28 and 29 November 2013

Second Conference on Maritime Law in Bremen is a resounding success

On 28 and 29 November 2013, the Forschungsverbund für Maritimes Recht (Research Association for Maritime Law) in the metropolitan region of Bremen-Oldenburg, together with the Kieserling Foundation, the University of Bremen and the Ministry of Economics, Labour and Ports, organised Bremen’s Second Conference on Maritime Law with approximately 150 participants, international experts, designated professionals and jurists. Two particularly topical issues were addressed over the two days: the problems and prospects involved in ocean exploitation and the new German maritime law.

The maritime industry is a crucial engine for prosperity and growth in Bremen and the entire metropolitan region of Bremen and Oldenburg. The economic and political importance of ocean exploitation is increasing all the time. However, increased utilisation of the oceans also gives rise to conflicts of interest, which must be resolved legally. There is also a need for new provisions in maritime law. Ultimately, the new German maritime law affects Bremen as a port and export location.

On 28 November, participants at the conference addressed the future of ocean exploitation. In the past, the oceans were used mainly by the fishing and shipping industries. This situation is changing: in addition to the rapid global expansion in oil and gas production, energy production and the recovery of minerals are now also at the centre of economic interest, given the marked scarcity of raw materials. Against this backdrop, there is also an increasing focus on legal issues. One of the issues that needs to be clarified is how these developments relate to environmental protection and how increasing conflicts about ocean exploitation can be resolved. To this end, the existing legislation must be reviewed and, if necessary, refined. These issues were raised at the conference and innovative potential solutions were identified and discussed.

The conference began with an address by Prof. Dr Karen Wiltshire, Deputy Director at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, who introduced the topic of ocean exploitation. The following presentations by Prof. Dr Dr h.c. Peter Ehlers from the German Association for Marine Technology, Tobias Pierlings from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Technology, Prof. Dr Uwe Jenisch from the University of Kiel and the former German Minister for the Environment Prof. Dr Dr h.c.mult Klaus Töpfer examined the increasing use of the oceans from a variety of perspectives. Peter Ehlers focused on developments in the legal situation in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which is of the utmost relevance for Bremen in particular as most of the offshore wind energy plants will be located in the EEZ and Bremen plans to build the Bremerhaven offshore terminal as the base port for the offshore wind industry.

In his presentation, Tobias Pierlings, who is also President of the Council of the International Seabed Authority for 2013/2014, focused on the current legal issues surrounding deep sea mining around the world, a process in which Germany also has a national interest. Uwe Jenisch also spoke about deep sea mining but from the perspective of environmental law. Klaus Töpfer reported along the same lines on the status of an additional agreement to protect marine biodiversity beyond the areas of national territorial waters, in particular the high seas. Dr Till Markus from the University of Bremen summarised the various contributions and, following a discussion, formulated an outlook in relation to jurisprudence and legal policy.

The new German maritime law was discussed at the conference on 29 November. The theme for this aspect of the conference was: Maritime Law – Made in Germany. This title also illustrates Germany’s national interest in developing legislation for the future. Free maritime trade is hugely significant for Germany as Europe’s biggest exporter and for Bremen as the location of Germany’s second-largest seaport with an excellent position in container global shipping. Participants at the conference discussed the contribution that the new German maritime law could make and how this legislation will affect the growing competition between countries and legal systems.

Following an introduction to the topic by Prof. Dr Calliess, Dean of the University of Bremen, the relevant advisor in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Dr Beate Czerwenka, presented details of the reforms made in German maritime legislation and explained the extent to which the new German maritime law offers is advantageous in the international competition between legal systems. Designated experts Prof. Dr Ulrich Magnus from the University of Hamburg and Prof. Dr Andreas Furrer from the University of Lucerne followed up on the opportunities for applying the legislation in an international context and the harmonisation of the law with the new German maritime legislation. Prof. Dr Frank Smeele from the University of Rotterdam explained the modernisation of maritime law using a comparative analysis.

At the end of the second day, Dr Andreas Maurer from the University of Bremen chaired a podium discussion with professionals from the affected company departments and legal practitioners. Participants explained and discussed the importance that the new German maritime law could have in an international industry like shipping and the impact it could have on global trade from Germany and highlighted the opportunities for future international refinement of maritime legislation.

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