The conference was kicked off at 17h00 on Friday, 5 September 2014 with drinks on the lawn of the Arniston hotel, where the panoramic view of the turquoise seas lent itself to whale spotting – look out for photos of the conference which will be posted on the website shortly.

View of the turquoise seas from the Arniston Hotel.

View of the turquoise seas from the Arniston Hotel.

Delegates were warmly welcomed by Gavin Fitzmaurice, Chairman of the MLA Cape Chapter and Malcolm Hartwell, MLA President. Malcolm’s message, which ran as somewhat of a rallying call throughout the conference, is that there is an ever-increasing challenge for the MLA to stay relevant. Various government departments met for six weeks over July / August at the Ocean Lab which forms part of Operation Phakisa (from the Sesotho word meaning “hurry up”). One of the initiatives of Operation Phakisa is a review of ocean-related legislation with a view to fast-tracking the ratification of various conventions, such as the Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention. It is envisaged that tight timeframes will be laid down for this process. There is thus an imperative for the MLA and its subcommittees to approach our tasks with renewed vigour if the views of our membership are to be raised and debated. There is plenty of work to be done, especially at sub-committee level, and members are urged to consider volunteering their services.

On a lighter note, Captain Alan Reid gave the keynote address on Friday night and regaled us with stories and confessions relating to his 28 years at P and I Associates.

On Saturday, 6 September 2014, delegates enjoyed the following thought-provoking talks and panel discussions – some of the power point presentations will be posted on the website shortly:

Harmen Hoek of Hoek Advocatuur, Rotterdam talked to us about the Rotterdam Guarantee form, which is essentially the South African equivalent of a standardised letter of undertaking to secure the release of an arrested vessel. Harmen explained that the standard form guarantee greatly expedites the negotiation of security and release of the vessel and challenged the MLASA to consider adopting a similar approach.

Ian MacLean of Hill Dickinson, London addressed us on the topic of “Recovery and Interpretation of a vessel’s electronic data” and gave us helpful hints as to how to most effectively recover electronic information in a casualty and use the information to get the best out of the witnesses.

The panellists in the panel discussion on the Nairobi Convention were Peter Edwards, Gavin Fitzmaurice, Shane Dwyer and Andrew Pike. The debate was top class especially because the best interests of stakeholders such as SAMSA and the TNPA were considered. Shane Dwyer persuasively argued that there was little point in tinkering with the convention as based on his enquiries, the P&I clubs would only be willing to provide wreck insurance on the terms of the convention.

There was also lively debate at the workshop on AJRA amendments. Highlights included Gys Hofmeyr’s proposed amendment to section 6 that gives the courts an express discretion to develop the law (with due regard to the provisions of the AJRA, the Admiralty Rules, the origins and development of admiralty law in the Republic) to prevent admiralty law from being frozen as at 1983, and the helpful comments made by Honourable Mr Justice MJD Wallis JA about adding the Constitution to the above list.

Captain Nicholas Sloane of Sloane Marine Ltd addressed us on achieving the impossible and refloating the “Costa Concordia”. He described the mind-bending scale of the world’s largest and most expensive salvage operation and gave an overview of the process. The talk received a standing ovation and there was a feeling of great pride in the accomplishments of our own.

The gala dinner in honour of the Honourable Mr Justice MJD Wallis JA on Saturday evening was a memorable and heart-warming occasion. Both Michael Wragge SC and Andrew Robinson spoke not of Judge Wallis’s renowned wit and dazzling accomplishments as counsel, judge, author and thought–leader in the field of maritime law, but they both emphasized that Judge Wallis is  foremost a gentleman and a loving husband and father. The MLA was indeed honoured by Judge Wallis’s graceful acceptance of the tribute, who remarked that Michael and Andrew had succeeded in embarrassing him, which of course is often a side effect of such tributes.

On Sunday morning Michelle Linderman of Ince & Co, London gave us a Sanctions update, with particular focus on interesting developments in Ukraine.

The conference closed with the Annual General Meeting of the Maritime Law Association. One of the decisions taken is that the practice of automatically excluding past presidents from executive committee is no longer desirable. As such, Malcolm Hartwell kindly made himself available to serve as Vice President. We congratulate Patrick Holloway on his new position as President and look forward to his term.

The executive committee for the year ahead is:

President: Patrick Holloway (Cape Town), Vice President: Malcolm Hartwell (Durban), Secretary: Edmund Greiner (Cape Town), Treasurer: Colin Shaw (Durban), with general Exco committee members being: Gavin Fitzmaurice (Cape Town), Peter Edwards (Cape Town), Norma Wheeler (Durban), Stephen Mullins SC (Durban), Patrick Vrancken (Port Elizabeth); Lerato Maboea (Cape Town).

We are particularly excited to welcome Patrick and Lerato, who are serving their first term on exco.

We are once again most grateful to Gavin Fitzmaurice and the Cape Chapter for organising yet another splendid conference.