The purchaser of a consignment of coal sought to join the party which had loaded hot coal on board the vessel causing an explosion and abandonment of the voyage. It was held that the International Arbitration Act 2017 does not override the admiralty jurisdiction of the court.
The Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act 1983 is a special act which governs all admiralty matters that come before South African courts. It confers wide-ranging jurisdiction upon and vests South African admiralty courts with powers set out in the act including powers to refer a matter for arbitration as required by that act. The Model Law applied under the International Arbitration Act provides that the law will not affect any other law in South Africa by virtue of which disputes may not be submitted to arbitration or may be submitted to arbitration only in accordance with the provisions in that particular law. The admiralty law is ‘any other law’.
The International Arbitration Act therefore has left untouched the admiralty court proceedings under the Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act.
The International Arbitration Act only came into operation on 20 December 2017 and this is probably the first Supreme Court of Appeal decision dealing with its terms.