Advantages of Dutch jurisdiction
EU Regulation 1215/2012
Dutch arrest orders
In the wake of new regulations promoting closer integration of the EU jurisdiction, some recent decisions suggest that suppliers of goods and services to the international shipping industry – including the likes of bunker suppliers – will modify their standard terms to explicitly include Rotterdam as an alternative forum for pursuing trans-border arrest orders against debtors' assets.
Suppliers to the shipping industry are experiencing difficulties in the prevailing economic environment. Invoices remain unpaid and creditors such as bunker suppliers are sometimes left with no option but to consider taking action against the ships to which they have supplied goods. However, it is not always possible – or indeed attractive – to take action against ships in every jurisdiction. Significant countersecurities and all sorts of formal requirements are often necessary, meaning that it is not really viable to arrest a ship.
The Netherlands has a proven and well-deserved reputation as an arrest haven. No countersecurities are required and applications are commonly granted in a matter of hours, without any of the formalities required elsewhere. Thus, it has long been possible to quickly arrest ships calling at Rotterdam and Amsterdam, as well as those sailing to the port of Antwerp, which must first pass through the River Scheldt in the Netherlands.
EU Regulation 1215/2012, which provides for closer integration of the EU jurisdiction, made it possible to apply to the Dutch courts to issue an order for a ship arrest elsewhere in the European Union – an order which can be recognised and enforced in any other EU member state without further local court intervention.
The willingness of the Dutch courts to order the seizure of assets in other EU member states was recently underlined when the arrest of a seagoing bulker in the port of Castellon, Spain was authorised. Last year, the Rotterdam Court also granted leave to arrest an inland barge in Germany or Austria in a dispute involving non-payment of hire under a time charter.
These decisions confirm that the Dutch courts will not hesitate to issue trans-border arrest orders in the same way that they issue domestic arrest orders – the only proviso being that the Dutch courts have jurisdiction over the merits of the case. For these reasons, suppliers around the world are expected to modify the jurisdiction clauses in their standard terms to include the Rotterdam Court – at least as an alternative forum.
Once the Rotterdam Court has been added as a competent forum, creditors can arrest ships throughout the European Union by making use of the efficient and liberal arrest procedures in Rotterdam, thus avoiding the less favourable arrest procedures applicable in some other EU member states.