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.
Italian law includes no specific rules concerning the sale of ships. As such, the general rules on the sale of movable assets apply. However, should the purchase of a ship qualify as an acquisition of business assets, certain mandatory rules of law apply. In two recent judgments, the Rome Court of Appeal held that the mandatory rules regarding the transfer of business assets do not apply to sale and purchase agreements concerning a single ship.
The Supreme Court recently upheld the decision of the Agrigento Criminal Court in the Sea-Watch 3 case. The appeal decision has given a clear and straightforward interpretation of the concept of 'place of safety' in search and rescue operations: the rescuing vessel cannot be deemed a place of safety.
Can a coastal state prevent a ship from exercising the right of innocent passage into its territorial waters to access one of its ports in a maritime distress scenario deriving from rescuing migrants at sea? This question has been the focus of attention due to legislation that the government passed in 2019 in order to restrict such rights and the case of Sea Watch 3, which entered the Italian port of Lampedusa despite a government veto.
A significant recent judgment by the Genoa Court of Appeal examined the extent and nature of the informative duties imposed on shipbrokers under Italian law. The decision applies to shipbrokers the principles outlined by the Italian courts for general brokerage activities (in particular, real estate brokerage for which the case law is richer and more consistent). Consequently, a general and uniform legal framework has been extended to shipbrokers.
A recent Tribunal of Genoa case concerning a yacht lost during carriage examined whether the Italian courts have jurisdiction to appoint court surveyors and order survey operations to take place in Italy where the merits of a dispute are not subject to Italian jurisdiction. According to the tribunal, the fact that the merits of the dispute in question were to be decided in London did not deprive the Italian courts' jurisdiction to order inspection and survey operations on goods located in Italy.
The Tribunal of Milan recently published a judgment analysing a common occurrence in shipping matters where a contract of charter is not incorporated into an agreement duly executed by both parties, but is instead contained in a recap fixture exchanged via email. The decision is noteworthy as it reaches conclusions (significantly different from prevailing Italian case law) which deserve to be carefully considered when concluding charter parties.
A recent Genoa Court of Appeal decision interpreted the principle of the limitation of a carrier's liability under the Hague-Visby Rules. The decision affirms that receivers must give actual evidence of a carrier's knowledge that damage would probably have resulted as a consequence of its reckless conduct in order to claim the exclusion of the carrier's limitation of liability, with no recourse to factual presumptions.
The Supreme Court recently issued a significant decision regarding the joint liability of a carrier, shipper and owner of goods following the carrier's violation of road safety rules under Italian law. The decision is notable, as it gives a clear interpretation of Legislative Decree 286/2005's rules that the fault is the subjective element required to establish the liability of a party in the transport chain where there is a violation of the road safety rules.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision regarding the sale and purchase of a second-hand vessel – in particular, the construction of the words 'as she lies'. While Italian jurisprudence has historically considered the words a mere standard clause with no legal effects, Italian maritime scholars have confirmed the validity of the clause aimed at contracting out the sellers' guarantee to remedy any hidden defects in the goods being sold.
A recent decision of the Genoa Court of Appeal dealt with two interesting issues arising under the London International Convention on Salvage 1989: whether, for the purposes of fixing a salvage reward, the judge should consider not only the value of the salved vessel, but also that of the cargo on board; and the apportionment of a salvage reward between co-salvors where only one salvor brought proceedings for its remuneration.
One of the final pieces of legislation that the government enacted before the March 2018 general election was the eagerly awaited reform of the so-called 'Nautical Code'. The changes include a new definition of 'superyachts', the introduction of an electronic registration system for yachts and superyachts, a streamlined cancellation procedure for the Italian yacht registry and restrictions to the occasional chartering regime.
The most recent edition of the Nautica e Fisco booklet issued by the Nautical Association Industry and the Revenue Agency covers legal and fiscal developments in the nautical industry, including issues from registration to customs and fiscal matters. In particular, the booklet provides guidelines on exporting a yacht from Italy, value added tax exemptions for the use of yachts in the high seas and the temporary importation regime and refitting services.
The Italian International Registry provides a number of substantial fiscal advantages to shipowners. However, the European Commission recently established an EU pilot procedure against Italy to enquire into the nature of the advantages that Italy has made available to ships registered in the registry. The European Commission's message was taken on board and measures are now being discussed to amend national legislation so that it conforms to EU principles.
The Milan Court of Appeal recently addressed a demurrage claim under a voyage charterparty. The decision dealt with the issue of contract formation and focused on the choice of law provision contained in the charterparty. This case has confirmed that, when so called, the Italian courts are keen and ready to pronounce judgments in line with commercial shipping practice.
In an important decision, the Supreme Court recently established the validity of a forum selection clause contained in a multimodal bill of lading. The judgment is notable as it overturns the main trend in Italian case law on this subject. Before the issuance of the Supreme Court judgment, many lower courts had denied the validity of jurisdiction clauses contained in multimodal bills of lading.