Sri Lanka - Time Bars

The legal position in Sri Lanka is concerned notwithstanding the fact that the Executive or a member of the cabinet of ministers or the representatives of the state being signatories to international conventions or treaties on behalf of the Republic, it would

not have

binding legal effect on the citizens of Republic, unless the parliament enacts national legislation to give legal effect to the provisions of the accords / treaties.

  • In respect of claims arises under contractual obligations, in terms of the Prescription Ordinance, unless an action is instituted within 6 years, the opposite side would be able to raise objections with regard to the maintainability of the action.
  • Claims in respect of wreck removal, generally the state initiates the actions for causing damage to the environment.  Very often the alleged claims concerning the wreck removal are filed in the criminal court under the provisions of criminal law and therefore there is no time limitation.
  • There are no specific provisions of law to deal with the scenarios of stowaways and refugees.  The ports authority being notified the position with regard to the stowaways acts instantly and detained them in a specified place and thereafter through the agents of the vessel takes steps to repatriate them.  Hence, generally this issue is not subject to legal proceedings.  Similarly, in respect of the issues concerning the refugees, as the subject matter essentially comes under the purview of the Immigration laws, the authorities act instantly, as such the question of time limitation would not arise.  Unless, the stowaways or refugees are able to clearly able to adduce evidence that the vessel intentionally facilitated them to land into the country, the action cannot be maintainable.
  • Collision with another vessel, essentially claims arises under the admiralty law.  There is no time limitation if the action is instituted under the said law.  However, if it is instituted under the law of tort, then the limitation is 2 years.
  • In connection with claim arises in respect of shore equipment since those claims are made by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) pursuant such incident takes place, the vessel is detained and security is obtained.  Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of (vessel) owner or the P&I club to provide adequate security to release the vessel and then in order to expeditiously find solution to issue and to release the security, it is the party which provided the security enters into negotiations with SLPA.  If the parties are not able to amicably resolve, then the party which provided the security seeks the intervention of the court.  The time limitation is six (6) years as the issue comes under a contract.
  • Marine pollution is a criminal offence and hence there is no time limitation.
  • Regarding cargo claims, if the claim is based on the bill of lading, the limitation is 1 year.  If it is under the contract, the limitation is 6 years.
  • Wrong handling of stevedores is an interesting area of law.  SLPA act specifically states that no action can be filed against it.  Nevertheless, under the law of tort if it could established that damage the ship was caused, by the negligence, then the action could be maintained and the limitation is 6 years.
  • Matters arising under the customs ordinance, the time limitation is 3 years. 

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Staff Author