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April 01, 2004.

Parliament of Montenegro enacts the Law on Ratification of the 2007 Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention

Credits: Vasilis Tsikkinis photos//Getty Images

On its session on 7 March 2024, the Parliament of Montenegro enacted a Law on Ratification of Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 (the “Convention” or „WRC“), which was subsequently published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro of 12th March 2024.

To read more about the preceding Government proposal and general aspects of the WRC, click here to have a look at our article from December 2022.  

The following step is depositing the accession instrument to the IMO Secretary General, three months after which the Convention shall enter into force for Montenegro.

As already announced, Montenegro will take advantage of the opt-in clause prescribed under Article 3(2) of the WRC and extend the application of the Convention to wrecks located within its territorial sea and internal waters. This will take effect for Montenegro immediately upon entry into force of the Convention in accordance with the above.

Montenegro's ratification of the Nairobi Convention marks a significant step forward in the nation's commitment to maritime safety and environmental protection. This pivotal move will usher in a new era of implementation, aligning national laws and regulations with the Convention's robust framework.

Since WRC sets out the legal basis for states to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks that may have the potential to adversely affect the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, as well as the marine environment. Montenegro's ratification signifies its dedication to upholding these international standards.

As a result, we can anticipate a series of legislative amendments and new regulations that will integrate the Convention's provisions into Montenegrin law.

For example, in its national laws Montenegro shall impose a duty of the master and the operator of a ship flying its flag to report without delay when such ship has been involved in a maritime casualty resulting in a wreck, in accordance with the Convention.

If affected by the wreck, Montenegro shall use all practicable means to warn mariners and the states concerned of the nature and location of the wreck as a matter of urgency. This of course requires detailed protocols to be adopted and subsequently followed by the authorities. The same goes for marking of the wreck.

Furthermore, following the WRC, every ship of 300 gross tonnage and above, wherever registered, entering or leaving the Montenegrin port, or arriving at or leaving from the offshore facility in the Montenegrin territorial waters, shall have a valid Wreck Removal Certificate, i.e. the document attesting that insurance or other financial security to cover liability under WRC is in force. The same requirement shall be imposed for the ships flying the Montenegrin flag as well.

This obligation will come in addition to the existing requirement of Article 33 of the Law on Safety of Maritime Navigation which has by now covered, inter alia, the security for clams related to the wreck removal. That means that after WRC enters into force for Montenegro, no ship shall enter Montenegrin ports without carrying both certificates – the Wreck Removal Certificate and the general P&I certificate for other maritime claims.

As a general rule, the registered owner of the wreck shall be liable for the costs of locating, marking and removing the wreck. However, being the State Party to the WRC, Montenegro would be entitled to bring a direct action against the insurer or other person providing financial security, which would significantly increase the chances for obtaining compensation for the said costs.

Nevertheless, this conventional right shall be implemented at the national level in a way to precisely determine which Montenegrin authority shall be entitled to institute a civil action against the registered owner of the wreck or its insurer – for example, would it be the Maritime Safety Administration or the Protector of State Property and Right Interests.

Apart from enacting a detailed protocols for wreck reporting, locating, marking and removal, a precise division of duties and competencies at the national level is of utmost importance. The practice has shown that wrecks found within the Montenegrin territories often cause conflict of jurisdictions between diferrent maritime, environmental and port authorities, which usually does not help in dealing with wrecks.

As per Article 4 of the Law on Ratification of the WRC, the state administration body responsible for maritime affairs shall be responsible for the implementation of this Convention. In other words, it could be expected that the Administration for Maritime Safety will take over all the obligations imposed by the Convention, however, it should be precisly stipulated by internal laws.

It can be concluded that as a result of ratification and proper implementation of the WRC, not only the maritime safety will be enhanced, but it will also fortify environmental stewardship within Montenegrin waters. The ratification is expected to have far-reaching implications for shipowners, insurers, and maritime operators, who will need to ensure compliance with the updated legal framework. It also underscores Montenegro's position on the global stage as a country that values and actively contributes to international maritime law.