On 12 May 2020, the Judge of the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of Mauritius granted, on an urgent basis, a novel and ground-breaking interim order. The owner and master of Vessel M/V MILD SEA, a Bahamas-registered vessel arriving at Port Louis, was ordered to provide copies of various logs and documentation aboard the vessel in relation to a potential litigation, and to allow the appointed bunker surveyor access to conduct a bunker survey. This unprecedented order in relation to an in personam action was granted and enforced despite strict national confinement due to COVID-19.
This urgent interim order was ground breaking on both a procedural as well as jurisdictional point of view, as it involved foreign parties. In addition, the implementation and execution of the Judge's order was a novel experience in itself, since the order had to be executed on board the vessel, which was anchored at sea, despite restrictions in light of COVID-19. Procedurally, this presented a number of practical challenges, including obtaining clearances from health and port authorities, having a registered usher execute the order, securing police assistance to facilitate the execution of the order on board, as well as resistance from the vessel's captain in complying with the order. Despite these difficulties, as well as those related to COVID-19 restrictions, the urgent procedure was executed successfully. One of the port officials said, "in my 33-year career at the port, it is the first time that I have heard of such an order."
The Judge's interim order undoubtedly opens the door to other similar applications to be entered into for assistance to litigants requiring such remedies to preserve evidence ahead of existing or potential litigation or arbitration disputes. This also constitutes a positive step in further developing Mauritius as a maritime law efficient hub.
ENSafrica were the attorneys who made and obtained the execution of the interim order.
Originally published 15 May 2020.
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