The 8th International Conference of Maritime Law had various challenges to deal with: the sudden loss of Professor A. Antapassis, the particularly adverse economic condition, the scientific and social withdrawal of the country that also afflicted the maritime community, the lack of sponsorship, the need for renewal.
The administration of the Pireaus Bar Association reacted vigorously, demonstrating, more than any other time, its trust to the institution of the Conference and its will to retain (and to develop) the added value of the conference. It proceeded to a renewal of the Organizing Committee to a great extent, combining the experience of older members with the suggestions of the newer ones.
The 8th International Conference that was held in 10-12 October 2013 and was dedicated to late Professor and President of the Hellenic Maritime Law Association A. Antapassis, was in many views innovative:
First of all, a synthetic and modern subject was chosen, which was of great theoretical and practical interest, not only for the shipping community of Greek interests but also for international community. It was about the “Shipping in periods of economic distress: financing- ship’s operation- enforcement”. It is indeed true that the current adverse economic conditions, like any cycle of economic depression, profoundly affect all aspects of the operation of a shipping company, starting with the financing terms and conditions, to the exploitation of the ship and the satisfaction of maritime creditors. Respectively, there gets tested the resilience of fundamental rules and institutions of maritime law (public and private), which have to be adjusted in order to organize, in the best possible way, the critical legal relationships. The example of the charter party agreement and the issues arising from the negligent performance or non-performance of the obligations of the parties are, in this regard, characteristic. The same thing happens with the lately recurrent phenomena of default of payment of debts by shipping companies and the resulting friction which occurs between the goals of maritime law and common insolvency proceedings. These indicative examples highlight more than ever the need for effective legal protection, judicial and extrajudicial, as well as the need to develop alternative ways of resolving maritime disputes, such as the solution through mediation. Greek and foreign lectures, of high quality, dealt with controversial and innovative matters in a well-documented and analytical way and they caused essential interventions from the part of the participants.
Secondly, a special website was created (www.piraeus2013imlc.gr) with complete information about the purposes, the content and the program of the Conference. The use of technology and the electronic promotion of the program in the media, universities and individuals, in combination with the ability to register online, enabled and increased the participation long before the date of the Conference.
Thirdly, there were many new participants. The total number of 780 registered participants, the participation of over 50 Professors and law practitioners of recognized prestige in maritime law, the scientific “representation” of over 10 countries as well as of the European Commission, the active participation and presence of the Judges, the creation of a special website, enriched the Conference beyond any doubt and were consisted the factors due to which the institution achieved its goal. It is worth mentioning that there was also broad participation of the new generation of “maritime law scientists”. As it is also proven from the registration catalogues many colleagues from every Bar Association, even colleagues who are living permanently or temporarily abroad, new lawyers, new judges, new legal counselors in law firms and banking institutions, rushed to participate in this symposium and actively participated until the end of it.
The Conference was structured in four sessions. At the first formal Session, the memory of Professor Emeritus Anthony Antapassis was honored by the Piraeus Bar Association, with regard to his scientific work and his institutional role by the representatives of the CMI and the academic community. The second Session focused on the financing of the ship and how this is affected by the economic crisis, with regard to its forms, the securities, the structure of the loan agreement and its termination thereof. The third Session examined the systemic operation of the maritime market and the use of the ship as the framework and the means, respectively, for the development of activity, but still through the same angle of economic instability. Special focus was given regarding the effectiveness of the mechanisms that have been established in international level to secure conditions of fair competition and the appropriateness of sanctions to be applied. In terms of private law, there was examined the impact of the crisis on the operation of the contract of carriage by sea and of the charterparty agreements, the possibility of disruption of contractual balance, the means of protecting the weaker party and the adequacy of the relevant legislative framework. The fourth and last Session was devoted to the means of protecting maritime creditors, both from a substantive and from a procedural law point of view. The relevant aim was not to describe the status quo, but to highlight the weaknesses and possible friction resulting from the involvement of numerous rules of law (e.g. maritime law and insolvency law) and more jurisdictions. In this sense, the arising differences are not only quantitative but also qualitative. At this point the research reached, inter alia, issues of cross-border maritime insolvencies, of foreign forced execution procedures and their recognition, of the difficulties of effective enforcement through judicial proceedings as to forced execution, and the advantages and disadvantages of alternative ways of resolving maritime disputes (arbitration and mediation).
Following the opening ceremony of the Conference, the first session was dedicated in memory of Professor Antapassis. Giorgio Berlingieri, Attorney-at-law, President- Italian Maritime Law Association, Vice-President of CMI, Christos Kanellakis, Attorney-at-law, Vice-President of the Greek Shipowners Union and Antoine Vialard, Professor Emeritus of Maritime Law, University of Bordeaux, addressed speeches in memory of the late Professor, at this session, at which chairman was Panagiotis Pikrammenos, f. Prime Minister, f. President of Conseil d’ Etat. In the memory of the Professor, an original, symbolic sculpture, which was especially carved especially for this occasion by Vaso Gkioni-Zisimopoulou was awarded by Stelios Manousakis, the President of the Piraeus Bar Association to Maria Antapassis-Pipili, Attorney-at-law. The award was followed by one minute’s silence in memory of the Professor, kept from the nearly seven hundred participants who were present at the Conference.
The second thematic topic followed, including two sessions. In the first session, chaired by the Vice-President of the Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) Athanassios Koutromanos, there were developed lectures by the Professor of Accounting and Finance in the Athens University of Economics and Business, Manolis Kavussanos, who presented the issue of the consequences of the financial crisis on maritime finance, the Attorney-at-law, Dr.iur., Polychronis Tsiridis, who developed the risks emerging from the criminalization of the maritime entrepreneurship and professions, the Associate Professor of Athens School of Law and Vice-President of the Hellenic Maritime Law Association, Lia I. Athanassiou, who developed the shipping financiers at the edge of Maritime and Insolvency Law and the Judge – President of Piraeus First Instance Court Charis Saramanti, who developed the terms and conditions of responsible lending and abusive termination of loan agreements. The next session was chaired by Richard Lyal, Director at the Legal Department of the European Commission. In this session the Professor of the University of Ghent (Belgium) and Director of Institute of Maritime Law and Public International Law Eduard Somers presented to the participants the role of maritime gatekeepers in the implementation of international safety rules. Michael Sturley, Professor at the University of Texas (USA), introduced an issue about the the impact of a new International Convention, the Rotterdam Rules, on the efficiency of the shipping Industry, while the Attorney-at-law Simon Curtis analyzed the impact of financial crisis on another issue of great interest for the international organization and function of the shipping industry, the performance of shipbuilding contracts. Another parameter was posed in this second thematic session by the presentation of the Professor in the University of Bologna Stefano Zunarelli, who developed the problems and perspectives of mandatory marine insurance. The Judge - President of the Court of Appeal of Piraeus Kyriakos Oikonomou concluded this thematic issue by developing the protection of shipping business suppliers in a period of financial instability, passing on the torch to the speakers of the next thematic unit. During the first session of the second day under the direction of the chairman Spyridon Vrellis, who is Professor Emeritus in the Law School of Athens and Director of the Hellenic Institute of International and Foreign Law, first to talk was the Professor and Honoraris Dean at the University of Nancy, director of the Institute “François Gény” of the University of Lorraine, Olivier Cachard who developed the performance of the charterparty contract and the change of the financial conditions. Next speaker was Ignacio Arroyo, Professor at the University of Barcelona and President of the Spanish Maritime Law Association, who developed the protection of the weak party in relevance to the jurisdiction clause in Maritime Law. Then, the Professor in the University of Swansea and Director of the Maritime Law Institute Baris Soyer developed the payment of damages for breach of charterparties and the Attorney-at-law, Dr.iur., Manolis Konstantinidis developed more especially the case of underperformance and/or overconsumption claims for diesel oil during the performance of the charterparty in times of economic distress. The Q.C., Arbitrator & Mediator, Stephen Ruttle developed the issue of Tackling breaches of contract in Shipping, by attributing first priority to Mediation. In the next session, under the direction of chairman Grigoris Timagenis, the turn was for the rest of the speakers to examine issues in the same topic. The Professor in the Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law and President of the Norwegian Association of Maritime Law Erik Rosaeg developed the maritime cross border insolvencies and the limitation Funds and the Attorney-at-law (USA) William Bennett, contributed his analysis on the issue of the enforcement of maritime liens in United States bankruptcy cases. Next was the Attorney-at-law and Dr.iur. Georgios Theocharidis who analysed the relationship between forum shopping and flag in satisfaction of security rights on a ship while the President of the London Shipping Centre and Arbitrator Aleka Mandaraka-Sheppard developed the conditions to proceed to piercing the corporate veil of maritime companies. The last session, during the final day of the Conference, under the direction of chairman Giorgio Berlingieri, Attorney-at-law, President of the Italian Association of Maritime Law, Vice-President of CMI, started with the presentation of Chryssa Tsouka, Associate Professor in Athens School of Law, on the impact of the economic crisis on the application of conflict-of-laws rule in maritime disputes. Dimitrios Tsikirikas, Associate Professor in Athens School of Law, presented procedural and international private law issues on the recognition of foreign enforcement proceedings on vessels. In the same context of the financial crisis, Michael Baker-Harber, Arbitrator, developed the issue of arbitrating in difficult market times. Final speaker of the last session was the Professor of Athens School of Law Georgios Orfanidis who pointed out the weaknesses in the Greek statutory regime relating to arrest and judicial sale of vessels.
Upon completion of the interventions and the discussion that followed the presentations, the Supreme Court Judge and President of the Association for Judicial Studies Ioannis Chamilothoris, who honoured the Conference with his presence, summed up with the conclusions of the 8th International Conference on Maritime Law.
The publication of the reports in a special edition, as it is by tradition done for every Conference, was completed in 2015.
The presentation of the Maritime Conference was directed by the President of the Organizing Committed of the Maritime Conference L. I. Athanassiou.
Piraeus Bar Association / Board of Directors:
Stylianos Manoussakis President, Emmanouil Kotsonis Vice-President, Evangelos Tsouroulis Vice-President, Georgios Stamatogiannis Secretary General, Evangelos Anagnostou Member- Treasurer.
Members: Georgios Athanassopoulos, Maria Galanopoulou, Kimon Gioulistanis, Konstantina Gourgarea, Panagiotis Degleris, Argyrios Dimovic, Georgios Karamizaris, Danai Karkoulia, Ilias Klappas, Nikolaos Liapakis, Konstantinos Manalis, Dimitrios Pollalis, Dimitrios Stathakopoulos, Maria Floropoulou-Makri.
Members of the Organizing Committee:
Lia I. Athanassiou President, Athanassios Alikatoras, Michalis Antapassis, Vasilis Vernikos, Nikos Gerasimou, Georgios Theocharidis, Georgios Iatridis-Ramantanis, Paris Karamitsios, Nikos Kountouris, Antonis Koutsofios, Manolis Konstantinidis, Nikos Konstantinidis, Georgios Oikonomou, Giannis V. Sarantitis, Vassilis P. Sioufas, Georgios Skorinis, Paschalia Timageni, Polychronis Tsiridis, Dimitris Christodoulou.