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Check who is the 'agent of the ship' before serving summons

Can local agents (appointed for previous voyages) and P&I Correspondents be considered as the ‘agent of the ship’ for the purposes of serving complaints and summons in relation to oil pollution by a ship? This question was debated in The Regina [2018] and after going through two courts, finally answered in negative.

Background: In 2015, Australian authorities found that Regina had been discharging oil in EEZ and outer territorial sea. At the time vessel was just transiting Australian waters. The last time she had visited an Australian port was in 2011, when agents ‘A’ were the appointed local agents. Ship owner was based in S.Korea and therefore the local authorities sent the complaints and summons (against the master and owners) to the agents ‘A’ and local P&I Correspondents.


Decision: In the context of domestic POTS Act, court understood ‘agent of a ship’ to mean someone who has some authority in relation to the ship. It encompasses someone who makes arrangements for berthing etc. If ‘A’ had been the agent for a particular voyage (in 2011 in this case) then ‘A’ doesn’t automatically become the agent for the next voyage. Local P&I correspondents were also not the agents.



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