The Shipping Law Review 2018 - Ireland 


With Ireland having the European Union’s third-largest ocean area, the Irish government plans to double the state’s ocean wealth by 2030 and, in the interim, make Ireland an attractive location for international shipping activities. The changes brought about by Brexit may help to enhance Ireland’s position further in the maritime sphere. As an island nation, Ireland has always placed great emphasis on its maritime sector and, in particular, the ports and shipping services that connect traders on the island with international markets. Irish ports and shipping services are making a valuable contribution to the national effort for economic recovery and development by facilitating growth in trade. The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO)2 has reported that the value of Irish exports in merchandise trade increased by 20 per cent to €111 billion in 2015, and imports in merchandise trade grew strongly by 10 per cent to €67 billion, and while there was a slight decrease (1 per cent) in imports in 2016, there was a sustained increase in exports (4 per cent) in 2016, with shipping being the dominant mode of trade. Equally, Ireland’s tourist industry relies significantly on the efficiency, reliability and effectiveness of the shipping sector. Up-to-date statistics on ship registration are not available publicly, but as at May 2015, there were approximately 3,200 vessels listed on the Irish Ship Register, of which approximately 133 are categorised as commercial vessels.


Ireland, like England and Wales, is a common law jurisdiction whose legal framework is comprised of legislative enactments and case law.3 The Irish government, in furtherance of its commitment to attract international shipping to Ireland, plans to consolidate shipping legislation into a single statute and, to that end, the Merchant Shipping (Consolidation) Bill is making its way through the drafting process. Until it is enacted, the principal legislation applicable to shipping is the series of statutes cited collectively as the Merchant Shipping Acts dating back to 1894. These Acts are supplemented by a plethora of statutory instruments (or Ministerial orders) that legislate for specific issues (e.g., the commencement of statutes as well as the detail of maritime operations).

As a member of the European Union, EU maritime laws including treaty provisions, Regulations, Directives and decisions apply in Ireland. If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union then Ireland would be the only common law jurisdiction in the European Union and shipping businesses located there would continue to have the benefits of EU membership, including, for example, free movement of persons, goods, services, capital, payments and establishment.

Ireland has ratified most of the major international maritime conventions, including the Collision Convention 1910, the Brussels Convention, the Oil Pollution Fund Convention, the LLMC Convention 1976, the Athens Convention (including the 1976 and 2002 Protocols), the 1989 Salvage Convention, the OPRC Convention, the Bunker Convention and the United Nations Convention on the International Multimodal Transport of Goods.

Irish maritime legislation is primarily formulated and administered by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Within the Department, the Irish Maritime Administration (IMA) was established in 2013 to integrate the Department’s maritime services. The IMA consists of the Maritime Safety Policy Division, the Marine Survey Office, the Irish Coast Guard, the Maritime Transport Division and a Maritime Services Division.


 i Courts

The Irish courts are in the common law tradition, with the High Court being a court of universal jurisdiction and usually the most relevant court in maritime matters.

The Jurisdiction of Courts (Maritime Conventions) Act 1989 incorporates the 1952 Arrest Convention into Irish law. The Act confirms that the High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine proceedings in Ireland in relation to maritime claims. These proceedings are dealt with by a specialist division of the High Court known as the Admiralty Court. Order 64 of the Rules of the Superior Courts (RSC) deals specifically with the rules and procedures that apply to admiralty claims. Claims arising from the carriage of goods by sea with a value in excess of €1 million are generally heard by another specialist division of the High Court, the Commercial Court, under the provisions of Order 63A of the RSC.

Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (recast) (Brussels I bis) came into effect in Ireland on 10 January 2015 (with the exception of Articles 75 and 76, which applied from 10 January 2014). Brussels I bis was implemented to update Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 (Brussels I), which covered jurisdiction as between courts of different EU Member States. Brussels I still applies for proceedings or judgments issued before 10 January 2015. Brussels I established a set of EU rules to determine which court has jurisdiction in cross-border disputes (including maritime disputes) and how court judgments issued in one EU Member State are recognised and enforced in another Member State. Some of the key changes introduced by Brussels I bis include the following.

Abolition of the exequatur procedure

Under Brussels I, a judgment given in one Member State does not automatically take effect in another Member State. Instead, it first has to be validated and declared enforceable in a special intermediate court procedure, known as the exequatur procedure, which is costly and time-consuming. 

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