C&A Friedlander Attorneys

In its 120 years of practice, C&A Friedlander Inc. (previously C&A Friedlander) has covered many facets of commercial law as well as personal law.

One of the most complex and fascinating, and one intertwined with the history of the firm, is Maritime Law.

For those unfamiliar with the twists and turns of the developments of law in South Africa, you will be surprised to know that Maritime Law (which for the sake of simplicity you can regard as virtually anything to do with ships and vessels, from insurance of vessels and cargo, ship building, ship chandling, crew and Master contracts and renumeration, attachment of vessels and sister ships for debt and anything and everything else do with the building and operation of vessels) is regulated not by conventional South African Law but by the provisions of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder.

A great tradition in earlier years was that every annual office party would, for the junior Maritime Lawyers, be spoilt by an emergency telex message (yes, you heard correctly!) requiring the immediate arrest of a ship about to dock into, or leave, Cape Town harbour.

The scrabble to get a Judge out of his dining mode, issue urgent Maritime arrest papers and get the Sheriff flying down to the harbour, was exciting but not necessarily fun!

One of the strange anomalies of Maritime Law is that the wording and legal structures are an exact copy of the British Maritime Law as existed in previous centuries, and the documents to arrest the vessel had to be served, in terms of that law, by the Sheriff nailing a copy to the mast of the vessel concerned.

You can imagine the head scratching that took place when the vessel was already halfway out of the harbour and a helicopter had to be chartered to take the Sheriff onto the vessel, only to find that the vessel had no wooden mast at all, but only iron super structure!

Another interesting aspect is that Prescription Law in certain instances has to be applied according to English principles, which place procedure before substance and not South African Law, with the result that claims sometimes prescribe not within three years, as per South African Law, but not until the passage of six years!  There are many other procedural and other difficulties which make it interesting, stimulating and sometimes very exciting, as you can imagine.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Mike Cameron-Dow
C & A Friedlander Inc.- Company & Commercial Law

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