Arrest of ships is an important issue for the international shipping and trading community. While owners of ships and cargo seek to ensure that legitimate trading is not interrupted by the unjustified arrest of a ship, claimants are interested in obtaining legal protection for their claims. The International Convention on Arrest of Ships 1999 was adopted by consensus on 12 March 1999, at a Joint United Nations/International Maritime Organization Diplomatic Conference, held in Geneva under the auspices of UNCTAD.
The Convention aims at striking a balance between the interests of owners and claimants, bearing in mind the different approaches adopted by various legal systems. It is a successor to the 1952 Brussels Convention on the Arrest of Sea-Going Ships, which is currently in force in 77 countries. It refines and updates the principles of the 1952 Convention. It covers issues such as types of claims for which a ship may be arrested, types of ships that can be subject to arrest, conditions relating to release from arrest, right of re-arrest and multiple arrest, liability for wrongful arrest and jurisdiction on the merits of a claim.
The new international rules on arrest normally apply to all ships within the jurisdiction of a State party, whether or not they are sea-going and whether or not they are flying the flag of a State party; however, State parties may enter a reservation in this respect when acceding to the Convention. Contracting States now need to ensure effective national implementation of the new international legal regime. They also need to denounce the 1952 Convention, so as to avoid undesirable overlap between the two international legal instruments.