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 Convention enters into force internationally on the 14th of April 2015.
The Nairobi Convention is the first to establish a set of uniform international rules which ensure prompt and effective removal of wrecks. The Convention imposes an obligation on ship-owners that operate vessels flagged with States that are parties to the Convention or whose vessels enter ports of any of the said countries to insure against their vessels becoming wrecks. Upon entry into force, Maltese ships of 300 gross tonnage or more, will be required to have certification on board to serve as evidence that insurance is in place to cater for wreck removal. Apart from applying the Nairobi Convention to Malta flagged vessels, Malta has declared that it will also apply this Convention to wrecks located within its territory, including the territorial sea regardless of flag.
The Legal Notice (‘the L.N.’) transposing the Nairobi Convention into Maltese law has been drafted and is expected to come into force in the very near future. Once the L.N. is published, the ‘Wreck Removal Certificates’ will start to be issued by Transport Malta (TM) with an effective date, however, that will post date the L.N., namely the 14th April 2015. Wreck Removal Certificates will start to be issued by TM to ship owners of Maltese flagged vessels
who take the necessary steps to fulfill their obligations under the L.N. before the 14th April 2015. Owners fulfill their obligations, inter alia, by submitting proof that insurance 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). TM is inviting owners to start submitting the said blue card even at this very early stage, even though the L.N. has not yet been made law.
It is essential that 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 the Malta Flag Administration to enable the relative Wreck Removal Certificate issued by the Flag Administration in terms of the Convention to be released and placed on board the ship by the 14th April 2015.
So far 16 States have ratified the Convention, and these include: Antigua & Barbuda; Bulgaria; Congo; Cook Islands; Denmark; Germany; India; Iran; Liberia; Malaysia; Malta; Marshall Islands; Morocco; Nigeria; Palau; United Kingdom. While several countries, including Norway are expected to ratify the Conventions, notably, large flags such as Panama have not yet ratified the Convention.
Any ship, even if flagged with a non-contracting State, entering ports or the territorial waters, as the case may be, of any contracting State to the Convention that has opted to apply the Convention, within its territorial seas (such as Malta), must necessarily have on board a Wreck Removal Certificate, regardless of the fact that the respective vessel is flagged with a State not a party to the Convention. Ship owners flagged with non-contracting States who require Wreck Removal Certificates because they operate their vessels in such territorial seas or ports, may apply to the Malta Flag Administration for the latter to issue them with the Wreck Removal Certificates after they submit the relative blue card to the satisfaction of the Flag Administration. Malta has indicated its willingness to issue Wreck Removal Certificates to such owners.
Dr Jotham Scerri Diacono, Partner at GANADO Advocates
& Ms Rachel Genovese