On 28 February 2017, amendments to the procedural rules for admiralty claims in the English courts came into force. These amendments are to encourage the early exchange of electronic track data in a potential collision claim. These changes reflect the importance of this data in promoting the early resolution of collision disputes where possible, and generally expediting and simplifying the trial of the proceedings. Electronic track data is a digital or electronic recording of the track of a vessel as recorded by a ship or shore-based identification Automatic Identification System (AIS) or Electronic Chart Display Information System (ECDIS) or a voyage data recorder. AIS is increasingly seen as playing a significant role in providing crucial information in the event that a collision does take place, and the courts have come to recognise this.
In many collision cases, the availability of electronic track data can greatly aid the quick and efficient disposal of disputes over liability. The parties to an anticipated collision claim now have a duty to take all reasonable steps to promptly obtain and/or preserve any original or copy electronic data in their control. Where both parties to the collision have electronic track data, they are expected to mutually disclose and exchange this data prior to starting any legal proceedings, or within seven days of a request by one of the parties to do so. If this does not happen, then the parties are required to disclose this data within 21 days after the defendant files its acknowledgment of the service of the claim form. If a party does not cooperative in disclosing/exchanging its electronic track date, the Court may penalise it in costs.
Parties to potential collision claims should note these amendments and ensure that they comply with their obligations under them. Otherwise, they may face costs sanctions by the Court as well as hindering the early resolution of a collision dispute.