Arrêt de la Chambre des appels de la Commission Centrale pour la Navigation du Rhin concernant l’action en dommages et intérêts intentée suite à l’avarie de l’automoteur-citerne “Waldhof”
Under the terms of the revised Convention on Navigation on the Rhine signed in Mannheim on 17 October 1868, the CCNR’s Member States agreed on the means of legal redress to be provided in the event of infringement of the police rules on navigation or in the event of a dispute in connection with damage caused in the course of navigation on the Rhine.
For this purpose, each Member State is required to designate the courts of first instance and the appeal courts competent to deal with such disputes.
An alternative to lodging an appeal before the competent national court of appeal was provided for as early as the Mannheim Document – the appeal may be taken directly before the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine. This establishes a unique situation in which an international body has competence that is similar and in competition with that of the national courts of appeal. Until 1968, however, the Central Commission’s decisions were not true court; they were prepared by the Secretariat and adopted unanimously by the Member States’ delegations at CCNR plenary sessions. It was only under the terms of the Strasbourg Convention of 20 November 1963, which came into force in 1967, that a true international court was set up, composed of independent judges with acknowledged competence to deal with matters concerning inland navigation. The Chamber of Appeal adopted its initial rules of procedure on 23 October 1969 and delivered its first decision on 23 June 1970.
Parties may appeal where the dispute exceeds the sum of 20 SDR (equivalent to EUR 23.86 as of January 2006). The place of payment, the place where the damage was caused and the place where the offence was committed are the criteria used in establishing territorial competence. The parties may, however, agree to take their dispute before another court for navigation on the Rhine or even another court or arbitration tribunal altogether if this is not contrary to national law.
Parties may choose to take their appeal before either the higher court with territorial competence or before the Chamber of Appeal, which deliberates in the last resort in both criminal and civil cases. Where the applicant and the defendant have appealed within the statutory time limits, one before the CCNR and the other before the higher national court, the first of the two to receive an application deliberates on both appeals. If these are entered on the same day, the competent jurisdiction is the one before which the defendant has appealed.
The Chamber of Appeal is made up of five judges and five substitutes, i.e. one judge and one substitute from each Member State (the CCNR’s Member States are Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland). The substitute judge takes the place of the appointed judge if he or she is unable to attend, is on holiday, or has been challenged. They are designated by the CCNR, for a period of six years, from among a list proposed by each of the Member States. They must have a legal background or experience of navigation on the Rhine. The Chamber of Appeal is thus a specialised court that is better suited than a national jurisdiction to carry out an analysis of comparative law.
The Presiding Judge, who must have a legal background, and the Assistant Presiding Judge of the Chamber of Appeal are elected by their peers for a renewable period of three years.
Judge / Vice - President at the Court of Appeal of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine in Strasbourg
President of the Marine Investigation Council Board, Antwerp/Ostende
Honorary President of the Antwerp Court of Appeal (Belgium)
Eeklo (Belgium), 25 November 1953, married, three daughters and four grandchildren
1971-1976: Master’s in law (University of Ghent)
1977: Postgraduate degree in shipping law (University of Antwerp)
Profession / Career
1977 - 1995: member of the bar, Antwerp 1995 onward, honorary member of the bar, Antwerp
1989 - 1995: deputy judge at the Commercial Court, Antwerp
1995 - 2000: judge at the court of first instance, Antwerp
2000 - 2013: counsel (senior judge) at the Court of Appeal, Antwerp (4th Chamber, known as the Maritime Chamber)
2013 - 2017: President of the 4th Chamber of the Court of Appeal.
2014 - 2017: Vice-president of the Marine Investigation Council Board, Antwerp/Ostend
2018: President of the Marine Investigation Council Board Antwerp/Ostend
2014 - 2016: deputy judge at the Court of Appeal of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine
2017: judge at the Court of Appeal of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine
2019: judge / vice-president at the Court of Appeal of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine
To take an appeal before the Central Commission, the appeal must be lodged with the court that deliberated in the first instance within thirty days of notification of the judgment. The notice of appeal must indicate specifically that a decision is claimed from the Central Commission. Within an additional period of 30 days from the notice of appeal, submissions supporting the appeal must be sent to the court of first instance.
The court notifies the other party of the notice of appeal and the supporting submissions, and sets a deadline for reply. Once the appeal application is complete, it is sent by the court of first instance to the registry of the CCNR’s Chamber of Appeal.
The Chamber of Appeal meets as necessary, usually at least twice a year. Its working languages are French, German, English and Dutch. Theoretically it deliberates after an oral debate. Defendant parties are not required to attend the hearing. They may provide their own defence, or be represented by a lawyer allowed to plead before a court of a contracting State or by any other person holding written authority for the purpose. In civil matters the parties must, except during the investigative stage in the proceedings, be represented by a lawyer allowed to plead before a court of a contracting State if this was already required of them in the first instance.
The Presiding Judge of the Chamber of Appeal directs the proceedings and takes the necessary steps to prepare decisions. The Chamber deliberates and reaches its decision in private. It deliberates on the merits of the case or sends the case back to the court that deliberated in the first instance for re-examination. The decision is drawn up in the language used at the court that deliberated in the first instance. It becomes final on being made public and is notified to the parties through the court of first instance. The registrar also sends the parties a copy of the decision.
No charge is made in respect of proceedings brought before the Chamber of Appeal.
The Chamber of Appeal of the CCNR publishes all its decisions through the iwt-law.eu database.
The iwt-law.eu database is a digital open access law report of national and international jurisdiction of inland waterway transport law and constitutes a remake of the previously existing database of the Institute for German and International Transport Law of the University of Mannheim. The new and updated version of the database enables a simple and efficient search for jurisdiction. Through an improved search engine, data research can be conducted on the base of properties such as file reference, decision type, included legal norms, nature of the court and place of jurisdiction. At present, the collection contains about 1800 decisions in inland waterway transport law. The law report serves the purpose of supporting the work of lawyers and the judiciary, as well as the academic exploration of inland waterway transport law.
Since April 2005, the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR), Strasbourg, has been cooperating with the department for inland waterway transport of the Institute for German and International Transport Law. iwt-law.eu will continue to serve as the publishing body for future decisions of the CCNR.