Recent changes were introduced to the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta) through Act XXXI, entitled Various Laws (Better Administration of Justice) (Amendment) Act, 2019 which came into force as from 18th December 2019. The amendments have enhanced the conventional procedure for the arrest of vessels in Maltese territorial waters, in order to allow for a more efficient and effective service to enable the recovery of outstanding debts. Notably, once an arrest warrant is issued, a copy of the arrest warrant must be duly served onto the master of the arrested vessel. The changes afford creditors the opportunity to appoint a person, whose necessary details shall be listed in the arrest application, to physically serve the warrant of arrest onto a vessel's master, as well as to seize the relevant documentation and certifications from on board the vessel. Nonetheless, in lieu of the recent amendments, an arrest of a vessel is considered to be executed upon service of a copy of the warrant to the Authority for Transport in Malta.
Importantly, the newly introduced amendments establish a level of flexibility in the procedure of arrest of a vessel since previously the service of warrants of arrest were to be performed solely by Court Officials. Now however, under Maltese law, creditors have more power of action by being able to appoint appropriate personnel to undertake service of the warrant. The party issuing the warrant may engage a person specialising in seagoing activities and thus service would not be hindered or delayed by, for instance, poor sea conditions.
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