Issue 176


1. Don’t give up the day job

IT’S not often that an insurance seminar raises a laugh. But the International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) Forum managed it last week.

At the two-day event, held at London’s Dorchester Hotel, a mock mediation was conducted around a professional negligence dispute. The mediation was chaired by Peregrine Massey, chairman of ITIM, which manages ITIC. Starring roles went to Silas Taylor of Andrew M Jackson, who played the mediator, Tony Payne, managing director of ITIM, who played a hard-done-by but very wealthy, lawyer-loathing tank owner, and Ian Biles, director of Maritime Services International Ltd, who took the role of the “I tell you once again I am not negligent” tank surveyor.

The mediation covered a dispute between Tony and Ian. A tank, owned by Tony and inspected by Ian, had sprung a leak while full of oil. Tony, out of pocket to the tune of £450,000 for repairs, clean-up costs and lost contracts, was now pursuing a claim against Ian for costs. Mark Brattman, assistant legal adviser at ITIM, who also had a cameo role, was the expert scriptwriter.

Against a background of frequent fits of giggles by the mediator, not to mention Tony’s rantings on the incompetence of lawyers, delegates enjoyed an entertaining insight into how the mediation process works.

So, insurance can be fun. Apparently.

2. Shipbrokers beware

JEREMY Biggs of Ince & Co provided the ITIC Forum with an explanation of the workings of the Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.

The act, which made its debut in the high court last year in the landmark case of Nisshin v Cleaves, has a significant impact on a shipbroker’s ability to bring a direct action against an owner for commission. But Jeremy warned the audience that owners are wising up to the legislation, and exclusion clauses are starting to creep into contracts. He advised brokers to pay close attention to contracts and said that, if they want to bring a claim under the act, they should ensure that (1) the contract is subject to English law, (2) the contract came into force after May 11, 2000, and (3) there is a term in the contract which purports to confer a benefit on them.

Only when these three items are satisfied can a broker pursue a direct action against an owner for brokerage.

3. Oregon rule

DAVID Martin-Clark’s most recent case note provides a summary, by Healy & Baillie, of a decision of the US court of appeals in the case of ‘City of Chicago v M/V Morgan’.

The dispute had its origin in an allision (the striking of a stationary object by a moving vessel)) between a tug and a bridge owned by the City of Chicago. The appeals court affirmed the decision of the court of first instance in holding that the tug had failed to rebut the Oregon Rule – which creates a presumption of fault against a vessel moving under its own power that strikes a stationary object – by failing to demonstrate that (1) the allision was the sole fault of the stationary object, (2) the vessel had acted reasonably, or (3) the allision was the result of an inevitable accident.

A 50/50 apportionment of liability between the parties was confirmed, on the grounds that the owner of the bridge had failed to take adequate precautions, in the nature of fendering, to prevent the accident.

4. GAFTA foundation course

THE Annual GAFTA Trade Foundation Course 2005 will be held at Churchill College, Cambridge, in the UK, from January 9 to 14, 2005. The five-day residential course provides a detailed insight into the fundamental aspects of grain and feed trading.

Subjects covered will include construction of GAFTA contracts, trade negotiation, nominations and appropriations, shipping documents, quality, condition, warranties and guarantees, charter parties, and arbitration and mediation.

The cost of the course for GAFTA members is £998.75 per participant. Non-members are invited at a rate of £1762.50. This includes accommodation from January 9 until and including the night of January 13, all meals and a set of course papers.

5. Videotel approval

FIFTY-FIVE courses and training packages produces by maritime training specialist Videotel have been recognised by the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology (IMarEST) as suitable for Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

This is the first time IMarEST has given its approval to such a wide range of courses from a single provider. Auditing and validation of training courses is likely to become an increasingly hot topic now that the spotlight is on how WELL crews have been trained, and not just on whether or not they have been trained at all.

6. People & Places

PROFESSOR Charles Debattista has joined Stone Chambers as an associate member and arbitrator. Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Southampton and a member of the University’s Institute of Maritime Law, Debattista is well-known to the shipping and international trade community as an enthusiastic speaker, a prolific writer, an expert adviser and an energetic arbitrator. His particular areas of expertise are international sale contracts, letters of credit, charter parties and bills of lading.

7. The way forward

NO longer can a man scratch around at a box at Lloyd’s all day, doing pretty much as he likes, taking a bunter-style lunch, safe in the knowledge that he won’t be bothered by a woman.

Women were allowed into the underwriting room some years ago, and not before time. But there are further signs that the insurance world is being dragged, screaming, into the modern world.

The regulators have now got hold of the insurance industry. The good old days of three and five-year accounting have gone, and there is a new breed of private sector investor and shareholder to account to. And it isn’t just underwriters who are having to change their ways.

Brokers and intermediaries in the UK are caught up in the regulatory rush, too, and have only a short time to find out whether they are up to snuff as far as the Financial Services Authority is concerned. How do they account for their clients’ money, what internal controls do they have in place, do they have a proper risk management strategy, what have they done in terms of satisfying corporate governance requirements?

Leading insurance industry adviser Moore Stephens and law firm Clyde & Co are holding a seminar in London next week to discuss these issues. It is an indication of the urgency of the debate that it is already fully booked.

8. Seventy not out

KEN Norman doesn’t look so very different now from the day your editor first met him almost thirty years ago. He looked seventy then. And it was good – though hardly surprising – to see so many people gather in the Hertfordshire countryside last weekend for Ken’s latest big birthday party.

For many years, Ken was the voice of the West of England P&I Club to generations of tyro journalists who knew nothing about the club, and even less about P&I. He was tirelessly patient and helpful, while managing to do a proper job at the same time. He is one of a fast-disappearing generation who started in – or somewhere near – the post room, and worked his way up.

He is still doing some work in the city, these days for Michael Else, and he is still helping people. It was a sign of the mark that Ken has left on the industry that your editor sat down to dinner at his birthday party with visitors from Spain and Finland.

Friendship is truly international, and Ken is living proof of that. Nice hair, too.

Clam claims

A MAN in America has apparently spent the past few years digging up things in his back garden and sending them to the Smithsonian Institute for scientific appraisal and classification.

His most recent submission, labelled “211-D, layer seven, next to the clothes-line post. hominid skull”, was submitted as conclusive proof of the presence of early man in Charleston County two million years ago. But he is likely to be disappointed with the reply he received from scientific experts, who explained, “There are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:

“The material is moulded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilised bone.

“The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately nine cubic centimetres, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.

“The marks found on the skull are more consistent with the common domesticated dog than with the ‘ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams’ which you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time. Clams don’t have teeth.

“The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll – specifically ‘Malibu Barbie’ – on which a dog has chewed.”

Up in smoke

YOUR editor is reluctant to talk about smoking. It is a subject which brings out the worst in a tiny percentage of what is otherwise a very catholic and good-natured readership. But sometimes, when things go too far, you have to stand up and be counted.

There is now a local authority in England which is issuing portable ashtrays, lined with tin foil, to those of its residents who smoke, and which is fining those who stub out their cigarettes, however thoughtfully, anywhere else in public places.

This news came in the same week that the mayor of Paris proposed bringing in cigarette-free cafes and restaurants. The news has not gone down well in the French capital. One Parisian lawyer, pulling on a cigarette, was quoted as saying, “Maybe they should ban coffee and wine as well”, And the owner of a café on the Boulevard Saint Germain said, “France will never ban tobacco like the US. The French are less sheep-like. Faced with bans, we like to be rebellious and undisciplined.”

Your editor is in favour of banning intemperance and thoroughgoing unreasonableness, wherever it is met in the world. Today, we are too keen to impose unnecessary bans at the expense of simple human freedoms, while granting tacit approval to genuine crimes against sense and sensibility. The mayor of Paris can put that in his pipe and smoke it.

Bouncing back

OVER the course of a lifetime, editors get to see the best and the worst of the English language. Your editor, for example, was one once presented, in all seriousness, with a sentence which included the unforgettable phrase, “political short term handoutism”. ‘Handoutsim is not, never has been, nor ever WILL be, a word. Neither will ‘bouncebackability’, which was apparently used recently in a television interview by the manager of an English football club.

Sky Sports is reportedly trying to get the word into the Oxford English Dictionary, and wants it used as often as possible. The dreamonabilityfulness is terrific.

Medical matters

DELEGATES to last week’s ITIC Forum in London were given the chance to win an iPod by providing details of mistakes made in their professional lives. Mike Chalos, of Fowler Rodriguez & Chalos, must have come fairly close when he said that his mistake was in answering ‘Yes’ to the question, ‘Do you want to be a lawyer?

But the clear winner was marine surveyor Albert Weatherhill, who explained how, in the middle of his first seafarers’ medical, he heard the nurse call out, “When I said strip to the waist, Mr Weatherhill, I meant from the top DOWN.”

Quote of the Week

I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career. (Gloria Steinem)

Best Famous Last Words of the Week

“I am about to – or I am going to – die; either expression is correct.”

(Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian, died 1702)

Best Announcements to Delayed UK Rail Passengers of the Week

Train delayed due to Madonna.

Rat self-destructed while chewing through signalling cables.

Person by the side of the line with a rifle.

Deranged female on the line.

Best Interview of the Week

The following interview was reported in the UK Guardian newspaper some years ago:

Sir Jack Hayward, late chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers football club, to a reporter:

“Our team was the worst in the first division, and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the premier league”.

(Sir Jack had just declined the offer of a hot drink. What he actually said was, “Our tea was the worst in the first division, and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the premier league”.

(‘Hunter Davies’ Lists’, Cassell, 2004)

Best Question-and-Answer Sessions of the Week

Q: What do the initials ‘Jr’ denote when appearing after a family name, to distinguish father from son?

A: Grandad

Q: What is the name of the 1938 novel written by Daphne du Maurier in which Mrs Danvers is the housekeeper of Mandalay?

A: African Queen.

Q: A bed made as a joke, with the sheets folded short, is known as a WHAT sort of pie bed?

A: Raspberry

(The Weakest Link, BBC TV)