Shipping & International Trade

Our Shipping and International Trade Team provides specialist advice to a global client base of marine insurers, charterers, ship owners, P&I and Defence Clubs, international traders, freight forwarders, brokers and inspection companies.

Shipping & International Trade Services for Business

Our team has a strong ethos of achieving commercially sound outcomes and ensuring minimum disruption to your business.

We provide expert advice on litigation and dispute resolution relating to:

  • Bills of Lading and cargo claims.
  • Charterparty disputes (involving both Time Charters and Voyage Charters).
  • Disputes involving international sale and purchase contracts.
  • Claims under marine insurance policies (including Hull, Cargo, P&I, Charterers’ Liability and Ports and Terminals).
  • Cruise and ferry line operation.
  • Ship arrests, both in the UK and in other jurisdictions.
  • Ship-building disputes.

We have an established reputation as a leading UK-based shipping team. Our 15-strong team has wide experience of acting in arbitrations under LMAA, LCIA, ICC, GAFTA and Sugar Association rules and in pursuing and defending claims before the English High Court (and on appeal). With our global network of correspondent lawyers, we are able to assist in multi-jurisdictional disputes and with enforcement of arbitration awards and judgments almost anywhere the world.

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

  • Advising numerous Cargo and Charterers’ Liability Insurers on coverage issues under War Insurance Clauses relating to events in Ukraine.
  • 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 as English law expert witnesses in Dutch proceedings concerning coverage under a Hull Insurance policy following the sinking of a vessel under tow in Nigeria.
  • Advising Belgian Hull Insurers on coverage issues relating to damage to a floating platform in the North Sea.
  • 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 marine 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 a major 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 the 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]