks to invoke an obligation on ship owners to compulsorily insure or obtain financial security in the form of a guarantee. As a result the signatories to the Convention would be able to reclaim the costs incurred with respect to the removal of wrecks.

Another prominent feature of the Convention is that an individual in charge of any ship is obliged to report an accident which occurs in the Territorial Waters of Malta covered by the Convention to the Authority for Transport in Malta. The individual may be the owner of a ship, a manager, or a bare boat charterer who has taken on the responsibility for the operation of the ship.

Once a ship is wrecked, the Convention bestows upon a Signatory State the right to remove the ship which may ultimately pose a threat to the marine and costal environment, the safety of individuals, and with regards to any goods, merchandise and other property at sea.  Consequently, the Authority may issue a “wreck removal notice” as it may deem to be fit and proper. This notice would order the registered owner to fulfil the obligations laid down by the Convention.

The Procedure

From the date that the Convention has come into force, a number of requisites must now be adhered to before the entry or exit of a ship from Maltese ports and waters. The necessary documentation such as the insurance certificate, the financial security and any other ancillary documents must be presented to the Maltese Transport Authority. Generally these documents are submitted to the Authority through PORTNET, which is the Authority’s designated system for entry and exit notifications. Such notification must be handed over in line with the time spans established by the Transport Authority.

The ship will not be allowed to enter Malta’s territorial waters if the insurance certificate or the financial security are not submitted accordingly or if the documents are not in line with the Transport Authority’s standards. The Authority for Transport in Malta will only allow a ship to enter or leave Malta upon receiving the necessary and suitable documentation.

Once the documentation is in place the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen within the Merchant Shipping Directorate will issue a certificate upon the verification of a valid blue card which is issued by the insurers of the ship owners. The Registrar General is responsible for laying down the conditions of issue and the legitimacy of these certificates.

It is noteworthy to point out that ships sailing through Malta’s territorial waters must ensure that they always carry a valid insurance certificate or other valid financial security documentation, since inspections may be carried out from time to time. If it results that a ship is not carrying the necessary documentation the ship may either be requested to leave Malta’s territorial waters or it might be apprehended. Additionally, when a ship receives an order to leave the territorial waters, the particular ship will not be allowed to enter unless a positive notification is received from the authority upon the submission of the necessary documents.

Essentially, the registered owner of a ship is obliged to make sure that the ship is in line with the regulations provided for by the Authority for Transport in Malta and the corresponding laws and regulations. If the aforesaid rules are not respected, such person shall be held liable.

GVZH Advocates offer their clients a unique assessment based on their individual inquiries relating to wreck removal and other shipping aspects and procedures. Additionally, our international reach means that we have the knowledge to cater for any possible inquiry which might arise within Malta’s territorial waters. Our legal team routinely assist and guide clients with all the necessary documentation submissions to the local regulatory authorities in the swiftest way possible.

For further information about how GVZH Advocates can help you with the removal of wrecks and other shipping requirements kindly contact us here.