The United Kingdom's jurisdiction, particularly England's jurisdiction, has a dominant position in the global shipping sector. London continues to be the place where most shipping disputes involving members of the Italian shipping industry are decided, due to the jurisdiction and arbitration clauses contained within shipping contracts concluded by Italian shipping operators. Therefore, most disputes involving Italian shipping entities, mainly regarding charterparties and the carriage of goods, are determined by English judgments and awards.
Before Brexit, English judicial decisions in the shipping sector were automatically enforceable in Italy due to the EU Brussels Recast Regulation (1215/2012). English arbitration awards also benefitted from automatic EU enforceability systems. Arbitration awards (which are commonplace in shipping disputes) that are meant to be enforced in Italy could be converted into judicial decisions that were automatically recognised and enforced in Italy.
Through Brexit, the United Kingdom left the European Union. As such, parties in shipping sector disputes that are determined by the courts of England and Wales can no longer benefit from the automatic recognition and enforcement of the foreign judgments system outlined by the EU Brussels Recast Regulation. Therefore, in order to enforce English judgments on shipping disputes in Italy, it will now be necessary to resort to other instruments which do not guarantee the same speed of enforcement as the EU system.
As an alternative to the EU system, the United Kingdom applied to accede to the Lugano Convention in April 2020, but the European Parliament and the Council are yet to issue their opinions on the matter. This means that the recognition and enforceability of English shipping judgments in Italy is uncertain.
The European Commission referred to the Hague Choice of Court Convention 2005 (the Hague Convention) as a more suitable instrument for the recognition of judgments. However, the Hague Convention is inapplicable to a considerable portion of the shipping sector, such as for matters relating to:
- the carriage of goods;
- pollution; and
- general average.
If the United Kingdom is not admitted to the Lugano Convention, the recognition and enforcement of English shipping judgments relating to matters to which the Hague Convention does not apply would be subject to article 64 of Law 218/1995. This article states that foreign judgments in civil and commercial matters must meet specific requirements in order to be recognised and enforced in Italy.
While article 64 of Law 218/95 provides for automatic recognition of foreign judgments, according to article 67 of Law 218/95, in order to have the foreign judgment enforced in Italy, the competent judicial authority (ie, the Court of Appeal) will need to be engaged. The competent court will verify that the requirements laid down by article 64 have been met.
It is not yet certain whether the United Kingdom will be admitted to the Lugano Convention.
However, if the United Kingdom is not admitted to the convention, for many matters falling within the shipping sector, there would be no other instrument of international law that could be used to obtain recognition and enforcement of judgments issued by the courts of England and Wales in Italy. In that case, it would be necessary to seek enforcement under Italian private international law.
For further information on this topic please contact Carolina Pinto at Dardani Studio Legale by telephone (+39 010 576 1816) or email ([email protected]). The Dardani Studio Legale website can be accessed at www.dardani.it.