What is your field/topic of research?
My research addresses law of the sea issues concerning ships in peril and shipwrecks. In particular, it focuses on coastal States’ jurisdiction, rights and obligations when these ships, or shipwrecks, fly a foreign flag.
What is your motivation to do this particular research?
There has been a significant decline in the number of incidents at sea these last couple of years. This is mainly explained by the technological developments and improvements in safety standards applied to ships. Yet, there is always a possibility that something goes wrong, as problems like bad weather and human error will always persist. What may initially appear to be a minor problem, may easily and rapidly transform into a catastrophe. This field is therefore of a dynamic nature and here lies the main motivation for my research.
While safety of life at sea remains a top priority for States, a question which may arise is: once the crew or passengers are brought to a place of safety, what about the ship herself?
It is not easy for the coastal State to know what to do in a given situation, because the law itself appears unclear. By the time the law has been interpreted, an environmental catastrophes could easily occur. This motivated me to develop a comprehensive tool that will guide Governments, as well as other actors involved in the shipping industry (shipowners, salvors insurers amongst others) to respond to these problems timely. Such a tool should at the same time provide recommendations for improvements, when these are needed. Finally, the field of my research is often observed from either a purely private or a public law perspective, when in reality it combines both. This motivated me to develop a discussion on its hybrid nature.
Is there a specific event, experience or inspiration that made you interested in the field?
Before I started my PhD, I had practiced law for more than three years and was often engaged in cases that required interpretation of a number of ambiguous rules in a very short period of time – sometimes even less than an hour. This was particularly in matters involving foreign ships in emergencies. While challenging and interesting, these were the times when I appreciated the work of academics. I would have welcomed finding a reference book on the topic to consult, rather than struggling with first collecting the applicable rules and then interpreting their vague and ambiguous content. Such a reference book was missing in my field of research, and is the inspiration for my work.
Have you experienced any resistance or doubt about your own research?
Absolutely. To me, it seems this is an inevitable situation in every PhD student’s life. I still experience it on some occasions when I ask myself: What am I actually doing? But then, I remember a quote written on my colleague’s office door, which reads: ‘If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?’ (Albert Einstein). I also find inspiration in the words of Winston Churchill, who once said: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.’ So, I take the courage and continue with my research, no matter what doubts I may have or any resistance I encounter on my path.