The Malta Maritime Forum has come out in wholehearted agreement with a proposal for the establishment of a dedicated maritime court, calling it a “crucial requirement” when considering Malta’s position as a maritime centre of significant importance.
The Forum was reacting to a suggestion made by retiring Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon during his parting speech, where he said that the commercial section of the Law Courts ought to become strengthened with the allocation of additional judges and extended to have a dedicated maritime section, amongst other areas.
The Malta Maritime Forum (MMF) said that it considers the local maritime sector “fortunate to be served with very competent and dedicated judges”.
“Nevertheless,” it said, “such is the volume and complexity involving maritime legal cases that the situation calls for at least two dedicated judges to hear cases concerning a myriad of issues which sooner or later could find themselves before a Maltese Court.”
It continued, “In light of the fact that Malta is a maritime centre of significant importance on a global scale representing every niche of the maritime sector forming intrinsic links in the chain of international trade, cases decided by the Maltese Courts have multiple international interests and every maritime case decided in Malta is invariably studied and analysed by numerous international maritime interests.”
The MMF described the call made by Mr Justice Zammit McKeon as complementary to the country’s role and aspirations to continue to serve the region and beyond as a centre of excellence in the maritime field.
“In fact,” it said, “in light of the expense and breath of maritime cases, the increasing specialisation in international maritime law and the expectations of the industry, a dedicated maritime court is indeed a crucial requirement.“
It also said that the existence of several lawyers holding a Masters degree in Maritime Law, some of whom are already magistrates or judges, “bodes well in terms of the local availability of specialised legal experts to work in a specialised maritime court across all levels”.
Maritime cases include those involving carriage of goods, vessel registration, marine insurance, mortgages, judicial sales by auctions, court approved private sales, ship agency, pilotage, ship repair, salvage operations, towage operations, crew employment disputes, collisions or containerisation, apart from arrests, the putting up of security to release from such arrests and other security measures.
The MMF said that such cases are commonplace and are becoming increasingly more technical with the ever-intensifying sophistication in international maritime law.
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