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Shipping companies, P&I Clubs, ship owners, managers and charterers: all may come into contact with criminal law in the course of their activities. This often involves a suspicion of prohibited shipments of waste (‘EVOA’), cargo loss, violation of sanction rules, violation of regulations applicable at sea and in inland waterways, or (fatal) industrial accidents on board.
Our firm employs lawyers with special expertise in criminal cases in the maritime sector (‘wet criminal cases’). They not only advise in the preliminary investigation of such criminal cases, but also provide assistance at the hearing. Furthermore, they can represent your interests in disciplinary proceedings before the Shipping Disciplinary Board.
Inspectors from the Environment and Transport Inspectorate wear two hats. They are allowed to check compliance with laws and regulations at companies. But they may also conduct criminal investigations in case of suspected violation of those laws and regulations; they are then no longer ‘supervisors’ but investigating officers. Depending on this capacity, you will have more or fewer rights. Be aware of this! So always ask the IL&T inspector who visits you ‘for a chat’ what the objective is: control or investigation.
When IL&T visits, stay calm, engage a lawyer as soon as possible and wait to make any statement until you have had a chance to consult with your lawyer. Do not voluntarily consent to the seizure of any object or document.
Even if no criminal case ultimately follows, but “only” disciplinary proceedings at the Shipping Disciplinary Tribunal, it is wise to engage a lawyer. Indeed, the Disciplinary Board can impose severe penalties, such as suspension of the sailing licence. Incidentally, criminal and disciplinary proceedings can also be conducted side by side; one does not exclude the other.