Conventions and other international instruments Developments in PIL Normative texts

EU to Sign the Beijing Convention on the Judicial Sale of Ships

On 30 June 2023, the European Commission presented a proposal for a Council decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of the United Nations Convention on the International Effects of Judicial Sales of Ships, adopted on 7 December 2022, also known as the Beijing Convention on the Judicial Sale of Ships.

The Convention sets out a uniform regime for giving effect to judicial sales internationally, while preserving domestic law governing the procedure of judicial sales and the circumstances in which judicial sales confer clean title, that is, title free and clear of any mortgage or charge. By ensuring legal certainty as to the title that the purchaser acquires in the ship, the Convention aims to maximize the price that the ship is able to attract in the market and the proceeds available for distribution among creditors, and to promote international trade.

The key rule of the Convention is that a judicial sale  in one State Party which has the effect of conferring clean title on the purchaser has the same effect in every other State Party, subject only to a public policy exception. Various provisions are found in the Convention which establish how a judicial sale is given effect after completion, including a requirement that the ship registry deregister the ship or transfer registration at the request of the purchaser, and a prohibition on arresting the ship for a claim arising from a pre-existing right or interest (i.e. a right or interest extinguished by the sale). To support the operation of the regime and to safeguard the rights of parties with an interest in the ship, the Convention provides for the issuance of two instruments: a notice of judicial sale and a certificate of judicial sale. It also establishes an online repository of those instruments which is freely accessible to any interested person or entity.

The Council decision that the Commission proposing is based on Article 81(2)(a) and (b) of the Treaty in the Functioning of the European Union, on the recognition and enforcement of judgments and the cross-border service of documents, in conjunction with Article 218(5) (concerning the conclusion of international agreements by the Union). In fact, some of the matters dealt with in the Beijing Convention affect the Brussels I bis Regulation and the Recast Service Regulation. The conclusion of the Convention comes, for those aspects, with the purview of the exclusive external competence of the Union.

The other matters covered by the Convention do not fall under that competence (the Convention includes provisions that deals with other issues of private international law, including jurisdiction, but they do not affect the operation of existing EU legislation). This means that that Member States should join the Convention alongside the Union, in order to ensure the full application of the Convention between the Union and third states.

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