The Arrest of ships in German and South African law.
Schlichting, Mathias Peter.
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This thesis compares the arrest-of-ship proceedings of the Republic of South Africa and the Federal Republic of Germany. In German law the more than a century old provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (as amended) are applicable, in South Africa the major statute is the Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act of 1 November 1983. South Africa has special Admiralty Courts having jurisdiction in arrest matters. When issuing the arrest in Germany, jurisdiction is vested in the court dealing with the principal matters, as well as in the Magistrate Court (Amtsgericht) in which district the property (such as the ship which is to be arrested) is located. Both German and South African law provide that a creditor who wishes to arrest a ship must have a "claim for an arrest." In South African law such a claim is called a "maritime claim." South African admiralty law contains some special and even unique provisions such as those regarding the arrest of an "associated ship." These provisions attempt to defeat the strategy against sister-ship-arrests and enable the courts to arrest ships owned by the person who was the owner of the ship concerned at the time the maritime claim arose. The court can also arrest a ship owned by a company in which the shares were controlled or owned by a person who then controlled or owned the shares in the company which owned the ship concerned. Ships will be deemed to be owned by the same Persons if all the shares in the ship are owned by the same persons. A person furthermore will be deemed to control a company if he has the power to control the company directly or indirectly. Deviating from common law principles which require the physical presence of the property to be arrested, the South African courts can order anticipated arrests of a ship not yet within the area of jurisdiction of the court at the time of application. Such an order may be brought into effect when the property (in this case, the ship) comes within the area of jurisdiction of the court. The same principle is applicable in German law and does not contravene para 482 HGB because this provision only prohibits placing a ship under distraint and not the order for an arrest. In German law an action in personam is only directed against a person whereas in south African law a res, eg a ship or her bunkers, is the object of the admiralty action in personam. The Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act of 1983 attempts at uniformity with international law as it is based on several existing laws and international conventions, for example the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to Arrest of Seagoing Ships of 1952. Unlike Germany, South Africa is not, however, a signatory to the International Arrest Convention of 1952. When applying German law, it has to be noted that Germany has ratified the Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in CiviI and Commercial Matters of 1968 (the EEC-Convention) - this is particularly so when trying to enforce the arrest of ships. Regulations Concerning the limitation of liability in South Africa can be found in ss 261 to 263 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1951. In German law limitation of liability is codified in paras 486 to 487e of the Commercial Code (HGB) with reference to the International Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims of 1976 (the 1976 Convention). This thesis shows that in certain fields South African and German provisions do not deviate or are at least substantially similar. This fact makes the application of both laws easier for litigants and lawyers, either for South Africans in Germany or Germans in South Africa.