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Message from Secretary-General

What lawyer, from anywhere in the world, has not heard of Justinian’s Digest, compiled by Tribonius at the behest of the Emperor Justinian?

We order you to read and revise the books relating to the Roman law drawn up by the jurists of antiquity, upon whom the most venerated princes conferred authority to write and interpret the same; so that from these all the substance may be collected, and, as far as may be possible, there shall remain no laws either similar to or inconsistent with one another, but that there may be compiled from them a summary which will take the place of all. We decree that all these rules shall be observed in every age by all professors, students of law, and copyists, and by the judges themselves.” 1

Thus ordered the Emperor Justinian in 533. Tribonius completed his mammoth task in only three years.2 And where was the Digest written? Right here, in Istanbul - founded as Byzantium, rebuilt by Constantine the Great in the 3rd C as Nova Roma, and for many centuries thereafter, as Constantinople, the last capital of the Eastern and Later Roman Empires.3

By the mid-1400s the vestiges of the once mighty Roman world, with Constantinople, were taken by the Ottoman Turks who over time came to use the Turkish Istanbul alongside the city’s earlier names. It was the first president of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,4 who with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, finally settled the name of the city as Istanbul.

How incredibly fortunate therefore that we in the CMI community now have the opportunity of debating our present day maritime laws in this cradle of so much of our jurisprudence?

Our Turkish hosts first proposed Istanbul for a CMI event some years ago. A decision was then taken in Dublin in 2013 to come to Istanbul in 2015 for a Colloquium to prepare for the CMI New York Conference due to take place in May 2016. In particular, we envisage that there will be significant changes to the York Antwerp Rules in New York - are we perhaps looking at New York –Antwerp Rules? For reform of the Rules, there needs to be open debate, which is one of the main purposes of the CMI 2015 Istanbul Colloquium.

But the road to Istanbul for the CMI has not been without hurdles. Notwithstanding earlier internal political difficulties in Turkey post-Dublin, the decision to hold the Istanbul Colloquium was enthusiastically confirmed by the CMI Assembly in Hamburg in early June 2014. Preparations began in earnest with the organising Committee of the Turkish MLA, with Dr Bülent Sözer at its helm.

Since our Hamburg meetings, we seem sadly to be living in a more volatile world, and we are very much aware of the world security situation. We are taking out insurance to cover CMI exposure for cancellation should circumstances so require. It may also be sensible for delegates to ensure that they too have adequate travel cancellation cover for this and future CMI events.

With the considerable input of the Turkish MLA organising committee, we have decided to locate the Colloquium at the Sheraton Atakoy Hotel which is on the airport side of the city, on the shores of the Sea of Marmara. This is out of the bustle of the old city, away from Taksim Square, and situated on a beautiful marina. The hotel and the marina have everything we need for a splendid few days of work and play. There is a spill-over (and slightly cheaper) sister hotel in the marina, 5 mins walk from the Sheraton. Access to the old city is by an easy 30 min hotel shuttle or taxi.

The work programme we are putting together for the Istanbul Colloquium will hopefully be enough reason in itself for you to make the journey: over the weekend of 6/7 June 2015 there will be General Average International Sub-Committee (ISC) and other International Working Group (IWG) meetings, and an EXCO meeting - all at the Sheraton. ISC meetings are open to all. We will have a welcome reception in the grounds of the hotel on the evening of Sunday 7th June, and our colloquium sessions will start on Monday 8th June with feedback of the ISC debates held over the weekend and hopefully the sessions will be able to give the IWG the lead as to where the New York GA reforms are likely to go.

On the Monday afternoon there will be a full seminar on Offshore Drilling – Regulation and Liabilities convened by Past-President Patrick Griggs who heads up the CMI’s Offshore Activities IWG. This promises to be a fascinating mix of international and local problems and expertise.

Tuesday morning 9th June will be taken up with interest sessions dealing with a miscellany of topics of international interest. Our Turkish hosts will be introducing local maritime law issues - where better, for instance, could we explore the complex topic of straits laws than on the edge of the Bosphorus? Details on the programme will be added to the Colloquium site as speakers are firmed up. We hope also to repeat the Maintenance of Maritime Laws session that was held in Berlin last year – at which countries that have been busy with reforms of their maritime laws are invited to share their own experiences with delegates. It seemed in Berlin that we indeed all sail a similar course.

The CMI Assembly will take place on Tuesday afternoon. But because attendance at the Assembly is limited to three delegates from each member MLA, we will be running a parallel session of interesting topics, some covered by speakers from our growing Young CMI community. As with Hamburg, we will try to record all presentations so that nothing is missed by those who are at the Assembly.

And if these fascinating topics are not enough of a draw for you to travel to Istanbul, we have arranged a social programme that does justice to the magic of Istanbul. I have previously said that the main job of the CMI Secretary-General is to ensure that lots of work is done without too much fun! But the allure of Istanbul is such that I shall clearly fail with that approach. Monday evening will see us all under the stars sailing on the Bosphorus. Tuesday’s work programme will be capped with a gala dinner at the Sheraton. And there will of course be optional add-on tours available during the preceding weekend and on Wednesday 10th June. Our professional conference organisers, Etix, have arrangements in hand already – and you may choose and book your options via the Colloquium website.

We need your support to help us do our CMI work. And what better place to work, and to play, than the fascinating city that straddles east and west of which the 19th century French poet Alphonse de Lamartine said:

“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”

Please come and join us as we gaze on Istanbul!


1 Digest, First Preface 530AD, para 4 and Decree of 533. Translation by Scott, 1932.
2 Most famously, the Digest recounted the Rhodian law of jettison. For the (sadly somewhat limited) maritime content of the Digest see www.admiraltylawguide.com/documents/digestxiv.html
3 Justinian left many other marks in this beautiful city: The exquisite Hagia Sophia was commissioned by him as a Christian church upon which the emperor reportedly bragged “O Solomon, I have outdone you.”
4 In 1934 the revered founder-President Atatürk was granted the sole right in all of Turkey to the name Atatürk “Father of the Turks”.
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