In the case of Pressos Compania Naviera S.A. and Others v.
Belgium (1),

      The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with
Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") and the relevant
provisions of Rules of Court (2), as a Chamber composed of the
following judges:

      Mr R. Ryssdal, President,
      Mr Thór Vilhjálmsson,
      Mr C. Russo,
      Mr J. De Meyer,
      Mr R. Pekkanen,
      Mr M.A. Lopes Rocha,
      Mr L. Wildhaber,
      Mr D. Gotchev,
      Mr U. Lohmus,

and also of Mr H. Petzold, Registrar,

      Having deliberated in private on 26 May and 28 October 1995,

      Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the
last-mentioned date:
_______________
Notes by the Registrar

1.  The case is numbered 38/1994/485/567.  The first number is the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the
relevant year (second number).  The last two numbers indicate the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its
creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications
to the Commission.

2.  Rules A apply to all cases referred to the Court before the entry
into force of Protocol No. 9 (P9) and thereafter only to cases
concerning States not bound by that Protocol (P9).  They correspond to
the Rules that came into force on 1 January 1983, as amended several
times subsequently.
_______________

PROCEDURE

1.    The case was referred to the Court by the European Commission of
Human Rights ("the Commission") and by the Belgian Government ("the
Government") respectively on 9 September and 21 October 1994, within
the three-month period laid down by Article 32 para. 1 and Article 47
(art. 32-1, art. 47) of the Convention.  It originated in an
application (no. 17849/91) against the Kingdom of Belgium lodged with
the Commission under Article 25 (art. 25) by twenty-six applicants (see
paragraph 6 below) on 4 January 1991.

      The Commission's request referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44,
art. 48) and to the declaration whereby Belgium recognised the
compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46); the
Government's application referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44,
art. 48).  The object of the request and of the application was to
obtain a decision as to whether the facts of the case disclosed a
breach by the respondent State of its obligations under Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
(P1-1).

2.    In response to the enquiry made in accordance with Rule 33
para. 3 (d) of Rules of Court A, twenty-five of the original twenty-six
applicants before the Commission stated that they wished to take part
in the proceedings and designated the lawyers who would represent them
(Rule 30).

      On 27 February 1995 the lawyers so designated submitted a
memorial on behalf of those applicants.  On 18 May 1995 they indicated
that they had received no instructions from the sixth applicant.

3.    The Chamber to be constituted included ex officio Mr J. De Meyer,
the elected judge of Belgian nationality (Article 43 of the Convention)
(art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the President of the Court (Rule 21
para. 3 (b)).  On 24 September 1994, in the presence of the Registrar,
the President drew by lot the names of the other seven members, namely
Mr Thór Vilhjálmsson, Mr N. Valticos, Mr R. Pekkanen,
Mr M.A. Lopes Rocha, Mr L. Wildhaber, Mr D. Gotchev and Mr U. Lohmus,
(Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21 para. 4) (art. 43).
Subsequently, Mr C. Russo, substitute judge, replaced Mr Valticos, who
was unable to take part in the further consideration of the case
(Rules 22 para. 1 and 24 para. 1).

4.    As President of the Chamber (Rule 21 para. 5), Mr Ryssdal, acting
through the Registrar, consulted the Agent of the Government, the
applicants' lawyers and the Delegate of the Commission on the
organisation of the proceedings (Rules 37 para. 1 and 38).  Pursuant
to the order made in consequence, the Registrar received the
Government's memorial and applicants' memorial on 24 and
27 February 1995 respectively.

5.    In accordance with the President's decision, the hearing took
place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on
22 May 1995.  The Court had held a preparatory meeting beforehand.

      There appeared before the Court:

(a) for the Government

Mr J. Lathouwers, Deputy Adviser, Head of the
      Human Rights Section, Ministry of Justice,               Agent,
Mr J.-M. Nelissen-Grade, avocat,                             Counsel,
Mr G. Michaux, avocat,
Mr J. Van de Velde, Head of Administration,
      Ministry of Communications and Infrastructure,        Advisers;

(b) for the Commission

Mr I. Cabral Barreto,                                       Delegate;

(c) for the applicants

Mr L. Simont, avocat,
Mr R.O. Dalcq, avocat,                                       Counsel,
Mr D. Lagasse, avocat,
Mr N. Cahen, avocat,                                        Advisers.

      The Court heard addresses by Mr Cabral Barreto, Mr Simont,
Mr Dalcq and Mr Nelissen-Grade, and also their answers to its
questions.

AS TO THE FACTS

I.    CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

A.    The casualties and their legal consequences

6.    The applicants are shipowners, mutual shipping insurance
associations and, in one case, an insolvency administrator whose ships
were involved in casualties in Belgian or Netherlands territorial
waters prior to 17 September 1988.

      As they considered that these casualties were the result of the
negligence of the Belgian pilots on board the ships in question, they
instituted legal proceedings, some of them against the Belgian State
and others against a private company offering pilot services.  The
current state of the proceedings in these various actions is, according
to the information provided to the Court, as follows:

      First applicant: Pressos Compania Naviera S.A., a company
incorporated under Greek law (ship: the Angeartic)

11 August 1982: collision;

24 April 1985: judgment of the court of Middelburg (Netherlands)
finding the first applicant liable;

10 June 1987: action against the Belgian State in the Brussels Court
of First Instance to recover damages paid.

      Second applicant: Interocean Shipping Corporation, a company
incorporated under Liberian law (ship: the Oswego Freedom)

13 December 1970: collision in Netherlands waters;

8 November 1972 and 16 November 1974: judgments respectively of the
Middelburg court and of the Court of Appeal of The Hague finding the
second applicant liable;

12 December 1972: action against the Belgian State in the Brussels
Court of First Instance to recover damages paid;

9 March 1988: action declared unfounded on the ground that the pilot
was not liable under Netherlands law;

7 April 1988: appeal lodged by second applicant.

      Third applicant: Zephir Shipping Corporation, a company
incorporated under Liberian law (ship: the Panachaikon)

27 February 1971: collision;

28 April 1977: settlement estimating the damage to be paid by the third
applicant at 456,798 US dollars;

26 February 1973: action against the Belgian State in the Brussels
Court of First Instance to recover damages paid;

18 March 1988: preliminary decision declaring action well-founded by
virtue of the principle that the State was liable for negligence on the
part of its pilots;

23 February 1994: judgment quashed by the Brussels Court of Appeal in
the light of the Act of 30 August 1988 (see paragraph 18 below).

      Fourth applicant: Cory Maritime Ltd, a company incorporated under
English law (ship: the Pass of Brander)

6 January 1983: contact causing damage to a berth when docking;

23 July 1984: action brought against the company by the owner of the
berth (BASF) in the Antwerp Commercial Court;

22 August 1984: third-party proceedings against the pilot company Brabo
(see paragraph 9 below);

19 June 1986: judgment of the Antwerp Commercial Court ordering:

      (1) the fourth applicant to pay damages;
      (2) the Brabo company, the defendant in the third-party action,
      to reimburse the applicant the sums paid;

18 August 1986: appeal lodged by Brabo;

11 February 1993: settlement by the shipowner of BASF's claim, without
prejudice to the outcome of the proceedings pending in the Antwerp
Court of Appeal.

      Fifth applicant: Malaysian International Shipping Corporation
Berhad, a company incorporated under Malaysian law (ship: the Bunga
Kantan)

23 November 1986: contact causing damage to the wall of a quay
belonging to the Belgian State;

8 August 1988: action brought by the shipowner against the Belgian
State in the Antwerp Court of First Instance seeking reparation in
respect of the damage caused to the ship;

21 November 1988: action brought by the Belgian State, the owner of the
quay, against the shipowner and the Brabo company in the Antwerp Court
of First Instance for reparation in respect of the damage caused to the
quay;

23 November 1988: action brought against the shipowner by Antwerp
municipality in the Antwerp Court of First Instance to recover costs
occasioned by the casualty.

      Sixth applicant: City Corporation, a company incorporated under
Liberian law (see paragraph 2 above).

      Seventh, eighth and ninth applicants: Kukje Shipping Company Ltd,
a company incorporated under South Korean law, Mr Young (as the seventh
applicant's trustee) and The London Steam-ship Owners' Mutual Insurance
Association Ltd, a company incorporated under English law (ship: the
Super star)

27 October 1985: collision;

28 January 1986: action brought against applicants in the Antwerp Court
of First Instance by the owners of the other ship involved;

24 October 1986: third-party proceedings brought by the applicants
against the Belgian State;

unspecified date: out-of-court settlement with subrogation of rights
between the owners of the ships involved in the collision.

      Tenth and eleventh applicants: Ocean Car Carriers Company Ltd,
a company incorporated under Liberian law, and Kansai Kisen K.K., a
company incorporated under Japanese law (ship: the Cygnus Ace)

First casualty:

1 October 1983: contact causing damage to a bridge in the Antwerp
docks;

22 May 1984: action brought against the applicants by Antwerp
municipality in the Antwerp Court of First Instance;

21 June 1984: third-party proceedings brought by the applicants against
the pilot company Brabo;

26 September 1990: third-party proceedings brought by the applicants
against the pilot.

Second casualty:

23 November 1984: contact causing damage to a lock;

27 May 1987: action brought against the applicants by Antwerp
municipality in the Antwerp Court of First Instance;

16 June 1987: third-party proceedings brought by the applicants against
the Belgian State;

10 September 1991: out-of-court settlement with subrogation.

      Twelfth applicant: Furness Withy (Shipping) Ltd, a company
incorporated under English law (ship: the Andes)

31 March 1988: contact causing damage to a lock;

29 October 1990: action brought against the applicant by Antwerp
municipality in the Antwerp Court of First Instance;

19 November 1990: third-party proceedings brought by the applicant
against the pilot company Brabo;

14 January 1992: payment by the applicant of damages to Antwerp
municipality and subrogation.

      Thirteenth and fourteenth applicants: M.H. Shipping Company Ltd
and Powell Duffryn Shipping Ltd, both companies incorporated under
English law (ship: the Donnington)

8 December 1984: contact causing damage to a lock;

9 December 1985: action brought against the applicants by Antwerp
municipality in the Antwerp Commercial Court;

8 December 1987: third-party proceedings brought by the applicants
against the Belgian State;

9 March 1989 and 31 March 1992: shipowners ordered to pay 34,841,522
Belgian francs (BEF) in the main proceedings first by the Antwerp
Commercial Court and then by the Antwerp Court of Appeal;

February and June 1992: sum in question paid by the applicants, which
reserved their right to seek reimbursement in the event of a judgment
of the European Court declaring the Act of 30 August 1988 "void".

      Fifteenth applicant: Société navale chargeurs Delmas-Vieljeux,
a company incorporated under French law (ship: the Marie Delmas)

20 March 1985: contact causing damage to a lock;

27 November 1986: action brought against the applicant and the pilot
company Brabo in the Antwerp Court of First Instance;

17 November 1992: damages paid by the applicant, which reserved its
rights in respect of the effects of the judgment of the European Court.

      Sixteenth applicant: Merit Holdings Corporation, a company
incorporated under Liberian law (ship: the Leandros)

26 July 1985: major damage caused to the berthing facilities of the
Eurosilo company and to the walls of a quay of Ghent harbour;

10 March 1986: action brought against the applicant by the Eurosilo
company in the Ghent Court of First Instance;

18 July 1986: third-party proceedings brought by the applicant against
the State;

17 September 1991: in absentia ruling ordering the shipowner, the State
and the pilot to pay, jointly and severally, various amounts;

24 October 1991: application to have that decision set aside.

      Seventeenth and eighteenth applicants: Petrobas Brasileiro, a
company incorporated under Brazilian law, and The United Kingdom Mutual
Steam Ship Assurance Association (Bermuda) Ltd, a company incorporated
under Bermudan law (ship: the Quitauna)

30 November 1986: contact causing damage to a lock;

27 October 1987: action brought against the applicants and the Belgian
State by the Roegiers company and Antwerp municipality in the Antwerp
Court of First Instance;

8 June 1989: judgment of the Antwerp court;

17 June 1991: applicants ordered to pay damages by the Antwerp Court
of Appeal.

      Nineteenth applicant: Koçtug Gemi Isletmeçiligi ve Ticaret A.S.,
a company incorporated under Turkish law (ship: the Fethiye)

27 October 1984: damage caused to two other ships during mooring
manoeuvres;

unspecified date: action brought against the applicant in the Ghent
Commercial Court;

27 October 1986: third-party proceedings brought by the applicant
against the Belgian State;

14 January 1992: judgment of the Ghent Commercial Court finding that
the applicant was liable and that the pilot and the Belgian State were
not;

6 May and 1 September 1993: appeal lodged by the applicant.

      Twentieth applicant: Initial Maritime Corporation S.A., a company
incorporated under Liberian law (ship: the Acritas)

21 March 1984: collision between three ships;

14 March 1986: action brought by the applicant against the other
shipowners involved and the Belgian State in the Antwerp Court of First
Instance.

      Twenty-first applicant: North River Overseas S.A., a company
incorporated under Panamanian law (ship: the Federal Huron)

26 April 1986: collision;

14 May 1986: action brought by the applicant against the second ship's
owners and the Belgian State in the Antwerp Commercial Court;

25 April 1988: action brought by the second ship's owners against the
applicant and the Belgian State in the same court.

      Twenty-second applicant: Federal Pacific (Liberia) Ltd, a company
incorporated under Liberian law (ship: the Federal St Laurent)

29 September 1985: collision;

4 September 1986: action brought by the applicant against the second
ship's owners and Belgian State in the Antwerp Court of First Instance;

10 December 1987: out-of-court settlement.

      Twenty-third applicant: Conbulkships (3) Ltd, a company
incorporated under Cayman Islands law (ship: the Cast Otter)

6 February 1987: ship ran aground;

6 April 1987: action brought by the applicant against the Belgian State
in the Brussels Court of First Instance.

      Twenty-fourth applicant: Compagnie belge d'affrètement
(Cobelfret) S.A., a company incorporated under Belgian law (ships: the
Belvaux and the Clervaux)

The Belvaux:

18 June 1979: ship ran aground;

10 June 1986: action brought by the applicant against the State in the
Brussels Court of First Instance.

The Clervaux:

5 October 1981: ship ran aground;

10 July 1986: action brought by the applicant against the State in the
Brussels Court of First Instance.

      Twenty-fifth applicant: Naviera Uralar S.A., a company
incorporated under Spanish law (ship: the Uralar Cuarto)

11 December 1983: contact causing damage to a jetty in Antwerp harbour;

18 July 1985: action brought against the applicant by Roegiers, the
bailee of the jetty, in the Antwerp Court of First Instance;

14 August 1985: third-party proceedings brought by the applicant
against the Belgian State;

26 October 1988: third-party application dismissed by the Antwerp Court
of Appeal on the basis of the retrospective effect of the Act of
30 August 1988;

19 April 1991: appeal on points of law dismissed by the Court of
Cassation (see paragraph 8 below).

      Twenty-sixth applicant: B.P. Tanker Company Ltd, a company
incorporated under English law (ship: the British Dragoon)

24 January 1977: ship ran aground in the Scheldt estuary;

21 January 1982: action brought by the applicant against the Belgian
State in the Brussels Court of First Instance.

      The twenty-sixth applicant did not bring legal proceedings to
challenge the Act of 30 August 1988.

B.    Proceedings in the Court of Arbitration and the Court of
      Cassation

7.    In March 1989 twenty-four of the applicants applied to the Court
of Arbitration (Cour d'arbitrage) to have the Act of 30 August 1988
("the 1988 Act") "amending the Act of 3 November 1967 on the piloting
of sea-going vessels" declared void, in particular on the ground of its
retrospective effect (see paragraph 18 below).

      The court dismissed the applications on 5 July 1990, inter alia,
for the following reasons:

      "The legislature is entitled to consider that the categories to
      whom the impugned Act is addressed are, principally on account
      of their involvement in shipping, sufficiently specific to
      warrant special rules concerning liability.

      In this instance the legislature gave the Act retrospective
      effect.  The retrospective component of the special rules on
      liability introduced for pilots infringes the fundamental
      principle of legal certainty, according to which the content of
      the law must in principle be foreseeable and accessible so that
      those subject to the law may foresee to a reasonable degree the
      consequences of a given action at the moment when that action is
      carried out.

      This violation of the principle is not, in the circumstances of
      the case, disproportionate in relation to the general objective
      underlying the contested legislation.  The legislature intended
      to preserve in the legislation on pilots the rules on liability
      which it had not wanted to amend in 1967 and which the case-law
      prior to 1983 and legal writing inferred from section 5 of the
      Pilots Act 1967 and sections 64 and 251 of the Shipping Act
      (Book II, Title II, of the Commercial Code).  Moreover it took
      into account the considerable financial implications that would
      result, in a way that could not have been foreseen, for the
      relevant public authorities from the reversal of the case-law.

      In the light of all these considerations, exempting from
      liability the organisers of a pilot service and limiting the
      personal liability of pilots cannot be regarded as a failure to
      comply with the requirements of Articles 6 and 6 bis of the
      Constitution, even having regard to the retrospective effect of
      the Act in question.

      ...

      The applicants claim that the legislation in issue introduces an
      unjustified distinction between, on the one hand, disputes that
      have reached their conclusion (causae finitae), which fall
      outside the scope of the legislation, and, on the other, pending
      disputes (causae pendentes), which are covered by the Act.

      Attributing retrospective effect to a legal rule means in
      principle that that rule applies to legal relationships that came
      into being and were not definitively terminated before its entry
      into force; such a rule can therefore apply only to pending and
      future disputes and cannot bear in any way on disputes that have
      been concluded.

      According to a fundamental principle of our legal system, a
      judicial decision may be varied only on appeal.  By applying the
      contested distinction so as to limit the effect of the Act with
      regard to the past, the legislature sought to respect that
      principle and did not therefore operate a distinction contrary
      to Articles 6 and 6 bis of the Constitution.

      The applicants relied further on the violation of Article 11 of
      the Constitution and of Article 1 of the First Additional
      Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (P1-1).

      ...

      By amending rules governing compensation for damage without
      calling into question the existence of debts arising from
      judicial decisions, the legislature did not introduce any
      unjustified distinction, as the protection guaranteed by the
      above-mentioned provisions extends only to property that has
      already been acquired."

8.    The twenty-fifth applicant appealed to the Court of Cassation
against the judgment of 26 October 1988 whereby the Antwerp Court of
Appeal dismissed, on the basis of the 1988 Act, its third-party
application against the Belgian State (see paragraph 6 above).

      On 26 January 1990 the Court of Cassation referred a question to
the Court of Arbitration for a preliminary ruling on the
constitutionality of the 1988 Act and in particular its retrospective
effect.  On 22 November 1990 that court confirmed in substance its
judgment of 5 July 1990 (see paragraph 7 above).

      Accordingly, on 19 April 1991, the Court of Cassation dismissed
the twenty-fifth applicant's appeal on points of law.  Reproducing the
reply given by the Court of Arbitration to its question for a
preliminary ruling, it dismissed a first submission according to which
the retrospective effect of the 1988 Act infringed the former
Articles 6 and 6 bis of the Constitution.  It then declared
inadmissible the submission based on an alleged violation of
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1), after noting that the twenty-fifth
applicant had not invoked that provision (P1-1) in the Court of Appeal.
Finally, it rejected the submission that, by taking effect in respect
of proceedings that were in progress, the 1988 Act prevented the courts
from deciding the disputes as brought before them, contrary to the
principles of the independence of the courts and equality of arms
between the parties.  The Court of Cassation held as follows:

      "The task and duty of a judge is to apply the law to the dispute
      before him; the fact that that is his task and his duty has no
      bearing on his independence.  A retrospective law applicable to
      pending disputes, even where the State is a party to the dispute,
      does not impair the judge's independence in carrying out his task
      and accomplishing his duty.  Any pressure brought to bear on a
      judge by such a law is no different from the pressure that all
      laws exert on him.  The fact that the judgment applies such a law
      does not constitute a violation of the right to a fair hearing
      of the case by an independent tribunal."

II.   RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW

A.    The piloting of sea-going vessels

9.    In Belgium the piloting of sea-going vessels is a public service
organised by the State in the interests of shipping.  It is governed
by the Act of 3 November 1967 on the piloting of sea-going vessels
("the 1967 Act").  In practice pilot services are provided either
directly by the State itself, for maritime and river navigation, or by
private companies acting under licence, such as the Brabo company,
which has a monopoly of pilot services within the port of Antwerp.

10.   Pursuant to the 1967 Act and the treaties concluded between
Belgium and the Netherlands, merchant ships that enter the Scheldt
estuary must have on board a pilot with a licence issued by the Belgian
or Netherlands authorities.  However, the only sanction that may be
imposed on the master of a ship who fails to comply with this
obligation is that he be required to pay the pilot's fee, which is
payable in any event.

11.   Under section 5 (1) of the 1967 Act:

      "... piloting consists in the assistance given to the masters of
      sea-going vessels by pilots appointed by the Minister whose
      responsibilities include the pilot service.  The pilot shall
      advise the master.  The latter shall be in sole command as
      regards the course to be steered and the manoeuvres of the
      vessel."

12.   In relation to that provision the explanatory memorandum for the
bill that formed the basis of the 1967 Act states as follows:

      "Section 5 defines piloting and, accordingly, the nature of the
      role of the pilot in this operation.  It therefore settles an
      important legal question.  As the pilot's role is one of
      assistance, he does not replace the master, who remains in sole
      command of the steering of his ship and its manoeuvres.  The
      pilot simply advises on the route to be taken.  This is
      confirmation of the rule which is currently in force and which
      is to be found, inter alia, in a judgment [of the Court of
      Cassation] of 19 March 1896 ..."

13.   In its opinion on the draft, the Conseil d'Etat took the view
that the latter instrument "gave express effect to a long-standing
interpretation according to which the pilot acts merely as the master's
adviser".  As the provision in the draft initially read "the master has
sole responsibility for steering the ship and its manoeuvres", the
Conseil d'Etat suggested that the word "responsibility" be replaced by
the term "in command" since it seemed that "the Government's intention
[was] not to depart in this provision from the general law of tort".

14.   Section 64 of the Shipping Act (Book II, Title II, of the
Commercial Code) provides that "the master is required to be present
in person on board his ship when it enters or leaves ports, harbours
or rivers".

B.    Liability in the event of a collision

15.   According to section 251 of the Shipping Act:

      "...

      If the collision is caused by the fault of one of the vessels,
      liability to make good the damages attaches to the one which has
      committed the fault.

      ...

      The liability imposed by the preceding article[s] attaches in
      cases where the collision is caused by the fault of a pilot even
      when the pilot is carried by compulsion of law."

16.   According to two judgments delivered by the Court of Cassation
respectively on 24 April 1840 (Pasicrisie, 1839-1840, I, 375) and
19 March 1896 (Pasicrisie, 1896, I, 132), the pilot was to be regarded
as the agent (préposé) of the master, the owner or the charterer.  This
meant that Article 1384 of the Civil Code was applicable to him.  That
Article provides as follows:

      "A person shall be liable not only for the damage caused by his
      own action, but also for that which is caused by the actions of
      those for whom he is responsible or by things which are in his
      care.

      Fathers and mothers shall be liable for the damage caused by
      their minor children.

      Masters and principals shall be liable for the damage caused by
      their servants and agents in the exercise of the duties for which
      they are employed.

      ..."

      It followed that the State was not liable for the negligence of
pilots.  Pilots were liable solely for negligent acts committed without
the master's knowledge.

17.   By a judgment of 15 December 1983 the Court of Cassation
(Pasicrisie, 1983, I, 418), endorsing the opinion of Mrs Liekendael,
the advocate general, brought an end to this situation, holding, inter
alia, in relation to the two above-mentioned paragraphs (see
paragraph 15 above) of section 251 of the Shipping Act:

      "It follows from these statutory provisions that, in the event
      of a collision caused by the negligence of a ship, the owner of
      that ship is required to make good the damage caused by that
      negligence to the victims of the collision.  It cannot, however,
      be inferred either from section 251 of the Shipping Act or from
      section 64 of that Act, according to which the master is required
      to be present in person on board his ship on entering and leaving
      ports, harbours and rivers, that the owner is precluded from
      instituting proceedings against third parties, who may have
      incurred liability under other statutory provisions, notably
      Articles 1382 or 1384 of the Civil Code.

      The master, who is in sole command of the ship's course and
      manoeuvres by virtue of section 5 of the Act of 3 November 1967
      on the piloting of sea-going vessels, is not vested with any
      authority in regard to the pilot who, according to the same
      provision, acts as his adviser.

      In so far as it failed to examine whether the pilot of a ship
      that caused the collision had been negligent, however slightly,
      in a way which had contributed to occasioning the damage
      resulting from that collision, and excluded, in the event that
      that had been the case, the possibility that the State could have
      incurred liability, although the pilot belonged to a service
      organised by the State and was under the latter's exclusive
      authority, the judgment lacked a proper reasoning in law."

      It followed that the pilot could no longer be regarded as the
master's agent and his acts were therefore capable of incurring his own
liability and that of the organiser of the pilot service.

      This new case-law, which was confirmed shortly afterwards by a
judgment of 17 May 1985 (Pasicrisie, 1985, I, 1159), followed the line
taken in the "La Flandria" judgment of 5 November 1920 (Pasicrisie,
1920, I, 193), in which the Court of Cassation had recognised that the
State and other public-law bodies were subject to the general law of
tort.

18.   By an Act of 30 August 1988, published in the Moniteur belge on
17 September 1988, the legislature inserted in the 1967 Act
section 3 bis, which reads as follows:

      "para. 1. The organiser of a pilot service cannot be held
      directly or indirectly liable for damage sustained or caused by
      the ship under pilotage, where such damage is the result of the
      negligence of the organiser himself or one of his staff acting
      in the performance of his duties, irrespective of whether the
      negligence in question consists of an act or omission.

      Nor can the organiser of a pilot service be held directly or
      indirectly liable for damage caused by a malfunction or defect
      in the equipment owned or used by the pilot service for the
      purpose of supplying information or instructions to the sea-going
      vessels.

      For the purposes of the present Article, the following
      definitions shall apply:

      1° organiser: the public authorities and port authorities that
      organise the pilot service or grant a licence to operate the
      service, together with the licensee;

      2° pilot service:

      (a) the service which provides the master of a sea-going ship
      with a pilot who acts as adviser to the master;

      (b) any service which, in particular by means of radar
      observations or by sounding the waters accessible to sea-going
      ships, provides information or instructions to a sea-going ship,
      even where there is no pilot on board;

      3° ship under pilotage: any sea-going ship which makes use of the
      pilot service within the meaning of 2° (a) and/or (b) above.

      The ship shall be liable for the damage referred to in the first
      paragraph.

      A member of staff [of the pilot service] who, by his act or
      omission, caused the damage referred to in the first paragraph
      above shall be liable only in the event of a deliberately
      tortious act or gross negligence.

      The liability of a member of staff for damage caused by his gross
      negligence shall be limited to five hundred thousand francs for
      each incident giving rise to such damage.  The Crown may adjust
      that amount in the light of the economic situation.

      para. 2. The foregoing subsection shall enter into force on the
      date of publication in the Moniteur belge.  It shall apply with
      retrospective effect for a period of thirty years from that
      date."

C.    Jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration

19.   By virtue of Article 107 ter (as it was formerly, now
Article 142) of the Constitution and sections 1 and 26 of the Special
Act on the Court of Arbitration of 6 January 1989, that court has
jurisdiction to hear:

      (1) applications to have statutes, decrees or orders declared
void for breach either of the rules governing the distribution of
powers between the State, the communities and the regions, or of
Articles 6 and 6 bis (as they were formerly, now Articles 10 and 11)
of the Constitution, which provide for equality before the law and
prohibit discrimination in the exercise of rights and freedoms;

      (2) requests for preliminary rulings on questions concerning the
breach of the said rules or Articles by statutes, decrees or orders.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

20.   The applicants lodged their application with the Commission on
4 January 1991.  They maintained that the rules governing liability
introduced by the Act of 30 August 1988 infringed Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1, Article 6 para. 1 (P1-1, art. 6-1) of the Convention
and Article 14 of the Convention taken together with Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (art. 14+P1-1).

21.   On 6 September 1993 the Commission declared the complaints
concerning Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 6 para. 1 of the
Convention (P1-1, art. 6-1) admissible; it found the remainder of the
application (no. 17849/91) inadmissible.  In its report of 4 July 1994
(Article 31) (art. 31), the Commission expressed the opinion that there
had been no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1)
(unanimously), but that there had been a violation of Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention (eleven votes to six), except as
regards the second (fourteen votes to three) and twelfth applicants
(sixteen votes to one).

      The full text of the Commission's opinion and of the five
separate opinions contained in the report is reproduced as an appendix
to this judgment (1).
_______________
1.  Note by the Registrar: for practical reasons this annex will appear
only with the printed version of the judgment (volume 332 of Series A
of the Publications of the Court), but a copy of the Commission's
report is obtainable from the registry.
_______________

FINAL SUBMISSIONS TO THE COURT

22.   In their memorial the Government asked the Court

      "by way of primary submission, to declare application
      no. 17849/91 inadmissible and, in the alternative, to hold that
      the facts of the present case do not disclose any breach on the
      part of the Belgian State of its obligations under the European
      Convention on Human Rights."

23.   The applicants invited the Court to

      "1.  hold that the Act of 30 August 1988 infringed Article 6
      para. 1 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
      (art. 6-1, P1-1);
      2.  hold that the Belgian State is to reimburse in respect of
      costs and expenses the sum of BEF 51,380,253;
      3.  hold that the question of the just satisfaction owed to the
      applicants should be reserved."

AS TO THE LAW

I.    THE SIXTH APPLICANT

24.   The Court notes that of the original twenty-six applicants before
the Commission twenty-five were represented before it.  The lawyers
appointed by the applicants received no instructions from the sixth
applicant (see paragraphs 1 and 2 above).  The Court considers that
this circumstance warrants the conclusion that the sixth applicant did
not intend to pursue its complaints (second sub-paragraph of Rule 49
para. 2 of Rules of Court A).

      In addition, it discerns no public policy reason for continuing
the proceedings in respect of the sixth applicant, whose complaints are
similar to those of the other applicants (Rule 49 para. 4).

      Accordingly, the complaints lodged by City Corporation should be
severed from those of the other applicants and struck out of the list.

II.   ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1 (P1-1)

25.   The applicants' complaint was directed against the Act of
30 August 1988 amending the Act of 3 November 1967 on the piloting of
sea-going ships (see paragraphs 9 and 18 above).  They maintained that
the Act in question breached Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1), which
is worded as follows:

      "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful
      enjoyment of his possessions.  No one shall be deprived of his
      possessions except in the public interest and subject to the
      conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of
      international law.

      The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair
      the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary
      to control the use of property in accordance with the general
      interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions
      or penalties."

A.    The Government's preliminary objection

26.   As they had done before the Commission, the Government contended
that the application was inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic
remedies.  In their view, the first twenty-four applicants ought to
have raised the question of the compatibility of the contested Act with
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) also in the ordinary courts.  The
application to have the Act declared void lodged with the Court of
Arbitration had not rendered such proceedings superfluous, because
complaints based on the violation of provisions of international law
taken separately fell outside the jurisdiction of that court (see
paragraph 19 above).  It followed that the Court of Arbitration's
judgment of 5 July 1990 (see paragraph 7 above) was not binding on the
ordinary courts, which could therefore have refused to apply the 1988
Act if they had found it to be in breach of the Convention.

      Nor could the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth applicants be
regarded as having exhausted domestic remedies.  The twenty-fifth
applicant had neglected to raise before the first-instance court and
the Court of Appeal the submission based on the incompatibility of the
1988 Act with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1), which had made it
impossible for the Court of Cassation to take cognisance thereof.  The
twenty-sixth applicant had not taken any legal proceedings to challenge
the 1988 Act.

27.   The Court reiterates that under Article 26 (art. 26) of the
Convention the only remedies required to be exhausted are those that
are effective and capable of redressing the alleged violation (see,
among other authorities, the Keegan v. Ireland judgment of 26 May 1994,
Series A no. 290, p. 17, para. 39).

      It notes that, in the Court of Arbitration, the first twenty-four
applicants relied in substance, with reference to the (former)
Articles 6 and 6 bis of the Belgian Constitution, on arguments that
were virtually identical to those adduced before the Convention
institutions and expressly invoked the violation of Article 11 (as it
was formerly, now Article 16) of the Constitution and Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).  The Court of Arbitration held that the
protection afforded by those provisions extended only to property that
had already been acquired (see paragraph 7 above).

      In the opinion of the European Court, all the applicants were
entitled to consider on the basis of that reasoning that, in the Court
of Arbitration's view, the facts of which twenty-four of them had
complained before that court fell outside the scope of Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).  Regard being had to the rank and authority of
the Court of Arbitration in the judicial system of the Kingdom of
Belgium, it could, in the light of that court's reasoning, be assumed
that any other remedy of which the applicants could have availed
themselves would have been bound to fail (see, mutatis mutandis, the
Hauschildt v. Denmark judgment of 24 May 1989, Series A no. 154, p. 19,
para. 41, and the Holy Monasteries v. Greece judgment of
9 December 1994, Series A no. 301-A, p. 29, para. 51).

      The objection must accordingly be dismissed.

B.    Merits of the complaint

28.   The applicants complained about the 1988 Act in two respects.

      By exempting the organiser of a pilot service from liability for
negligence on the part of its staff and limiting the liability of the
latter, it imposed on the applicants an excessive burden which upset
the fair balance between the demands of the general interest and the
requirements of the protection of their right to the peaceful enjoyment
of their possessions.  Thus it infringed the second paragraph of
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1), or at least the first sentence of
the first paragraph thereof (P1-1).

      In addition the retrospective effect of the Act deprived the
applicants of their claims for compensation in respect of the damage
sustained and therefore infringed the second sentence of the first
paragraph of that Article (P1-1).

      1.   Whether there was a "possession" within the meaning of
           Article 1 (P1-1)

29.   According to the Government, the applicants' alleged claims could
not be regarded as "possessions" within the meaning of Article 1
(P1-1).  None of them had been recognised and determined by a judicial
decision having final effect.  Yet that was the condition for a claim
to be certain, current, enforceable and, accordingly, protected by
Article 1 (P1-1).

      Nor, in view of the unexpected and manifestly disputable
character of the approach adopted by the Court of Cassation in its
judgment of 15 December 1983 (see paragraph 17 above), could the
applicants rely on a "legitimate expectation" that they would obtain
compensation from the State (see the Pine Valley Developments Ltd and
Others v. Ireland judgment of 29 November 1991, Series A no. 222,
p. 23, para. 51).  That would be to confuse the right of property with
a right to property.

      The Commission accepted this argument in substance.

30.   The applicants pointed out that under the ordinary Belgian law
of tort a claim for damages was in principle generated when the damage
occurred, as the judicial decision merely confirmed its existence and
determined the relevant amount.

      The Government replied that the terms "possession" and "property"
within the meaning of Article 1 (P1-1) had an autonomous meaning that
was not dependent on the classifications applicable in the domestic law
of the State in question.

31.   In order to determine whether in this instance there was a
"possession", the Court may have regard to the domestic law in force
at the time of the alleged interference, as there is nothing to suggest
that that law ran counter to the object and purpose of Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).

      The rules in question are rules of tort, under which claims for
compensation come into existence as soon as the damage occurs.

      A claim of this nature "constituted an asset" and therefore
amounted to "a possession within the meaning of the first sentence of
Article 1 (P1-1).  This provision (P1-1) was accordingly applicable in
the present case" (see, mutatis mutandis, the Van Marle and Others v.
the Netherlands judgment of 26 June 1986, Series A no. 101, p. 13,
para. 41).

      On the basis of the judgments of the Court of Cassation of
5 November 1920, 15 December 1983 and 17 May 1985 (see paragraph 17
above), the applicants could argue that they had a "legitimate
expectation" that their claims deriving from the accidents in question
would be determined in accordance with the general law of tort (see,
mutatis mutandis, the Pine Valley Developments Ltd and Others judgment
cited above, loc. cit.).

32.   That was the position with regard to the accidents in issue,
which all occurred before 17 September 1988, the date of the entry into
force of the 1988 Act (see paragraphs 6 and 18 above).

      2.  Whether there was an interference

33.   According to the Court's case-law, Article 1 (P1-1), which
guarantees in substance the right of property, comprises three distinct
rules.  The first, which is expressed in the first sentence of the
first paragraph (P1-1) and is of a general nature, lays down the
principle of peaceful enjoyment of property.  The second rule, in the
second sentence of the same paragraph (P1-1), covers deprivation of
possessions and subjects it to certain conditions.  The third,
contained in the second paragraph (P1-1), recognises that the
Contracting States are entitled, amongst other things, to control the
use of property in accordance with the general interest.  The second
and third rules, which are concerned with particular instances of
interference with the right to peaceful enjoyment of property, are to
be construed in the light of the general principle laid down in the
first rule (see, among other authorities, the Holy Monasteries judgment
cited above, p. 31, para. 56).

34.   The Court notes that the 1988 Act exempted the State and other
organisers of pilot services from their liability for negligent acts
for which they could have been answerable.  It resulted in an
interference with the exercise of rights deriving from claims for
damages which could have been asserted in domestic law up to that point
and, accordingly, with the right that everyone, including each of the
applicants, has to the peaceful enjoyment of his or her possessions
(see paragraph 31 above).

      In so far as that Act concerns the accidents that occurred before
17 September 1988, the only ones in issue in the present proceedings,
that interference amounted to a deprivation of property within the
meaning of the second sentence of the first paragraph of Article 1
(P1-1).

      3.  Whether the interference was justified

35.   The Court must now consider whether that interference was "in the
public interest" and whether it satisfied the requirements of
proportionality.

      (a) "In the public interest"

36.   In order to justify the impugned interference, the Government put
forward three different "major considerations linked to the general
interest".  These were the need to protect the State's financial
interests, the need to re-establish legal certainty in the field of
tort and the need to bring the relevant Belgian legislation into line
with that of neighbouring countries and notably that of the
Netherlands.

37.   The Court recalls that the national authorities enjoy a certain
margin of appreciation in determining what is "in the public interest",
because under the Convention system it is for them to make the initial
assessment both of the existence of a problem of public concern
warranting measures of deprivation of property and of the remedial
action to be taken.

      Furthermore, the notion of "public interest" is necessarily
extensive.  In particular, the decision to enact laws expropriating
property will commonly involve consideration of political, economic and
social issues on which opinion in a democratic society may reasonably
differ widely.  The Court, finding it natural that the margin of
appreciation available to the legislature in implementing social and
economic policies should be a wide one, will respect the legislature's
judgment as to what is "in the public interest" unless that judgment
be manifestly without reasonable foundation (see, mutatis mutandis, the
James and Others v. the United Kingdom judgment of 21 February 1986,
Series A no. 98-B, p. 32, para. 46), which is clearly not the case in
this instance.

      (b) Proportionality of the interference

38.   An interference with the peaceful enjoyment of possessions must
strike a "fair balance" between the demands of the general interest of
the community and the requirements of the protection of the
individual's fundamental rights.  The concern to achieve this balance
is reflected in the structure of Article 1 (P1-1) as a whole, including
therefore the second sentence, which is to be read in the light of the
general principle enunciated in the first sentence (see paragraph 33
above).  In particular, there must be a reasonable relationship of
proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be
realised by any measure depriving a person of his possessions.

      Compensation terms under the relevant legislation are material
to the assessment whether the contested measure respects the requisite
fair balance and, notably, whether it imposes a disproportionate burden
on the applicants.  In this connection, the taking of property without
payment of an amount reasonably related to its value will normally
constitute a disproportionate interference and a total lack of
compensation can be considered justifiable under Article 1 (P1-1) only
in exceptional circumstances (see, as the most recent authority, the
Holy Monasteries judgment cited above, pp. 34-35, paras. 70-71).

39.   In the present case the 1988 Act quite simply extinguished, with
retrospective effect going back thirty years and without compensation,
claims for very high damages that the victims of the pilot accidents
could have pursued against the Belgian State or against the private
companies concerned, and in some cases even in proceedings that were
already pending.

40.   The Government invoked the financial implications, which were
both enormous and unforeseeable, of the Court of Cassation's judgment
of 15 December 1983.  During preparatory work on the 1988 Act, the
financial impact of the actions then pending against the Belgian State
had been assessed at 3.5 thousand million Belgian francs.  The
legislature had been entitled to protect the public purse from this
expense, because it stemmed from a construction placed on the relevant
provisions that was so disputable and unforeseeable that the applicants
could not reasonably have believed that it would be endorsed by the
legislature.  Indeed this had been confirmed in substance by the Court
of Arbitration (see paragraph 7 above).

      The Government also stressed that it had been necessary to put
an end to the "lack of legal certainty" generated by the judgment of
15 December 1983.  In their view, the legislature in 1988 had had to
reaffirm a principle that had been recognised under Belgian law for
nearly one hundred and fifty years and had been overturned by a
questionable interpretation on the part of the Court of Cassation.

      Finally the Government contended that the 1988 Act was also
intended to bring the Belgian legislation into line with that of
neighbouring countries.

41.   The applicants observed in the first place that the 1988 Act
benefited not only the Belgian State, but also the private pilot
company that was involved in several disputes (see paragraph 6 above).
They then submitted that the financial reasons cited by the Government
could not justify such a massive violation of their fundamental rights,
in particular in view of the fact that, far from being unforeseeable,
the Court of Cassation's judgment of 15 December 1983 was entirely
consistent with its "La Flandria" judgment of 1920 (see paragraph 17
above).  The State had had ample time to take measures in conformity
with the Convention so as to anticipate a ruling that merely developed
a particular line of case-law, which had been initiated much earlier.
Instead it had not only annulled retrospectively claims that were
already in existence, but it had waited until 1988 before doing so,
thereby aggravating the frustration of the applicants' expectations,
many of whom had delayed instituting proceedings against the State
until 1986 or later.

42.   The Court recalls that the Court of Cassation had recognised in
its "La Flandria" judgment of 5 November 1920 that the State and the
other public-law bodies were subject to the general law of tort (see
paragraph 17 above).

      Since then the Court of Cassation had admittedly not had occasion
to hear cases relating to the State's liability concerning pilot
services, but it was certainly not unforeseeable that it would apply
to this type of case, at the first opportunity, the principles that it
had defined in general terms in the judgment of 1920.  This was
especially true in view of the fact that a reading of the 1967 Act in
the light of the Conseil d'Etat's opinion could reasonably support the
conclusion that the Act did not depart from the general law of tort
(see paragraphs 11-13 above).

      The 1983 judgment did not therefore undermine legal certainty.

43.   The financial considerations cited by the Government and their
concern to bring Belgian law into line with the law of neighbouring
countries could warrant prospective legislation in this area to
derogate from the general law of tort.

      Such considerations could not justify legislating with
retrospective effect with the aim and consequence of depriving the
applicants of their claims for compensation.

      Such a fundamental interference with the applicants' rights is
inconsistent with preserving a fair balance between the interests at
stake.

44.   It follows that in so far as the 1988 Act concerned events prior
to 17 September 1988, the date of its publication and its entry into
force, it breached Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).

III.  ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 (art. 6-1) OF THE
      CONVENTION

45.   The applicants also complained of a violation of Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the Convention.

46.   The Court notes that their complaints in this respect overlap
with those that they raised under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).
Having regard to its conclusion in paragraph 44 above, it does not
consider it necessary to examine them separately under Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1).

IV.   APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 50 (art. 50) OF THE CONVENTION

47.   Under Article 50 (art. 50) of the Convention,

      "If the Court finds that a decision or a measure taken by a legal
      authority or any other authority of a High Contracting Party is
      completely or partially in conflict with the obligations arising
      from the ... Convention, and if the internal law of the said
      Party allows only partial reparation to be made for the
      consequences of this decision or measure, the decision of the
      Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the
      injured party."

A.    Pecuniary damage

48.   The applicants claimed full reparation for the accumulated
pecuniary damage, estimated at BEF 1,598,367,385 (one thousand five
hundred and ninety-eight million, three hundred and sixty-seven
thousand, three hundred and eighty-five).  However, they requested the
Court to reserve this question in order to enable them to examine, if
need be in concert with the Government, the possibilities for obtaining
compensation under domestic law.

49.   The Government indicated their agreement on that last point and
stated their opinion that it was in the first instance for the Belgian
courts to establish the damage sustained and liability in each of the
disputes concerned.

50.   The Delegate of the Commission did not express a view on this
matter.

51.   In the circumstances of the case, the Court finds that the
question is not ready for decision.  It is indeed for the national
courts to determine the beneficiaries and amounts of the damages claims
generated by the accidents that lay at the origin of the case (see
paragraph 6 above).  It is accordingly necessary to reserve the matter
of pecuniary damage, account being taken of the possibility of an
agreement being reached between the respondent State and the applicants
(see Rule 54 paras. 1 and 4 of Rules of Court A).

B.    Costs and expenses

52.   The applicants also sought the sum of BEF 51,380,253
(fifty-one million, three hundred and eighty thousand, two hundred and
fifty-three) in respect of the costs and expenses incurred in the
proceedings in the national courts and before the Convention
institutions.

53.   According to the Government, the proceedings in the
first-instance courts did not concern directly the Convention so that
the relevant costs could not be claimed under Article 50 (art. 50).
As regards those incurred in the Court of Arbitration and the Court of
Cassation and at Strasbourg, they related to matters which, in the
Government's opinion, proved to be identical, apart from some minor
points.  The applicants were therefore not entitled to claim more than
BEF 2,000,000 under this head.

54.   The Delegate of the Commission did not express a view.

55.   The Court notes that until 17 September 1988 the rights
guaranteed under the Convention were not in issue in the first-instance
and appeal courts, and that, of the BEF 38,017,101 sought under this
head, more than 22 million were claimed in respect of the services of
the firm of damage assessors, Langlois & Co.

      As to the BEF 13,363,152 claimed for the proceedings in the Court
of Arbitration and the Court of Cassation and before the Convention
institutions, the Court observes that more than 9.5 million were sought
in respect of costs and expenses for Langlois & Co.

      Making an assessment on an equitable basis, the Court awards
BEF 8,000,000 for costs and expenses.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT

1.    Severs unanimously the sixth applicant's complaints from those
      of the other applicants and decides to strike them out of the
      list;

2.    Dismisses unanimously the Government's preliminary objection;

3.    Holds by eight votes to one that there has been a violation of
      Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1);

4.    Holds by eight votes to one that it is not necessary to examine
      the case also under Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) of the
      Convention;

5.    Holds unanimously that the respondent State is to pay to the
      applicants, within three months, 8,000,000 (eight million)
      Belgian francs in respect of costs and expenses;

6.    Holds unanimously that the question of the application of
      Article 50 (art. 50) of the Convention as regards pecuniary
      damage is not ready for decision; and

      consequently,

      (a) reserves the said question;

      (b) invites the Government and the applicants to submit, within
      the forthcoming six months, their written observations on the
      matter and, in particular, to notify the Court of any agreement
      they may reach;

      (c) reserves the further procedure and delegates to the President
      the power to fix the same if need be.

      Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public hearing
in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 20 November 1995.

Signed: Rolv RYSSDAL
      President

Signed: Herbert PETZOLD
      Registrar

      In accordance with Article 51 para. 2 (art. 51-2) of the
Convention and Rule 53 para. 2 of Rules of Court A, the following
separate opinions are annexed to this judgment:

      (a)  dissenting opinion of Mr Thór Vilhjálmsson;
      (b)  separate opinion of Mr De Meyer.

Initialled: R. R.

Initialled: H. P.

             DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE THÓR VILHJÁLMSSON

      I voted for a non-violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1)
to the Convention.  I agree with the majority of the Court that the
claims presented by the applicants were possessions within the meaning
of this provision (P1-1).  On the other hand, I disagree with the
conclusion drawn from applying the proportionality test.

      In my view, it is significant that maritime law - and its rules
on damages - is a branch of law in which many specific considerations
apply.  Very high sums of money are often involved in disputes in this
field and insurance cover plays a major role.  Shipowners are also
protected by rules on limited liability.  Generally speaking there is
nothing unusual or oppressive in promulgating legal rules according to
which the liability for negligent piloting, even if it is provided or
authorised by the State, is imposed on the shipowners.  Therefore the
only problem in this case concerning Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1)
is the retroactivity clause in the 1988 Act.

      It seems that the Court of Cassation did not give any judgments
on the liability of pilots from 1896 to 1983.  The "La Flandria"
judgment, delivered in 1920, concerned the general rules on State
liability under the law of tort.  It has not been shown that at the
time of those of the accidents in this case that took place before
1983, the shipowners could rely on a legal rule in Belgium on State
liability for the actions of pilots.  Between 1983 and 1988 the
situation was not the same.  Nevertheless, it needs to be demonstrated
that this led to changes in insurance clauses and thereby deprived the
shipowners of the possibility of suing the insurance companies.  This
has not been done.  The rules promulgated in 1988 did not, moreover,
deprive the shipowners of all possibility of having their losses
covered by others because in many cases they could rely on the
liability of other shipowners.  It is accordingly not clear in what way
serious burdens were in fact imposed on the applicants as a result of
the accidents in respect of which they claim, less still that any such
burdens were individual and excessive.  To this it may be added, in my
opinion, that a general ban on retroactivity of measures in the field
of civil law cannot be read into our Convention.  The exact limits of
the guarantees set out in Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) are
difficult to draw and the claims in the possession of the applicants
had not been finally determined.  In these circumstances I find the
Government's arguments, which are summarised in paragraph 40 of the
judgment, relevant and convincing.  Accordingly, I do not find that the
fact that the national legislature enacted rules with retroactive
effect such as those promulgated in Belgium in 1988, amounts, on the
basis of a proportionality test, to a violation.

      For these reasons I find no violation of Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).

                  SEPARATE OPINION OF JUDGE DE MEYER

                             (Translation)

      In my view, the reasons which led the Court to find a violation
of the applicants' right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions
apply equally to their right to a fair trial.

      The retrospective effect of the 1988 Act had, as is stated in the
judgment, the aim and consequence of depriving the applicants of their
claims for compensation (1).  But it was also intended to thwart legal
actions that had already been brought against the State or against
another organiser of pilot services (2), and any other claim of the
same type concerning events that occurred prior to the entry into force
of the new legislation (3).
_______________
1.  Paragraph 43 of the judgment.

2.  This was the case of all the applicants except the twelfth (see
paragraph 6 of the judgment).

3.  This was the case of the twelfth applicant and, as regards Brabo,
the fifth (see the same paragraph).
_______________

      I therefore consider that there has been a violation of
Article 6 (art. 6) of the Convention quite as much as there has been
of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).