Recently, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice published a draft bill, which provides for further concentration of the handling of shipping cases. Once this bill is adopted by parliament, court cases on shipping and shipping-related matters will all be handled by the Court of Rotterdam.
At the moment, the allocation of cases to the various (district) courts is done primarily on the basis of territorial criteria. Commonly the domicile of the defendant is the relevant connecting factor and in some cases the place where the maritime services at issue have been performed, is decisive.
As a result of the concentration of the maritime industry in and around the port of Rotterdam, the Court of Rotterdam already now is the “natural” forum for the resolution of maritime disputes: many of these disputes are connected to the region and for this reason are allocated – on the basis of the current territorial criteria – to the Rotterdam Court.
In the new draft bill Concentration of shipping cases at the Court of Rotterdam, the Rotterdam Court is designated as the competent court to handle all matters of maritime and inland shipping law. The competence of the court is no longer determined by territorial criteria, but by nature of the dispute: the fact that the case concerns maritime or inland shipping law is decisive. This means the Court of Rotterdam will in the future handle (almost) all cases that come before the Dutch courts and concern – for example – collision of ships, carriage of goods by sea and inland waters, general average, towing and pushing, limitation of liability for maritime claims, and the operation of ships in general.
Smallegange supports this development: the maritime chamber of the Court of Rotterdam possesses the expert knowledge and practical experience necessary for the resolution of shipping disputes. This draft bill underlines the position of Rotterdam as the maritime legal center of The Netherlands.