Times of Malta, Thursday, April 17, 2014. By Ann Fenech
The Malta Maritime Law Association is 20 this year. It was set up to provide a forum for lawyers who specialised in maritime law or who were interested in maritime law.
With the maritime sector picking up substantial momentum and in the knowledge that any industry is as successful as the robustness of its laws regulating the sector, a further focus for the association was to provide the platform from where legal maritime specialists could work hand in glove with the regulator and the lawmakers to ensure that our laws provide for the requirements of the international maritime industry of which Malta has become a key player.
Malta’s geographic position is really its foundation stone of its maritime vocation which has developed and transformed, reflecting the exigencies of the day from a place of refuge to trading post to important ship repair haven – all additional pillars supporting what has become a truly diversified maritime industry. And if we one were to dwell over what maritime activities we can boast of today, it is really simple to understand why we are truly a maritime nation.
Modern state-of-the-art transhipment facilities, oil storage, bunkering, ship repair, yacht repair, yacht marinas, worldclass sailing events, towage, pilotage, ship agencies, husbanding, offshore supply services and, of course, a flourishing shipping register – now the largest in Europe – give us the credentials to call ourselves a maritime nation of international repute. None of this would have occurred if we did not have a robust legal framework to devise, handle and maintain this development.
The very aim of the association is to provide the space for maritime specialists to meet and to discuss laws, cases, new developments, strategy, always with the aim of either coming up with new ideas or fine-tuning and amending what we have. Originally membership of the association was limited to lawyers.
However, as any maritime lawyer will state, the daily activities of a maritime lawyer are certainly not limited to the law. Because of the nature of the beast, our work is intrinsically linked to numerous technical issues which invariably attach to most shipping cases and projects. As a result, it was decided five years ago to open our membership to other professionals whose professions are also part of the maritime sector.
Today our membership consists of lawyers interested in maritime law as well as terminal operators, tug operators, naval architects, engineers, ship agents and ship owners and a host of other interested parties Today our membership consists of lawyers interested in maritime law as well as terminal operators, tug operators, naval architects, engineers, ship agents and ship owners and a host of other interested parties. This has enriched our association tremendously.
The association also sits together with Transport Malta, the Ministry of Transport and the Attorney General’s office on the Malta Legislative Advisory Council and the very aim of that council is to ensure that all those who should be involved in a discussion related to the development or amendment of any laws or national strategy affecting the maritime industry are singing off the same hymn sheet.
In addition, the Malta Maritime Law Association is a full member of the Comité Maritime International (CMI). The CMI is an international body established in 1897 with consultative status at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Its members are the national maritime law associations and it is administered by an executive council. It is CMI which drafted the Arrest Conventions of 1952 and 1999, the Salvage Convention 1989 and the Limitation of Liability Conventions of 1957 and 1976 to mention but a few.
Our membership of this prestigious international maritime body enables the association to participate fully in the activities of CMI. These include assemblies and conferences and contribution to the several questionnaires which CMI distributes regularly as part of its work on either the fine-tuning of existing conventions or the introduction of new ones. It is truly a privilege to form part of such an august and highly respected international body.
An important function of the MMLA is the organisation of top-quality seminars which are a perfect opportunity for the legal and technical bodies to come together and share experiences. Over the past five years these have included a joint seminar with the International Salvage Union in 2009, a seminar on the Rotterdam Rules in 2010, a seminar on the Commercial Yacht Code in 2011, a seminar on the Maritime Labour Convention in 2012, and a seminar in celebration of European Maritime Day in 2013.
To celebrate our 20th anniversary, MMLA will be joining forces with the European Maritime Law Organisation (EMLO) and will be organising a joint spring seminar at the Chamber of Commerce on May 8. This will be a perfect opportunity to listen to experts in the field of European developments, sanctions, stowaways and illegal immigrants, state aid, limitation of liability and other subjects.
We are honoured that the the Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, chairman of the European Maritime Law Organisation, will be with us for this event. Profound thanks go to our main sponsors – Transport Malta and Tug Malta Ltd.
Ann Fenech is the president of the Malta Maritime Law Association.