- All initiating applications and transfers from another Court within or purporting to invoke the Admiralty and Maritime jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (“the Court”), conferred pursuant to s76 and s77 of the Constitution, will be made returnable before an Admiralty Panel Judge of the Admiralty and Maritime National Practice Area, as directed by the National General Federal Law (“GFL”) Case Management Judge to the respective Registry.
- The source of the Court's Admiralty and Maritime jurisdiction is found in the Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth).
- The Court has unlimited jurisdiction in matters brought under the Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth) in personam.
Expeditious determination and transfer
- So far as practicable, Admiralty and maritime matters will be case managed for expeditious hearing within 6 months by an Admiralty Panel Judge of the Admiralty and Maritime Practice Area.
- The Court appreciates that there are some proceedings that are filed to preserve time in carriage of goods by sea cases and in collision cases against in personam parties. The Court is aware that issues of enforcement may arise in relation to foreign parties with no assets within the jurisdiction and where no security or inadequate security has been provided.
- The Court has the power to transfer the proceedings to the Federal Court of Australia.
- There may be circumstances in which it is appropriate for there to be determination of separate questions. There are appeal issues that may arise from the determination of the separate questions and ordinarily if not potentially dispositive the matter will be transferred if there are enforcement issues. The appropriate course will depend upon the nature of the issues and enforcement issue in the particular case.
- The first return date will ordinarily be approximately 4 weeks from the date of filing and listed at 9.30am on the monthly Friday Admiralty list before an Admiralty Panel Judge. The Admiralty Panel Judge on that occasion expects parties to identify the likely issues, to propose appropriate timetables for pleadings, affidavit evidence, submissions, list of objections and chronology and the fixing of the matter for a further directions date. At the further directions date, a hearing date will be allocated before an Admiralty Panel Judge.
- The Court is likely to grant leave to interstate practitioners to appear by video or audio link on the first return date if a request to do so has been forwarded to Chambers with an appropriate telephone number and the name of the practitioner with the conduct of the matter.
- In collision matters, the Court expects the parties to comply with the Admiralty Rules 1988 (Cth) in respect of filing preliminary acts.
- If the value of the amount in dispute is not significant, or the issues are of narrow compass, the Court may dispense with pleadings and order an agreed statement of facts and issues. The Court can determine the matter on the papers where the parties so agree.
Mediation and arbitration
- If appropriate and assessed as suitable, the Court may refer the matter to mediation under s 34 of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 (Cth) before an agreed mediator or, a Court appointed mediator, or if appropriate before a Registrar of the Court.
- If the parties agree, the Court may refer the matter or appropriate questions for determination by arbitration.
- Urgent applications for listing may be made in said matters by contacting the local Registry or the Associate for the National GFL Case Management Judge.
- All Admiralty and maritime matters will be subject to liberty to apply on 2 days’ notice and the parties and their representatives must co-operate in the efficient, expeditious and cost effective objectives of the Court as if bound by Part VB of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth).
- Multiple or unnecessary interlocutory applications will be discouraged by appropriate costs and listing orders.
- With consent of the parties, the Court may order that particular issues be determined on the papers without oral hearing.
- The Court may also make appropriate procedural orders in Chambers.
- The Court will ordinarily fix costs at the final hearing. The Court will take into account Calderbank correspondence or compromise offers in the final costs orders.
- The parties should be in a position to assist the Court to fix costs by having available in short form any relevant evidence in that regard at the final hearing.
Audio and video hearings and trial
- The Court in these matters will generally permit audio and video evidence orders for overseas or interstate deponents at the cost of the parties by orders made at the directions for the fixing of the hearing date or in chambers.
- Without leave of the Court, cross-examination will be limited to half an hour for each witness and oral submissions will be limited to half an hour.
- Without leave, a subpoenaed witness must be the subject of an outline of the proposed evidence and the Court will limit oral evidence in chief to half an hour without further leave.
Reasons for judgment
- In general, all Admiralty and maritime matters will be determined by either ex tempore reasons at the close of hearing, or by written reasons which are to be published within 3 months
User group meetings
- The National GFL Case Management Judge may directly, or through an Admiralty Panel Judge, arrange a national and/or local user group meetings for consultation with the legal profession for reforms or improvements in the case management and hearing of these matters including further proposed practice directions.
[Signed in hard copy]
The Honourable William Alstergren
Federal Circuit Court of Australia
3 June 2019