London holds its position as the preferred jurisdiction for resolving shipping disputes

New research from law firm HFW confirms that London has an 80% share of all known maritime arbitrations.

Last year, HFW’s Maritime Arbitration Universe in Numbers report found that over 1,750 maritime arbitrations were held in London in 2016, compared to just over 120 cases in Singapore, around 46 in Hong Kong and fewer than 20 in Dubai and Paris.

One year on, and new research shows that London remains at the top of the list in terms of maritime arbitrations. In 2017, 1,496 individual maritime arbitrations were handled by the LMAA, of which 480 resulted in an award.

When combined with the figures for LCIA and ICC, London handled around 1,500 arbitrations in 2017. Although slightly down on 2016 numbers, HFW highlights that this is likely the result of a global drop in the total number of arbitrations.

Last year, HFW’s research indicated that Singapore and Hong Kong were London’s strongest competitors, and this continues to be the case a year later.

There were approximately 140 maritime cases in Singapore in 2017, across the SIAC, SCMA, LMAA and ICC arbitral institutions – which represents less than 10% of London’s caseload.

In Hong Kong, HKIAC handled around 23 maritime arbitrations – a 36% decrease over 2016 numbers. According to HFW, around 10 LMAA arbitrations were seated in Hong Kong ins 2017 and there were some 80 maritime appointments recorded by HKMAG in the same year. Taking the statistics together, it appears that there were just over 100 maritime arbitrations in Hong in 2017.

Arbitration numbers for Paris held level in 2017, while arbitration statistics for Denmark and Sweden remained ‘modest’. Rotterdam administered up to 30 new maritime arbitrations in 2017 under UNUM Rules.

The Nordic Offshore and Maritime Arbitration Association was established November 2017 and HFW notes that while there are no statistics currently available, it anticipates that the creation of this centre will significantly increase the arbitration caseload of the Nordic countries in the very near future.

The law firm flags up that: ‘It is likely that Scandinavia, when taken as a whole, will emerge as a global competitor to rival London, Singapore and Hong Kong.’

HFW suggests that concerns that Brexit will affect arbitration numbers in London ‘may be misplaced.’

It notes that: ‘Brexit may always have been something of a red herring, given the fact that this has no impact on the UK’s position as a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.’

Looking ahead, HFW says it expects that Singapore and Hong Kong will continue to be attractive to companies operating in Asia, while Dubai and the Nordic countries will develop a larger caseload once EMAC and NOMA become more established. Paris, Rotterdam and New York will continue to attract a significant number of shipping cases.

Craig Neame, Partner, HFW, commented on the findings of the new report: ‘There has been a lot of debate about whether London will lose business as a result of Brexit. Our research clearly shows that, when it comes to shipping disputes, London is still the clear market leader, and we see nothing to suggest that will change in the foreseeable future.’


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