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CHAPTER 2 Subject-matter jurisdiction

Admiralty Jurisdiction and Practice

Page 27


Subject-matter jurisdiction


2.1 As previously observed1 the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court is limited by subject-matter. Where jurisdiction is invoked in personam this limitation upon subject-matter jurisdiction is of only technical importance as section 5(5) of the Senior Courts Act (SCA) 1981 provides that the whole jurisdiction of the High Court belongs to all divisions alike, and section 4(3) provides that all the judges of the High Court have equal power, authority and jurisdiction. A claim in personam commenced in the Admiralty Court, but not within the scope of the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court, can simply be transferred out of the Admiralty Court to a more appropriate court. However, only the Admiralty Court may exercise jurisdiction in rem by way of an Admiralty claim in rem. In such cases it is a necessary, but not a sufficient, prerequisite that the court has subject-matter jurisdiction. It is therefore necessary to consider in some detail the various heads of subject-matter jurisdiction which are provided by section 20(1) of the SCA 1981. In this chapter these will each be considered in turn, following the order in which they appear in section 20(2) of the SCA 1981 (as amended by the Merchant Shipping Act (MSA) 1995). It is, however, convenient to consider the definition of a “ship” as a preliminary matter, as most of the heads of jurisdiction are concerned with claims in connection with ships. However, before doing so it is necessary to say something about the relationship between subject-matter jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court and jurisdiction under private international law.

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