14 Feb 2013

Newsletter from the International Transport, Trade & Energy Department, Recognition of Foreign Insolvency or Debt Standstill Orders in South Africa

Practice Area(s): Shipping & Logistics |

A question increasingly posed to us is whether an order made by, for example, a court in the USA, declaring that all legal proceedings or arrests are stayed or forbidden in any jurisdiction, pending the reorganization process, or simply "banning" all legal actions being brought against the debtor, will be recognised by a South African court and whether this will be a bar to seeking the arrest of a ship or an "associated ship."

The following guidelines are of use:

  1. The fact that a debtor might seek (for example) Chapter 11 protection in the USA or similar protection from its creditors elsewhere, will not of itself protect its assets from arrest in South Africa;
  2. the trustee (or equivalent) is required to apply to the South African court for recognition as such, and the extension or application of the “debt standstill” (or similar) to assets in South Africa;
  3. in the event of a creditor having claims against vessels likely to call at a South African port which would be susceptible to arrest, such an application should be opposed if made, assuming of course that notice is given, and if not opposed and an order is made, the creditors would be well advised to challenge the same as soon as it becomes known, with a view to entrenching the rights of creditors under section 10 of the Admiralty Act.
  4. Vessels arrested before recognition proceedings are commenced in South Africa are excluded from the insolvent estate and may be dealt with in terms of section 11 of the Admiralty Act which provides for a special ranking of maritime creditors in the event of the vessel being sold by judicial sale order.