COMITE MARITIME INTERNATIONAL MEETS IN VANCOUVER
Westcoast Mariner July 2004
During the first week of June of this year, Vancouver was proud to host the 38th conference of the Comite Maritime International (the “CMI”). The importance of this occasion was signified by the attendance of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada as its keynote speaker, along with appearances by both the chief justice of the Federal Court and the chief justice of the Federal Court of Appeal. The conference was attended by 400 people coming from 44 different countries.
CMI was founded in 1897 for the purpose of promoting the establishment of
national associations of maritime law and to insure a structured relationship
between such organizations. These
national organizations were to be composed of not only lawyers, but also of
commercial and insurance interests. The purpose of these organizations was the
promotion of uniformity of maritime law, with the first project being the
international codification of the law relating to collisions at sea.
To its credit, the CMI was successful in having its collision and salvage
conventions adopted in 1910 along with a good many others throughout the years
including conventions concerning the carriage of goods by sea, maritime liens
& mortgages and limitation of liability.
In more recent years, the United Nations has taken the lead in organizing
many of the international conferences through such organizations as the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) (concerned with
primarily with safety and pollution), the United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (“UNCITRAL”) and the United Nations Commission on International
Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”). However, despite these initiatives by these United
Nations organizations, the CMI still responds to requests for input from these
organizations and has prepared draft preliminary texts for a number of
conventions including the 1994 International Convention on Maritime Liens and
Mortgages and the draft International Convention Relating to the Arrest of Sea-Going Ships.
Canada’s representative to the CMI is the Canadian Maritime Law
Association (“CMLA”). Like the CMI, the CMLA is composed of not only
lawyers, but also representatives from shipping companies, insurers, banks,
labour organizations for ships officers, and terminal operators.
As the Canadian representative to the CMI, the CMLA hosted the Vancouver
conference. The topics considered
at the Vancouver Conference included modernization of the law respecting the
carriage of goods by sea, general average (the
monetary contribution required of ship owners and cargo in respect of
expenditures incurred by the ship owner to preserve from peril the property
involved in a common maritime adventure), places of refuge for ships in distress, pollution of the marine
environment, marine insurance and criminal acts on the high seas. As a member of
the CMLA insurance committee, I had the privilege of attending the conference
and participating in the development of Canada’s position on insurance related
Accomplishments of the conference included a new updated version of the rules of general average (Yorke
Antwerp Rules, 2004) which
parties can incorporate by reference into their contracts of carriage along with
the creation of a draft instrument for the amendment of the rules regarding the
carriage of goods by sea to be placed before UNCITRAL at its next meeting. Further details will soon be available on the internet at www.comitemaritime.org.
Brad Caldwell is a Vancouver based lawyer and former fisherman and towboat worker whose practice is primarily devoted to fisheries, maritime and insurance matters.