Nicholas Woo
Partner
  • Experience
  • Other Information

Nicholas is a Partner in our Shipping and International Trade Team and an accredited CEDR (Council of Effective Dispute Resolution) Mediator.

Nicholas grew up in Singapore, obtained his LLB in England and was called to the Bar here in 1986. He qualified in Singapore as an Advocate and Solicitor the following year and practised in Singapore as a shipping litigator for five years. He then moved in-house working for a COSCO Singapore subsidiary where he gained valuable commercial experience. London beckoned and Nicholas qualified as an English solicitor in 1996. He was made a Partner in 2001, the first ethnic Chinese to be appointed as a partner in a major shipping law firm in London. Nicholas is now Head of Birketts’ Shipping and International Trade Team and has helped it grow from two fee-earners when he joined in 2004 to eleven fee-earners today.

Nicholas is a specialist in all areas of ‘dry’ shipping litigation with particular knowledge of shipping in Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. He also has some contacts with the Indian and Japanese shipping industry. He makes regular visits to these countries every year. Working for COSCO Shipping and spending many years representing other Chinese clients has helped Nicholas develop his ability to take instructions, give advice and lecture on English shipping law in fluent Mandarin.

Nicholas is based at our Ipswich office.

Recent shipping work examples

  • Acting for multiple cargo interests in claims relating to cargo damage and Salvage contributions following a major fire on board the container ship “MAERSK HONAM”. The Salvage Award is likely to be the highest in history.
  • Acting for an international inspection company in relation to the rejection of a cargo of rice worth US$ 8m at West African ports following weight and quality discrepancies, giving rise to claims in various jurisdictions.
  • Acting for insurance brokers in negligence claims totalling US$ 26m brought against them before the English Courts concerning insurance cover for goods that were misappropriated and damaged in Indonesia. The claims were settled via mediation.
  • Acting for an oil major in English High Court proceedings concerning cross-contamination on board a vessel of cargoes of gasoline and diesel.
  • Acting for Hong Kong based time charterers in a reported appeal to the High Court on an arbitration decision involving the vessel TAI PRIZE, claiming an indemnity for damage to a cargo of Brazilian soya beans discharged in China against the voyage charterers.
  • Acting for Singaporean time charterers of the vessel BULK JUPITER which sank carrying a cargo of bauxite with the loss of all but 1 of the crew in the South China Sea in 2016.
  • Acting for the successful defendant charterers in a reported Commercial Court case, The SANTA ISABELLA, in a demurrage dispute that examined the legal test for a ‘usual and customary route’ and the obligation on a carrier properly and carefully to carry cargoes in accordance with a sound system.
  • Acting for owners of the ACONCAGUA BAY in their successful High Court appeal on the meaning of the words “always accessible”.
  • Acting for major container shipping lines in defending cargo claims and/or pursuing recovery claims.
  • Acting for sub charterers defending claims of US$4m arising from an unsafe port allegation.

Nicholas sits on the Supporting Members Liaison Committee of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association. He has also previously undertaken a number of key roles in the industry, including chairing the time charterparty and cargo claims seminars organised by the Lloyds Maritime Academy in London and representing the Singapore Shipping Association at the Maritime Law Committee of the International Chamber of Shipping. Nicholas is a past President of the Singapore Business Group, a Singapore-British business networking group in London under the patronage of the Singapore High Commissioner to London.  He has recently been appointed as an Advisor to the Chinese Shipping Association in London supported by the Baltic Exchange.

Nicholas is ranked by Chambers [UK 2022]. In this edition clients say “no one out there knows the Asia shipping market better”. The previous edition notes “he is very experienced in all sorts of maritime-related matters. His turnaround time is very prompt and always with comprehensive advice on how best to protect our interests.” An earlier edition notes “he is a very responsive and kind lawyer who has strong leadership to drive a case”. 

Nicholas is recommended and named as a ‘Leading Individual’ by Legal 500 [UK 2022]. Clients in the previous edition say ‘Nicholas Woo is able to speak [fluently] in both English and Mandarin. He is also quite capable of locating the key issue out of a complicated situation with his legal and commercial sense. This gives us a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages to help us make our decision how to proceed’. Another adds ‘Nicholas Woo’s commercial sense helps to lead us towards the best economic result’.

Online estate planning tool

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, nam in ullum postulant theophrastus, per aliquid maiestatis te

No one out there knows the Asia shipping market better.

Chambers [UK 2022]