Where do we belong? The plight of plaintiffs with small maritime claims

Author: Malcolm Wallis

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 139 Issue 1, p. 205-231


Is a claim falling within the definition of a ‘maritime claim’ in terms of s 1 of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act 105 of 1983 and also within s 29(1) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 32 of 1944 capable of being pursued in the magistrates’ courts? In World Net Logistics (Pty) Ltd v Donsantel 133 CC & another 2020 (3) SA 542 (KZP) the full court in KwaZulu-Natal held that such claims must be pursued within the exclusive admiralty jurisdiction of the high court. The article submits that this is incorrect and disregards the history of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act, amounts pro tanto to an implied repeal of the relevant section of the Magistrates’ Courts Act, and is inconsistent with the principles of statutory interpretation applied by our courts. It urges the Maritime Law Association urgently to seek an opportunity to challenge the decision, which is prejudicial to claimants with small claims arising out of ship-related contracts or delicts.