THE CLOSURE OF CRIMEAN PORTS AND ITS EFFECT ON EMPLOYMENT ORDERS

11 Авг

В публикации рассматривается широко известная ситуация с закрытием крымских портов для международного судоходства. Общепризнанным для английского права является принцип, в соответствии с которым договорное обязательство не может быть исполнено в месте, где оно считается противоречащим законодательству. С точки зрения украинского законодательства, которую разделяют, в частности, Соединенное Королевство и Европейский Союз, заход судна в любой из закрытых портов — это правонарушение. А именно: английский прецедент Ralli Bros v Compania Naviera Sota y Aznar [1920] 2 KB 287 закрепляет вышеупомянутый принцип. Однако, с точки зрения международного публичного права, которая воспринимается английским правом, несомненно и то, что утратившее фактический контроль над некоторой территорией в результате военной оккупации правительство не может объявить морские порты, расположенные на этой территории, закрытыми для международной торговли, если отсутствует эффективная блокада таких портов. Простое объявление блокады без реального ее поддержания означает состояние  «бумажной», то есть неэффективной, блокады, которое не создает обязанностей для иностранных государств соблюдать запрет на морскую торговлю. Более того, военный оккупант даже обязан контролировать все объекты на оккупированной территории с тем чтобы обеспечить в силу военной необходимости собственную безопасность, публичный порядок и экономическую жизнь в интересах населения оккупированной территории. Очевидно, что в состав этих объектов входят также порты, принимая во внимание их значение для публичного порядка и экономической жизни. В связи с этим представляется интересным рассмотреть доктрину «акта государственной власти». Суть этой доктрины состоит в том, что любое суверенное государство должно уважать акты другого суверенного государства на его территории. Исключения из этого правила ограничиваются пренебрежением только в отношении тех актов государства, которые нарушают публичный порядок и правила международного публичного права. Таким образом, игнорирование принципа эффективной («бумажной») блокады английским судом будет означать нарушение доктрины акта государственной власти, что возможно только в случае подтверждения наличия упомянутых исключений, в том числе необходимо обосновать наличие таких исключений нормами действующего прецедентного права и другими нормами и принципами международного права. К тому же, аналогичный правовой результат может быть достигнут, если будет установлено применимое право в месте исполнения в соответствии с принципами разрешения конфликта правовых норм, существующими в английском праве (коллизионное английское право). Иначе легитимность действий иностранного государства в отношении морских портов, находящихся на территории, вышедшей из-под фактического контроля правительства, оспорить невозможно. Правовая действительность закрытия украинских портов (Евпатория, Керчь, Севастополь, Феодосия, Ялта) ясна. Однако, судовладельцы, получившие указание следовать в один из таких портов, должны быть очень осторожны. В то время, когда возможно, что их действия окажутся неправомерными в месте совершения, имеется и весьма значительная реальная возможность того, что указание окажется вполне правомерным в свете английского права и международного публичного права. Последнее возможно, поскольку законодательство Украины может быть не признано применимым правом на территории, фактически не подконтрольной Правительству Украины, а также потому что соответствующее решение о закрытии портов вводит неэффективную блокаду, что недействительно с точки зрения международного публичного права. Тем не менее, имеются вполне ясные санкции, ограничивающие импорт в Европейский Союз товаров, происходящих из Крыма или Севастополя, если отсутствуют соответствующие сертификаты, выданные украинскими властями.

A press release issued by the Ukranian Government on 7 July 2014 stipulates that the Crimean ports of Evpatoria, Kerch, Sevastopol, Theodosia and Yalta shall be closed to international shipping. The closure, ordered by Directive No. 255 “On Closure of Sea Ports”, will come into force when the Directive is officially published on the expected date of 15 July 2014. However, Ukraine has not sought to enforce the closure by a naval presence and interdiction of merchant shipping.  Undoubtedly many vessels will have already been fixed to load or discharge at one or more of the above-mentioned ports in Crimea and one would expect that many of the affected charterparties will be governed by English law. Therefore, owners and charterers alike will have to grapple with the thorny question of whether, as a matter of English law, orders to load or discharge in the named ports in Crimea are lawful orders under their charters.

The Laws of the Place of Performance

As every English law student will know, contractual obligations cannot be enforced if performance would be illegal under the laws of the place of performance (Ralli Bros v Compania Naviera Sota y Aznar [1920] 2 KB 287). This, however, begs the question: what are the laws of the place of performance? In most cases, this is not difficult to discern. However, in the case of Crimea, the answer is far from straightforward.

The reason is that although, in the eyes of the international community, Crimea remains a part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine, Crimea’s regional parliament declared independence and became part of the Russian Federation after its people voted to leave Ukraine in March this year and join Russia.  Russia and the “Autonomous  Republic of Crimea” subsequently concluded a treaty of accession, ratified by the Russian Duma on 21 March. While Ukraine and the majority of states (as evidenced by the UN General Assembly vote of 27 March) have refused to recognise the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or its incorporation as a constituent part of Russia, the reality is they have done little to assist Ukraine to regain possession of Crimea. As a consequence, Crimea is now beyond its effective control.

Arguably, therefore, a question arises as to whether the laws of the place of performance, in the context of orders to load or discharge at closed ports in Crimea, should be taken to be those of Ukraine, which is recognised as the only state to have sovereignty over it, or the laws of the state or government with de facto control over Crimea, i.e. Russia or the subfederal “Autonomous Republic of Crimea”.

Laws of the sovereign state?

At first blush, one might conclude that the answer is straightforward. The majority of states, including the UK and EU, consider that Crimea remains part of the sovereign state of Ukraine and thus its laws should surely, one might think, be taken as the law of the place of performance. If that were the case, any vessels calling at any of the “closed” Crimean ports would be performing an illegal act under the laws of the place of performance (being Ukraine) and, in accordance with the Ralli Bros principle, such orders would be regarded as unlawful as a matter of English law. However, like many things in life, and law in particular, it is not that simple.

Laws of the de facto power?

This is because the above analysis presupposes that the law of the place of performance is the law of the recognised soverign state and not the law of the governing powers that have effective (or de facto) control over the Crimean peninsula. While looking to the laws of the recognised sovereign power might seem both appropriate and logical, it is not necessarily the correct approach as a matter of public international law, and thus English law (which incorporates public international law). A similar result may also be arrived at by the application of English conflicts of laws principles, which also draw on public international law.

The generally accepted view amongst public international lawyers and academics is that a government which has lost effective control of a territory to a so called “belligerent occupier”, in this case Crimea to Russia, cannot as a matter of customary international law declare the sea ports of that territory closed to the trade of foreign nationals.  They can only do so if the order is accompanied by an effective naval blockade. To do so, would impose a “paper blockade”, which is not lawful as a matter of public international law. Interestingly, the prohibition on “paper blockades” can be traced back to the Paris Declaration of 1856, which was signed at the end of the Crimean War and provided “Blockades, in order to be binding, must be effective, that is to say, maintained by a force sufficient to prevent access to the coast of the enemy”. Accordingly, unless there is a binding UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions, restrictive measures or embargoes which prohibit trade and/or impose obligations on states to prevent their nationals from such trade or a relevant bilateral treaty obligation, foreign nationals are not (as a matter of public international law) prohibited from trading with persons in areas under the control of an unrecognised de facto government, in this case Russia. Furthermore as a matter of the international law of armed conflict, a “belligerent occupier” is entitled to exercise legislative powers and take control of facilities within the occupied territory for reasons of military necessity, its own security and to meet its obligations to regulate public order and economic life in the occupied territory for the benefit of the population.  This is wide enough to include the operation of ports, given their role as a matter of public order and economic life.

Act of State Doctrine

Whilst the position under public international law may be that foreign nationals are not prohibited from trading with persons in areas under the control of an unrecognised de facto government except in exceptional circumstances, it might be argued that a failure by the English courts to give effect to Directive No. 255 would amount to a breach of the act of state doctrine.

This doctrine holds that every sovereign state is bound to respect the independence of every other sovereign state. Under this doctrine, the legislative act of a foreign state can only be disregarded in very limited circumstances, such as where the act is contrary to public policy and rules of public international law. Whether the international law rule against paper blockades imposed by the recognised sovereign in respect of ports in territory over which it has lost effective control would fall within the exceptions to the act of state doctrine, has not yet been the subject of legal decision, but such an exception would be supported by existing case law and reinforced by other rules of international law such as the laws of armed conflict on occupation and the Namibia principle. Furthermore, a similar result may be arrived at if determining the applicable law of the place of performance according to English conflicts of laws principles, as developed and applied in, for example, the cases that followed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and German occupation of territories in WWII.

Recommendations

The impact of the closure of ports in Crimea remains to be seen. However, shipowners who receive an order to proceed to one of the closed ports should be cautious in their treatment of such orders. While they may, on their face and having regard to Directive No. 255, appear to be unlawful in the place of performance, and thus as a matter of English contract law (following the Ralli Bros principle), there is a very real possibility that such an order is not unlawful as a matter of English law or public international law. In essence, this is because (i) the laws of Ukraine may be not be treated as the applicable law for the purpose of English contract law insofar as they apply in a territory beyond the effective control of the Ukrainian Government control and (ii) Directive No. 255 amounts to a “paper blockade”, which is impermissible as a matter of public international law.

Nevertheless, care should be taken to ensure that any transactions involving Crimea are not prohibited by the EU Ukraine sanctions regulations. The EU Ukraine sanctions impose financial and asset freezing measures on designated individuals, embargoes on arms and equipment that might be used in internal repression, and, since 23 June 2014, there has been a ban on the import into the EU of goods originating in Crimea or Sevastopol, and the direct or indirect financing assistance and insurance and reinsurance related to the import of those goods, unless a certificate of origin has been issued by the recognised Ukrainian authorities.

For further advice and assistance please contact Darryl Kennard or Clare Hammersley.

Автор: Darryl Kennard

Источник: http://www.thomascooperlaw.com/closure-crimean-ports-affect-employment-orders/