On the 18th January 2015, Malta ratified the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007, (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Nairobi Convention’ or ‘the Convention’). The Nairobi Convention is aimed at establishing a set of uniform international rules to ensure effective removal of wrecks. The Convention imposes an obligation on registered owners1 of ships flagged with States that are parties to the Convention or whose vessels enter the Convention area2 of any of the said States to insure against their vessels becoming wrecks.
So far 18 States have ratified the Convention, and these include: Antigua & Barbuda; Bulgaria; Congo; Cook Islands; Denmark; Germany; India; Iran; Isle of Man, Liberia; Malaysia; Malta; Marshall Islands; Morocco; Nigeria; Palau; Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom.3 All the said States, with the exception of Germany, India, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Tuvalu, as per Article 3.2 of the Convention, have extended its application to wrecks located within the state’s territory including its territorial sea. While several countries, including Norway are expected to ratify the Convention, notably, large flags such as Panama have not yet ratified the Convention.
In respect of Malta, Legal Notice 83 of 2015 entitled, ‘Merchant Shipping (Wreck Removal Convention) Regulations, 2015’ (hereinafter referred to as ‘the L.N.’ or ‘these Regulations’), transposing the Nairobi Convention into Maltese law, was published on the 17th March 2015 in the Malta Government Gazette. These Regulations shall come into force on the 14th April 20154 and are applicable to all Maltese ships wherever they may be and to all other ships while they are in Maltese waters regardless of flag.5 The L.N. establishes that the applicability of the Convention extends to 25 nautical miles from the baselines from which the Maltese territorial waters are measured.6
Registered ship owners of sea going vessels of a gross tonnage of 300 or more are required to maintain an insurance cover or other financial security for wreck removal evidenced by a ‘Wreck Removal Certificate’, to cover liability under the Convention.7 The Competent Authority, in respect of Malta, Transport Malta (hereinafter referred to as ‘TM’), shall issue the Wreck Removal Certificates with an effective date of 14th April 2015. To ensure the continuous uninterrupted operation of ships to which the Convention applies, registered owners concerned must take the necessary steps to fulfill their obligations under the L.N. as soon as possible. Registered owners fulfill their obligations, inter alia, by submitting proof that a contract of insurance or other financial security insuring against the risks contemplated in the Convention, has been obtained (i.e. the relative ‘blue card’ issued in terms of the Convention to the Maltese Flag Administration).
It is essential that registered owners of Maltese flagged vessels have in place an insurance policy which is effective as from the 14th April 2015 and should allow enough time for the said blue card to be submitted to TM to enable the relative Wreck Removal Certificate issued by TM in terms of the Convention to be released and placed on board the ship by the 14th April 2015. Moreover registered owners of ships flagged with States not Parties to the Convention must also ensure that they have on board their ships a Wreck Removal Certificate should their ships enter a Convention area of a State Party. Registered owners of ships flagged with States not party to the Convention who require Wreck Removal Certificates because they operate their vessels in a Convention area, may apply to TM for the latter to issue them with the Certificates after they submit the relative blue card to the satisfaction of TM. TM is inviting registered ship owners to start submitting the said blue card either by mail or electronically on email@example.com Registered owners who fail to have on board their ships the relevant certificates may experience delays after the 14th April 2015.
Additionally, in the event that an accident results in a wreck in a Convention area, the Regulations impose an obligation on the operator of any ship involved in the accident, to report the wreck without delay to TM.9 The Regulation is applicable where the ship involved in an accident becomes a wreck and TM determines such wreck to pose a hazard.10 In such case TM would issue a ‘Wreck Removal Notice’ to the registered owner requiring him to remove the wreck constituting a hazard and provide TM with evidence of insurance or other financial security.11 TM may also lay down further conditions in the Notice so as to ensure that such removal proceeds in a manner that is consistent with considerations of safety and protection of the marine environment.12
The Regulations also establish that if a ship has been involved in an accident as aforesaid, any person who incurred costs can bring an action to recover such costs from the ship’s registered owner.13 However an action to recover costs under these Regulations may not be brought after the end of three (3) years beginning with the date on which a wreck removal notice is issued or after the end of six (6) years beginning with the date of the accident which resulted in the wreck, whichever period ends earlier.14
The overall aim of the Convention is to allow the Competent Authorities of State Parties, to have unrestricted rights to remove dangerous wrecks in a Convention area without engagement of the registered ship-owner, and this, to ensure that hazardous wrecks do not endanger other vessels and their crew and the surrounding marine and coastal environments.15
For any queries kindly contact the Ganado Shipping Team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 As per Article 2 of L.N. 83 of 2015, a registered owner means the person or persons registered as the owner of the ship or, in the absence of registration, the person or persons owning the ship at the time of the maritime casualty.
2 As per Article 2 of L.N. 83 of 2015, a Convention area, means the exclusive economic zone of a State Party, established in accordance with international law or, if a State Party has not established such zone, an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea of that State determined by that State in accordance with international law and extending not more than 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of its territorial sea is measured:
Provided that, in respect of Malta, means an area extending twenty-five (25) nautical miles from the baselines from which territorial waters are measured in accordance with the Territorial Waters and Contiguous Zone Act, or any other area as may be determined from time to time by the Minister, in accordance with international law.
4 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 1.
6 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 2.
7 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 8.
8 Transport Malta, ‘Wreck Removal Convention – Merchant Shipping Notice 119’, (17 March 2015) <http://www.transport.gov.mt/admin/uploads/media-library/files/Notice%20119%20-%20Wreck%20Removal% 20Convention.pdf> accessed 18 March 2015.
9 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 3.
10 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 4.
12 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 5.
13 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 6.
14 L.N. 83 of 2015, Regulation 7.