Organisation of the Federal Court's Admiralty & Maritime Jurisdiction Nationally
Organisation of the Federal Court's Admiralty Jurisdiction Nationally
- Admiralty and maritime matters
- In personam proceedings and Registry Convening Judges
- In rem proceedings
- Assisted or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
- Ad hoc retained expertise and ADR
- Court annexed arbitration
- Conduct of cargo claims
- The Admiralty Marshal
- Availability of Marshals of the Federal Court of Australia
- Memoranda of Understanding
The Admiralty and maritime work of the Court National Arrangements has been organized nationally since the original terms of the Notice to Practitioners issued by the Chief Justice on the 5 August 2005. The current status of arrangements for Admiralty and maritime work of the Court are provided below. The various Notices to Practitioners issued by the Chief Justice can be found at the News section.
Admiralty and maritime matters
The Admiralty and maritime work of the Court is not limited to proceedings under the Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth). It includes any matter or proceeding under or by reference to any of the following Acts and Regulations:
- Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth) and Admiralty Rules
- Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Export Control Act 1982 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims Act 1989 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Marine Insurance Act 1909 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Navigation Act 2012 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability) Act 1981 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Imposition of Contributions to Oil Pollution Compensation Fund Customs) Act 1993 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Imposition of Contributions to Oil Pollution Compensation Fund Excise) Act 1993 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Imposition of Contributions to Oil Pollution Compensation Fund General) Act 1993 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Oil Pollution Compensation Fund) Act 1993 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Powers of Intervention) Act 1981 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Shipping Levy) Act 1981 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Protection of the Sea (Shipping Levy Collection) Act 1981 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Sea Installations Act 1987 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Shipping Grants Legislation Act 1996 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Shipping Registration Act 1981 (Cth) and regulations thereunder
- Ships (Capital Grants) 1987 (Cth) and regulations thereunder.
Causes of action under any such legislation and administrative or other proceedings brought in connection with that legislation are Admiralty and maritime matters. These include applications under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth), appeals from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and applications under s 39B(1) or s 39B(1A) of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth). Any proceeding that raises issues under these Acts or Regulations is an Admiralty or maritime matter.
The attention of practitioners is drawn to the general conferral of civil jurisdiction upon the Court in all matters arising under a law of the Commonwealth Parliament: see Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth), s 39B(1A)(c); Allsop J, ‘Federal Jurisdiction and the Jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Australia in 2002’ (2002) 23 Aust Bar Rev 29); Rares J, ‘Australia’s Sea Change: Towards Developing a Comprehensive System of Admiralty and Maritime Dispute Resolution for Twenty-First Century Trade in the Asia-Pacific Region’ (2008) 30 Aust Bar Rev 243. For instance, a marine insurance dispute involving an issue under the Marine Insurance Act 1909 (Cth) could be brought in the Federal Court as a matter arising under a law of the Parliament and would be dealt with under these arrangements.
In personam proceedings and Registry Convening Judges
The Registry Convening Judges attempt to harmonise procedure in in personam actions in the same way as in rem actions are dealt with consistently by the Court nationally.
The Registry Convening Judge in each Registry acts as an Admiralty and Maritime Procedure Judge. Until the proceeding is allocated for hearing, all interlocutory and procedural matters are dealt with by the Procedure Judge. All directions hearings and interlocutory issues and hearings involved in bringing matters on for trial are dealt with by the Procedure Judge. At the appropriate time in the preparation and conduct of any matter, it will be allocated a date for hearing before one of the Admiralty and maritime Judges in that Registry through the allocation system that underpins the docket system used by the Court.
Urgent Admiralty or maritime applications should be made to the Procedure Judge or, if he or she is unavailable, to another Admiralty and Maritime Judge in the Registry. This arrangement is not intended to change the procedure under the Admiralty Rules as to applications for arrest that are made to the Registrar. For urgent applications outside business hours, practitioners may contact the relevant Registry using the after hours telephone number listed on the Court website under “Contact the Court”.
In rem proceedings
These arrangements make no substantive change to existing in rem procedure. Applications for arrest are made under the Admiralty Rules to the District Registrar. If, however, an application is required to be made to a Judge, parties should first approach the Procedure Judge through his or her associate. If the Procedure Judge is not available any other Admiralty and Maritime Judge in the Registry should be approached.
The Marshals of the Court are available to arrest a vessel anywhere in Australia at any time on any day of the year.
The Court has its own Marshals in every State and Territory and suitably qualified staff from relevant agencies (usually the Sheriff's Office or local police) around Australia have also been appointed as Federal Court Marshals. Additional Marshals are based in regional and remote parts of Australia.
Arrangements are also in place in each Registry for the urgent appointment of a Marshal. A Marshal may be appointed, for example, when there is insufficient time for a Registry-based Marshal to reach the vessel before it leaves the jurisdiction or when the cost of sending a Registry-based Marshal to the vessel is excessive. Such appointments are strictly supervised by the principal Marshal in the relevant Registry of the Court.
The Marshals have maritime skill and experience or have persons with that skill and experience readily available to them.
Applications to arrest vessels or applications in respect of arrests may be made at any time and the Court is available at all times to deal with such applications. After hours telephone numbers are listed on the Court website under "Contact the Court". There is no poundage in the Federal Court. It was abolished in the Federal Court in 2004.
The approach of the Court to the Marshal’s costs is to restrict the costs charged to the parties to the direct third party costs involved in the arrest, other than in exceptional cases where the amount of work necessitates the provision of additional staff.
Assisted or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Section 53A of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) provides for Court-ordered mediation and arbitration (the latter only with consent). Immunity is conferred on the mediator or arbitrator by s 53C. The parties are expected to discuss the utility of any such ADR mechanism in their case. The Court has Registry officers who are knowledgeable in maritime matters and cargo claims and who are nationally accredited mediators. Early mediation or early neutral evaluation by a Registrar or a third party will be encouraged and sometimes ordered. Mediation can also be used to help identify and reduce issues and dispute, or to eliminate procedural arguments, as well as for the purposes of resolving the whole matter.
It is expected that parties will always seek an early resolution of matters and that they will consider Court annexed mediation or early neutral evaluation. This is especially so for the resolution of small claims in a speedy and inexpensive manner.
In appropriate cases, particularly in small claims, directions will be made on the first return date, or shortly thereafter, for a case management conference to be held before the Registry Convening Judge or Registrar as soon as possible. At this conference the Judge or Registrar will seek to identify whether the matter is appropriate for an early mediation (perhaps undertaken on the basis of the parties’ instructions, as opposed to statements), what issues are involved and the most timely and efficient method of disposing of the matter.
As well as its Registrars, the Court has other staff with skills and expertise in maritime matters, some of whom are Marshals. These members of the Court staff are available as required in any Registry to conduct or assist in the conduct of mediations carried out by Registrars. By way of example, Registry staff include persons who have expertise in cargo claim handling, loss adjusting and navigation.
Ad Hoc retained expertise and ADR
In appropriate cases the Court is prepared to make available outside persons with relevant skills retained by the Court on an ad hoc basis. They would assist in the resolution of matters using mediation or early neutral evaluation. The engagement of such persons would generally be through the offices of professional or industry associations.
Court annexed arbitration
The Court also has power to refer matters (by consent) to arbitration under s 53A of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth). If parties desire a Registrar to act as an arbitrator, this can be arranged. Speedy procedures akin to those of the London Maritime Arbitration Association Small Claims Procedures can be used. This may be particularly suitable in small cargo claims. If this course were taken, parties could agree to deal with the matter on the papers, or with minimal oral evidence, waiving rules of evidence. If a Registrar acts as arbitrator, fees (hearing and room) are not incurred. Sections 53AA and 53AB provide for referral of questions of law and review on a question of law to the Court. By this mechanism appeals on factual questions can be eliminated.
Conduct of cargo claims
The Court expects practitioners to approach the resolution of cargo claims in the manner most conducive to a speedy and cost-efficient resolution, and where possible, to avoid disputes about pleadings and the provision of information.
Once a cargo claim proceeding has been commenced, the Court expects the parties to consider actively what steps (including the making of offers) have been, or should be, taken to settle or mediate the matter. The Court may order parties to mediate or attend a case management conference before a Registrar to explore ADR possibilities and/or the narrowing of issues.
The Court expects the parties to address at least the following matters with the aim of defining or eliminating issues:
1. The identification of the relevant bill of lading or sea carriage document (the SCD) or other transport document.
2. The identity of the carrier, or carriers, contractual and actual, and the nature of any dispute about that.
3. If the party said to be the actual carrier is different from the contractual carrier, the terms under which the actual carriage is said to have been performed.
4. If the goods were containerised, whether the container was packed or stuffed by or on behalf of the shipper or other cargo interest or by or on behalf of the carrier.
5. The description of the goods in the SCD or other transport document
6. The legal regime said to govern the carriage: which national law and through it, or otherwise, which convention or regime applies: Hague Rules (HR) or Hague-Visby Rules (H-VR) or Australian Amended Hague-Visby Rules (AAH-VR) or Hamburg Rules (Ham R) or other variant.
7. Whether any limitation of liability or time bar argument arises or may arise by reference to such provisions as Article 4 rule 5 of the HR, H-VR, Ham R or AAH-VR or other variant.
8. The causes of action relied upon against each defendant.
9. Provision of proper particulars of:
(a) any claims (e.g. failure to comply with Art III r 1 by exercising due diligence to make the ship seaworthy);
(b) any defences.
10. If title to sue is in issue, the facts said to give rise to the title to sue under the relevant Sea-Carriage Documents Act or otherwise.
11. The nature of the damage and the detailed breakdown of the claim.
If, after the parties have had due opportunity to consider all relevant issues and after the close of pleadings, it appears that the matter is likely to proceed to trial, the parties are expected to consult and co-operate in the production of a document entitled “Agreed Statement for Court” which sets out:
1. Relevant matters not in dispute which can form the basis of an agreed statement of facts to be tendered at the trial.
2. Matters in dispute and the basis for the dispute.
3. Whether the plaintiff or defendant will or may:
(a) ask the Court to have resort to s 190(3) of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth) to waive the rules of evidence in respect of issues not genuinely in dispute or in respect of issues where the application of the provisions referred to in s 190(1) of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth) would cause or involve unnecessary expense or delay;
(b) seek summary judgment or disposal under s 31A of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) or otherwise.
4. A skeleton description of the general nature of the evidence to be led in the proceeding, identifying lay and expert evidence and what issues are to be proved by such evidence.
5. Any need for video-link evidence and any restriction upon, or protocols concerning, the giving of evidence by video-link in the country from which the witness would give evidence.
6. The position taken by the parties as to referral of the dispute to mediation or arbitration before a Judge or Registrar or a person of the parties’ choosing.
To the extent that there are multiple defendants and cross-claims the Court will expect the parties to prepare documents referable to the position of each party.
The Admiralty Marshal
The Marshals of the Court are appointed by the Registrar under the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth).
The functions and obligations of the Marshal are set out in the Admiralty Rules. They include:
- serving initiating process and executing arrest warrants;
- taking all appropriate steps to retain
safe custody of, and to preserve, a ship or property under arrest,
- removing from the ship, or storing, cargo that is under arrest;
- removing cargo from a ship that is under arrest and storing it;
- removing, storing or disposing of perishable goods that are under arrest or are in a ship that is under arrest; and
- moving the ship that is under arrest.
- arranging for the release of a ship or property pursuant to an order by the Court or a registrar;
- arranging for the valuation and sale of a ship or property pursuant to an order by the Court;
- filing a return of sale, and an account of sale and documents in support of the account for taxation;
- paying the proceeds of the sale of a ship or property into the Court;
- filing copies of notices concerning an application for a determination of the order of priority of claims against the ship or property, or the proceeds of the sale such ship or property.
The Marshal may also carry out other functions, as directed by the Court, with respect to the custody of a ship or property under arrest.
In 2005, the Court's Public Information Unit produced a video entitled 'The Role of the Admiralty Marshal in the Federal Court of Australia'. A transcript of the video is also available.
Availability of Marshals of the Federal Court of Australia
The Marshals of the Court are able to arrest a vessel anywhere in Australia on any day of the year.
The Court has Marshals in every State and Territory. In addition to the Marshals based in each registry of the Court, suitably qualified staff from relevant agencies (usually the Sheriff's Office or local police) in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have been appointed as Federal Court Marshals. Many of these Marshals are based in regional and remote parts of Australia.
In addition to these ongoing appointments, there are arrangements in each registry for the urgent appointment of Marshals where necessary. A Marshal may be appointed, for example, where there is insufficient time for a registry-based Marshal to reach the vessel before it leaves the jurisdiction or where the cost of sending a registry-based Marshal to the vessel is excessive. Such appointments are strictly supervised by the Marshal in the relevant registry of the Court.
Memoranda of Understanding
The Federal Court of Australia continues to clarify relations with key maritime organizations. Memoranda of understanding assists the Court and the Admiralty Marshals to deliver the necessary operations when exercising functions of legislation, administrative or other proceedings brought in connection with that legislation that are Admiralty and maritime matters functions. The Court has memoranda of understanding with:
- Australian Maritime Safety Authority ("AMSA") – 14 August 2004; and
- Ports Australia - revised 1 December 2015.