GENEVA CONVENTION OF 1999 SHIPS SEIZURE
SUMMARY: 1. The case 2. Introduction – 3. The scope of the 1999 Geneva Convention
1. – A Chinese customer requests urgent protection, he has chartered a vessel (transporting
petrochemicals) flying the Hong Kong flag.
Once the transport was completed, neither the remainder of the expenditure for the galley (bunker), nor
the spare parts (total of the credit requested in return, 350,000.00 euros) was returned to the customer.
We have discovered through the AIS system that the ship was sailing in Italian waters, near Genoa, which thus becomes the Court competent for the seizure, seizure which is notifed
by the Coast Guard, Port Authority. The activity is aimed at inducing the debtor to quickly pay
the total amount or most of it in order not to have the ship seized for a long period.
2. – The seizure of a ship is mainly an instrument of the creditor who often remains without enforceable
title and is forced to use this measure to ensure the realization of his credit by preventing the debtor from carrying out dispositions capable of reducing the consistency of his own heritage. In maritime credits, reference is often made to preventing the departure of the debtor’s ship which remains stranded at the port
3. – The first international text which led to the unification of the rules on the institution of the precautionary attachment of seagoing vessels was the Brussels Convention of 1952 drawn up on the
initiative of the Comité Maritime International. The Brussels Convention, following the Anglo-Saxon model, allows the ship to be attached only for certain maritime credits and on the condition that they are strictly connected with the seized ship and also burden the ship owner both at the time the credit is born and at the time when the seizure is carried out. Exceptionally and with limitations, the seizure of the “sister ship” is also permitted, as well as the ship that has been transferred to a third party during the seizure.
The new Convention adopted on March 12, 1999 on the attachment of ships, entered into force on September 14, 2011. However, to date the majority of States with significant shipping traffic have remained in the application of the provisions of the 1952 Convention.
The new Convention contains provisions which sanction the scope of application in a far more extensive
way than what was established by the provision of art. 2 of the 1952 Convention. Precisely, according to
the provisions of articles 2 §1 and 8 §1 of the new Convention, the court of a Contracting State
may order the seizure of a ship or the revocation of the same regardless of whether
the ship belonged to a Contracting State or not.
The conservative seizure is ordered even if in the clause having jurisdiction or in the arbitration clause it
had been agreed otherwise, i.e. that the claim would be brought before the Court of a State other than the
one where the seizure was carried out and would be decided according to the rules of that State (art. 2
§3). The 1999 Geneva Convention contains an extensive list of definitions and terms used, with all the
necessary additions to the 1952 Convention. In addition to the term ‘detention’, the new Convention also
refers to the ‘restriction on removal’ to offer solutions to legislations that do not provide for the detention
of ships in their rules and to also include the development that took place in Anglo-Saxon law with the “
Mareva Injunction” “Freezing Orders” of the Civil Procedure Rules 1999 19.
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