Shipping & International Trade

Our Shipping and International Trade Team provides specialist advice for ship owners, charterers, P&I and Defence Clubs, international traders, freight forwarders, marine insurers, brokers and inspection companies. We are the only East Anglian law firm ranked in the top tier by the Legal 500 for our shipping practice.

Shipping & International Trade

Our team has wide experience of acting in complex, high value multi-jurisdictional and cross-border disputes for UK and international clients in all major jurisdictions. We are familiar with leading arbitral institutions and procedures and have a strong ethos of achieving commercially sound outcomes and ensuring minimum disruption to your business.

We can provide expert advice on dispute resolution relating to: 

  • bills of lading and cargo claims, including: security; recovery claims; limitation; obligations under Hague/Hague-Visby and Hamburg Rules
  • charterparties including Time charter issues (payment of hire; liens; off-hire; safe ports and places; vessel performance, ICA claims) and Voyage charter issues (laytime and demurrage; payment of freight; loading, stowage and discharge)
  • contracts of affreightment
  • international sales contracts, including: passing and retention of title; arbitration in chains of sales
  • marine insurance, including: cover; double insurance; liability of brokers; duties of assured; effect of subrogation and assignment
  • cruise and ferry line operation 
  • passenger, crew and stevedore claims
  • P&I Club Rules
  • ship arrest
  • ship building.

We have established a reputation as a leading UK-based shipping team. Many of us began our careers in London shipping firms, but our location in Ipswich now allows us to continue to offer City-style service at competitive, out-of-London fee rates.

Our 12 strong team has wide experience of acting in arbitrations under LMAA, LCIA, LME, ICC, GAFTA and Sugar Association rules and in the English High Court. We are able to assist in multi-jurisdictional disputes in most parts of the world and with enforcement of arbitration awards and judgments. We have also acted in major cross-border insolvency protection matters.

Henry Adams, who heads the team, is a specialist in all aspects of cargo claims, charterparty disputes, marine insurance and international trade. He is fluent in French and Spanish and has a wide following among clients in Continental Europe.

Nicholas Woo speaks fluent Mandarin and Cantonese, has particular knowledge of and strong connections with the shipping industry in the Far East.

Alex Davey is an expert in disputes involving time and voyage charterparties, bills of lading and international carriage of goods, both by sea and multi-modal transport. He has strong links with clients in Europe, the Middle East and India.

See also details of our Transport and Logistics services. 

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 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.

Birketts is a specialised and efficient law firm, reactive and reasonable in billing.

Legal 500 [UK 2022]