The concept of limitation of a shipowner's liability is well known in maritime law and is generally the same across many maritime jurisdictions. However, the government's failure to ratify the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 and its Protocol of 1996, coupled with an unclear amendment to the regime set out by the Code of Navigation, suggests that Italy may have forgotten the importance of the limitation regime.
The Civitavecchia Tribunal recently considered a vessel owner's application to exercise a maritime lien on a quantity of coal carried on board the vessel to secure its freight balance, demurrages and expenses towards the charterer after the charterer applied to open insolvency proceedings. The decision was based on two precedents of the Genoa Court and reinforces the principles that under Italian law, a lien on cargo can be placed under the authority of only the local courts.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case concerning the defence of lack of jurisdiction due to state immunity claimed by Rina SpA in the matter concerning the sinking of the Al-Salam Boccaccio 98. The decision contains precise guidance as to immunity from jurisdiction with regard to the classification and certification of ships, thereby making it improbable that any such defence will be successfully pleaded in the future by a classification society before an Italian court.
The Supreme Court recently issued a significant decision on the apportionment of a salvage reward among a shipowner and cargo interests. The decision has confirmed the principle already expressed in previous Supreme Court judgments that the shipowner is liable towards the salvor for an entire salvage reward, subject to recourse action by said shipowner against the cargo interests. However, the Supreme Court's conclusions are debatable, as is its interpretation of Article 497 of the Code of Navigation.
The Court of Genoa recently referred a jurisdictional immunity claim to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on whether it should decline to hear the case on the basis of said immunity exception or whether it must apply the EU Brussels Regulation. The case concerned a compensation claim by survivors and relatives of the deceased of a ferry accident.