Issue 173


1. Who can conduct a case?
DESPITE mutterings from your editor and others about the lack of published awards, London is still one of the world’s leading arbitration centres. One of the attractions of English arbitration law is that foreign lawyers are entitled to conduct arbitrations taking place in England, and to instruct English barristers directly for the arbitration. However, foreign companies should take care if the arbitration is followed by court proceedings, say Clifford Chance in the International Law Office’s arbitration newsletter. In this case, they are not permitted to conduct the proceedings themselves or to directly retain the barrister acting for them. Instead, they must do so through an English solicitor. Failure to do will mean that legal costs cannot be recovered should the party win the case.
This was recently highlighted by the outcome of a case in London between a Saudi Arabian lawyer and Westland Helicopters. The lawyer sought payment of his professional fees through a London arbitration conducted by a Saudi Arabian law firm. They won the case, but Westland applied to the court to have the award of interest set aside. The Saudi law firm maintained the same barrister who had acted for them throughout the arbitration to argue before the court. When the parties again returned to court to argue over the costs of the court proceedings, Justice Colman concluded that the claimant was not entitled to recover any of his costs, including the fees paid to the barrister, because the court proceedings had been conducted by the Saudi law firm.

2. New commission of inquiry for Norway

NORWAY is tightening up its maritime inquiries system with the introduction of a new Commission of Inquiry. According to Oslo-based law firm Wikborg Rein, the current system has been heavily criticised, mainly due to the courts’ difficulty in clarifying the causes of accidents at sea. This has been blamed on the ordinary judges’ lack of maritime knowledge and experience.

“The purpose of the Commission, which will replace the current system, is to improve the prevention of accidents at sea,” explains Trond Eilertsen, a shipping partner in Wikborg Rein’s Oslo office. The Commission will be required to produce a report on each investigation, with conclusions and recommendations.

The new system will also lead to amendments to the Norwegian Maritime Code including a change to the definition of ‘accident at sea’. As a result, the situations requiring mandatory investigation will expand to include accidents involving a Norwegian vessel that has lead to a loss of life or where there have been major injuries. Investigations will also be mandatory where a passenger vessel has been involved in an accident, irrespective of whether loss of life or major injury has occurred.

The duties of masters will also change under the new Commission. “Under the current system, there is no general provision imposing a duty to inform any authority of accidents at sea,” says Eilertsen. The new regime, however, will establish a duty on the master, or the shipowner, to immediately inform the Commission, nearest police authority, or the rescue coordination centre of any accidents.

3. Twenty-year claims low for London Club

THE London P&I Club has reported that its level of claims for the 2003/4 year of account was down by fourteen per cent on the previous year. And it says its ongoing vessel inspection programme, which sees roughly half its entered fleet inspected each year, has helped produce this marked improvement.

John M Lyras, Chairman of the London Club, says, “Claims for the 2003/4 policy year are running at a lower level than at any time during the last twenty years, a fact that I believe is a reflection of the selectivity of our underwriting”. He adds that such selectivity results in part from tactical decisions based on the Club’s ship inspection programme and other means of assessing members.

Paul Hinton, Chief Executive of A Bilbrough & Co, Managers of the London Club, says that, while the Club’s comparatively benign claims experience – in contrast to that of many other members of the International Group of P&I Clubs – can sometimes be attributed simply to good fortune, the factors are usually more complex. “Bilbroughs’ Loss Prevention Department continues to inspect, annually, roughly fifty per cent of all vessels entered, a figure that is believed to be by far the highest in the industry”, he said.

4. Gloomy IUMI

YOUR editor this week returned from a well-earned break overseas to read an account in Lloyd’s List of how delegates to the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) conference in Singapore are being woken up at the crack of dawn so that the conference organisers can cram as many tedious presentations as possible into each already long day.

There is no organisation in shipping which can get things wrong quite as successfully as IUMI, which is so ineffectual that its name is almost always written wrongly in the press, and whose very existence remains unknown to a vast number of marine underwriters throughout the world.

Your editor is a veteran of IUMI conferences around the world. He was there to hear the famous paper on ‘Bananas, from Plantation to Plate’, which was distributed on yellow paper. He was there when a delegate woke up during a conference session to find a ‘Nil by Mouth’ sign had been hung around his neck. And he was there when journalists were running a book on whether the chairman of the General Average Committee had actually died while presenting his report, without anybody noticing.

Your editor does not wish to be rude about IUMI. He has seen a lot of the world on the strength of this outwardly sensible and powerful organisation. But why must IUMI insist on getting it wrong?

There are a lot of working marine underwriters who have no time for IUMI and who, increasingly, are not afraid to say so. IUMI is sensitive about this and, for the past ten years or so, has been openly trying to cut down on the jollying at its annual conferences, striving to include more work in the schedule, and banning wives unless accompanied by their grandmothers. This is exactly the wrong thing to do.

IUMI conferences – ALL conferences, for that matter – should be based around partying and sport and fun. But in order to get away with that you have to be doing something worthwhile for the other 51 weeks of the year. This is where IUMI falls down.

5. Fathers-in-law

MARK Usinger of Al Griffin Chandlery in the USA writes: “As to your lament about no father-in-law jokes, I offer the following, told to me by a Polish Master on board a freighter. This man, a veritable joke machine, had just reeled off a series of great mother-in law jokes, whereupon I queried, ‘Why is it that we never hear any father-in-law jokes?’ This was his response to the previous outright dearth of some much needed materials:

There once was a woman with three son-in-laws. She decided to test the true nature of their feelings for her. On seeing the eldest of the three, she promptly threw herself into a nearby well, and began screaming blue murder. Seeing who was in the well, the son-in-law said “I despise this woman, but, after all, she is a human being, and I must pull her out.” Several days later he awoke to find a brand new Lincoln Town car in his driveway. Attached was a thank you note signed by his mother-in-law.

Several months later, she tested the middle son-in-law in the same way. On seeing the wells’ present tenant, he said to himself. “I despise this woman. She makes my life a living hell. However, I need a new car, so I will pull her out. Several days later he awoke to find a brand new Humvee in his driveway. Attached was a thank you note signed by his mother-in-law.

Finally the time came to test the youngest son-in-law. Seeing her opportunity, the woman again threw herself into the well. The son-in-law ran over, and, seeing who was in the well, exclaimed “Damn that woman, she is the bane of my existence, and I hate her. Let her drown!” Whereupon he closes the well cover, and she drowns. The next day he finds a brand new Rolls Royce in his driveway, with a thankyou note attached – signed by his father-in-law.

6. Catastrophe planning

A MAN absolutely hated his wife’s cat and decided to get rid of it one day by driving him 20 blocks from his home and leaving him at the park.

As he arrived home, the cat was walking up the driveway. The next day he decided to drive the cat 40 blocks away. He put the beast out and headed home.

Driving back up his driveway, there was the cat! He kept taking the cat further and further and the cat would always beat him home.

At last he decided to drive many miles away, turn right, then left, past the bridge, then right again and another right until he reached what he thought was a safe distance from his home and left the cat there.

Hours later the man calls home to his wife: “Jen, is the cat there?”
“Yes”, the wife answers, “why do you ask?” Frustrated, the man answered, “Put that son of a bitch on the phone, I’m lost and need directions.”

Best Headline of the Week Including a Room

Kitchen to head Threadneedle UK equities (Insurance Day)

Best Cat Headline of the Week

Cat promotes (Tug & Salvage)

Most High-handed Headline of the Week

Europort cuts Saturday (Tug & Salvage)

Best Question-and-Answer Sessions of the Week

Q: What ‘D’ is the name of the city in Senegal which is the destination for a world-famous car rally starting in Paris?

A: Dusseldorf

Q: Which bird, related to the blackbird, is recognisable by its brown and white speckled breast and is famous for its song?

A: Blackbird

Q: What is the name of the pop-style artist who is famous for his paintings of Marilyn Monroe and a Campbell’s soup tin?

A: Dali

Q: Which Egon is famous for his star ratings system for restaurants?

A: Egon Spengler

Q: In which international sport is Steve Bucknor, of the West Indies, a leading umpire?

A: Finance

(The Weakest Link, BBC TV)