Special Tribute to CMI Titulary members, the Hon James Allsop AC and the Hon Steven Rares KC
This year we pay tribute to CMI Titulary members, the Hon James Allsop AC and the Hon Steven Rares KC who retired from the Federal Court of Australia during 2023.
Ms Michelle Taylor – Immediate Past President of the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand (MLAANZ)
Hon James Allsop AC
The Hon James Allsop AC was the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia from 1 March 2013 to 6 April 2023, President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal from 2 June 2008 to 28 February 2013 and a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia from 7 May 2001 to 1 June 2008.
In 2023, the Hon James Allsop was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to the judiciary and to the law, to organisational and technological reform, to legal education, and to insolvency law. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013.
During his time as a judge of the Federal Court until 2008, the Hon James Allsop was the Convenor of the National Admiralty Committee which advised the then Chief Justice on Admiralty matters, and was the National Convening Judge and Sydney Registry Convening Judge in respect of the Admiralty and maritime work of the Federal Court. He presided over may of Australia’s most important admiralty and maritime cases, including of note:
- The Sam Hawk  FCAFC 26 (maritime liens)
- Samson Maritime Pty Ltd v Aucote  FCAFC 182 (seafarers’ compensation)
- The Global Peace  FCA 954 (nature of general maritime claims)
- Braverus Maritime Inc v Port Kembla Coal Terminal  FCAFC 256 (liability of pilot)
- The Cape Moreton (Ex Freya)  FCAFC 68 (meaning of ‘owner’)
- Comandate Marine Corp v Pan Australia Shipping Pty Ltd  FCAFC 192 (nature of action in rem)
- CMA CGM SA v Ship Chou Shan  FCAFC 90 (inappropriate forum)
- The El Greco  FCAFC 202 (package limitation)
- Comandate Marine Corp v The Ship Boomerang I  FCAFC 106 (surrogate arrest)
The Hon James Allsop taught maritime law at the University of Sydney from 1981 to 2014 and at the University of Queensland from 2015 to 2018. He has been a Board member of the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden as well as the Australian Maritime College. In 2010, he was elected as an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple and in 2013, he was elected a member of the American Law Institute. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and is President of the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History. The Hon James Allsop has always been an avid supporter of the International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot (IMLAM) competition and has been a judge for the IMLAM competition on several occasions.
The Hon James Allsop has delivered numerous papers and presentations in relation to maritime law for the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand (MLAANZ), at CMI meetings and more generally, including:
- Judicial support of Arbitration (2014) – APRAG Tenth Anniversary Conference
- International commercial arbitration – the courts and the rule of law in the Asia Pacific region
(2014) – Keynote at 2nd Annual Global Arbitration Review
- Commercial and investor-state arbitration: the importance of recognising their differences
(2018) – Keynote at ICCA Congress 2018
- The place that launched a thousand ships: some Hellenic influences on maritime law and
commerce (2018) – the Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association International Conference,
- Comity and Unity in Maritime Law (2016) – the 13th Nicholas J Healy Lecture on Admiralty
Law, New York (CMI Yearbook 2016, 163)
- The Influence of the United States on the Development of Admiralty Law in Australia (2011) –
The Maritime Law Associations of the United States, Canada, and Australia & New Zealand, Hawaii
- Maritime Law – the Nature and Importance of its International Character (2009) – William Tetley Lecture, Tulane University
- Australian Admiralty and Maritime Law – Sources and Future Directions (2006) – The Richard
Cooper Memorial Lecture (2007) 26 UQLJ 179
Recently, the Hon James Allsop delivered the Frank Dethridge Address (2023) at the 48th MLAANZ Annual Conference in Perth entitled “Not a Land Girt by Beach and the Importance of Seeing Maritime Law as the Law of an Activity”.
It is a testament to the respect that our maritime legal profession has for James, that this was the second occasion whereupon he has been invited to deliver this prestigious address. The annual Dethridge Address developed from a lifetime engagement and fascination with maritime law on the part of Frank Dethridge. Frank is remembered for having the vision which led to the founding of MLAANZ in 1975. He is also admired for his outstanding service to the law and maritime community. The same can also be said for James Allsop.
In his 2006 Dethridge Address, the Hon James Allsop spoke about international commercial law, maritime law, dispute resolution and the place of Australia and New Zealand in the Asia Pacific region. In 2023, the Hon James Allsop reinforced some of these themes due to their importance to the administration of justice and to the coherent development of maritime law. During the opening of the address he said:
The enjoyment of being here in this room is that I will feel your understanding of what I am seeking to say. That so many Australian lawyers, including judges, would find this discussion esoteric or antiquarian, when in fact it is human and practically real and important to the nation, is the living testament to the consequences of the failure to appreciate the significance of the Admiralty and maritime grant in s 76(iii). For so many Australians, including Australian Governments and judges, it is as if we are not a land girt by sea, but a land girt by beach. But we are not. We are girt by sea. Hence, part of the title to this address.
Without seeking to detract for the comprehensive and erudite exposition of these themes during the address, as part of his concluding remarks, he said:
Maritime law should not be viewed as antiquarian, but as vibrantly contemporaneous. It should not be viewed as just a part of a fabric of national law drawing its principles only from domestic sources of constituent conception such as contracts and unjust enrichment. It should be viewed as the national manifestation of a common heritage of principle drawing its content from such maritime and international sources as are appropriate to maintain its place as part of the regulation of rights and duties for international sea-borne activity and commerce reflecting, where possible, common principle. As such it should aim, as Justice Jackson said in Lauritzen v Larsen, for stability and order through considerations of comity, reciprocity and connection with common interests, and as Scott LJ said in The Tolten, for uniformity or harmony of sea law throughout the world as important for the welfare of maritime commerce.
These profound words provide guidance that all maritime lawyers can draw inspiration from.
As a further acknowledgment of the outstanding contribution that the Hon James Allsop has made to maritime law and its development as practice area, MLAANZ has bestowed him with honorary membership. We thank the Hon James Allsop for continuing to challenge the profession to maintain the distinctiveness of maritime law.
Hon Steven Rares KC
The Hon Steven Rares KC was appointed a judge of the Federal Court of Australia in 2006 and he retired on 14 November 2023, staying in his own words “to the bitter end”. At his farewell ceremony, the Hon Justice Rares said,
“Today is bittersweet for me. I have hung on to the bitter end. I learned of the origin of that expression when hearing a case about a ship’s anchor fouling and then breaking the gas pipeline in Port Phillip Bay. The bitter end is the mechanism that connects the anchor chain to the ship and enables its release when the ship is in danger and cannot heave the anchor out of the water. At midnight, my Constitutional Chapter III role will be released from the bitter end.”
During his judicial career, the Hon Steven Rares served as a national co-convening judge and the New South Wales registry convening judge for the Admiralty and Maritime National Practice and for Defamation in the Other Federal Jurisdiction Areas. He was also an additional judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and a judge of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island. From 2014 to 2016, he was President of the Judicial Conference of Australia and from 2019 to 2021 he was President of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration. He was also the Chairman of the Consultative Council of Australian Law Reporting from 2012 to 2019.
The Hon Steven Rares is an advocate of the unification of international maritime law and has made a significant contribution to the international community of maritime law through his involvement in the work of CMI, particularly the proposed development of an international convention on liability relating to transboundary damage from offshore oil and gas activities. He is a member of the CMI International Working Group on Offshore Activities.
The extensive support Steven gave to MLAANZ was represented by his regular participation as a speaker at annual conferences and his leadership as a Federal Court judge at the Admiralty User Group Meetings convened for the benefit of all maritime law practitioners in our jurisdiction. Furthermore, his dedication to the betterment of maritime law practice is signified in his papers presented to international maritime audiences, including:
- Introduction to the UNCCA UN day lecture (2022)
- Charting a new course – Promoting the development of an international convention on liability and compensation relating to transboundary damage from offshore oil and gas activities (2019) CMI conference, Mexico
- The rule of law and international trade (2018) Australian Maritime and Transport Arbitration Commission’s Annual Address
- Ship arrests, maritime liens and cross-border insolvency (2017) BIT’s 6th World Congress of Ocean 2017 in Shenzhen, China
- Ships that changed the law – the Torrey Canyon disaster (2017) 44th MLAANZ Annual Conference
- An international convention on off-shore hydrocarbon leaks? (2011) International Conference on Liability and Compensation Regime for Transboundary Oil Damage resulting from Offshore Exploration and Exploitation Activities, Bali
It was fitting that the Hon Steven Rares was farewelled in a “standing room only” ceremonial sitting of the Full Court presided by the Honourable Debra Mortimer, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia on 14 November. Following a warm welcome by the Chief Justice addresses were delivered by Matthew Blunn, Australian Government Solicitor, representing the Attorney-General for the Commonwealth, Peter Dunning KC, President of the Australian Bar Association, Dr Ruth Higgins SC, President of the New South Wales Bar Association, Luke Murphy, President of the Law Council of Australia and Ms Cassandra Banks, President of the Law Society of New South Wales.
The Hon Steven Rares was recognised as a leading specialist in maritime and admiralty by the Chief Justice as well as the other speakers. It was also particularly noted by Matthew Blunn that for approximately 15 years, almost every admiralty and maritime matter filed in New South Wales was docketed to the Hon Justice Rares, with his Honour’s Friday case management list serving as a meeting place for shipping lawyers.
The commitment that his Honour gave to delivering quality judgments was highlighted by Dr Higgins SC when she said:
As your Honour observed in a 2010 extrajudicial article what is a quality judiciary, and I quote:
Cases are not mere statistics. The real work of the courts and society cannot be totalled up and measured up by arbitrary business tools, such as key performance indicators. Each case before a court of law involves a controversy that the court must resolve as the institution in which every member of the community must have confidence. That confidence can only be earned from a society by a judicial system that adheres to the core values that reflect the rule of law.
In his reply, the Hon Justice Rares commented on growing up how he valued the role that the Courts play in upholding the rule of law and our way of life. He also made particular reference to the importance of the Court’s Admiralty jurisdiction and the role of the CMI in law reform, when he said:
This Court’s Admiralty jurisdiction is recognised internationally as being of a very high standard. This was again conveyed to me last week when I spoke in Dubai at the 22nd Congress of International Maritime Arbitrators. The work is vital to Australia’s economy with over 10 per cent of the world’s trade, measured by volume, sailing into and out of Australia on the ocean.
Following my urging, in a speech I gave in Beijing in 2012, the Comité Maritime International established a working group to prepare a draft convention to deal with issues of liability and compensation arising as a result of pollution caused by offshore oil and gas leaks from fixed or floating platforms. Such leaks do not respect national or international boundaries. Very significant leaks from blowouts occurred in 2009 in the Gulf of Mexico, from the Deepwater Horizon rig, and in 2009 and 2010 in the North West Shelf here, from the Montara rig. My friend and colleague Justice Yates recently heard and decided a lengthy class action brought by Indonesian seaweed farmers arising out of the latter.
The career of the Hon Steven Rares embodies the essence of what it is to be an international maritime lawyer, namely, to push the boundaries in order to strive for laws that better serve maritime law and our international community.
As an acknowledgment of the remarkable contribution that the Hon Steven Rares has made to maritime law, MLAANZ has bestowed him with honorary membership. We also thank the Hon Steven Rares for continuing to challenge the profession to consider law reform.