The ‘coordinating’ maritime court surveyor: a practical addition to the possibilities of obtaining maritime evidence!

On 4 April 2019 the project group ‘Setting course for permanent maritime court surveyors’ (Afkoersen of vaste maritieme gerechtsdeskundigen) presented its final report during the Dutch-Belgian Colloquium – Journée Schadee 2019 of the Dutch Transport Law Assocation. In the final report a number of suggestions are made for the expansion of the possibilities of appointing maritime court surveyors within the existing Dutch legal framework, including the ‘coordinating’ maritime court surveyor. 

Recently two of our attorneys (Julian van de Velde and Iris Regtien) applied the suggestions of the project group in practice and successfully obtained permission from the District Court in Rotterdam (the Dutch Maritime Court) to appoint a ‘coordinating’ maritime court surveyor. A maritime surveyor of the Belgian Nautical Commission was appointed as court surveyor. This court surveyor went on board of a vessel arriving in the Netherlands together with the parties’ surveyors and representatives, to collect information regarding the cause of an issue arising during the ocean voyage.

The ‘coordinating’ maritime surveyor was particularly well suited in this case, as our clients’ interest was to collect information and documentation on board of the vessel so they would be able to establish the cause of the issue on the basis of this information and documentation. Our clients were the charterers of the vessel and therefore had limited access to certain information and documentation. Further, the shipowner was not willing to cooperate with the investigation of the charterer’s surveyor. By appointing the ‘coordinating’ maritime court surveyor, our clients were able to obtain the necessary information after all.

The possibilities for using a ‘coordinating’ maritime court surveyor are not limited to cases of collection of evidence on board of a vessel by charterers or cargo interests. On the contrary, we think that this option would also be pre-eminently useful in inter alia collision cases where shipowners and their underwriters (H&M and P&I) have an interest in obtaining information and documentation located on board of the other vessel or vessels that were involved with the collision.

Would you like to learn more regarding the above? Or are you interested in finding out what other possibilities there are to collect evidence in maritime matters in the Netherlands, or perhaps you’re more interested in finding out how this can be prevented? If so, please feel free to contact one of our attorneys.

The Rotterdam District Court informed us as follows. As of January 1st 2016 the Rotterdam District Court will allow certain types of civil cases to be conducted in the English language. The cases that will qualify for this pilot project are those involving maritime law, transport law and international sale of goods.

Smallegange Lawyers are pleased to announce that Julian van de Velde has joined our firm as partner. Julian started his career in January 2007 as P&I Correspondent at Aus Ship P&I in Sydney, Australia. Subsequently, Julian moved to our firm in May 2008 when he started as lawyer. In 2011 Julian became associate.

Recently, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice published a draft bill, which provides for further concentration of the handling of shipping cases. Once this bill is adopted by parliament, court cases on shipping and shipping-related matters will all be handled by the Court of Rotterdam.

In relation to the majority of the cargo that in the past was carried by ship, a Bill of Lading would be issued by the carrier. Therefore, Book 8 of the Dutch Civil Code contains several articles that relate to carriage of goods under a Bill of Lading. However, nowadays in case of the majority of the shipments that concern carriage of goods by ship no Bill of Lading is issued, but instead a Sea Waybill. The question is therefore what the consequences are if goods are carried under a Sea Waybill for the title to sue of the consignee and the relation between the carrier and the consignee. The Court of Rotterdam had to consider this in the recent Court case FRIO HELLENIC, 30 April 2014, S&S 2014, 131. Below we will touch on this question by discussing the judgment of the Court. In that respect we will first briefly touch on the characteristics of a Bill of Lading and Sea Waybill.