Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly


Andrew Tettenborn *

There can be no doubt that Brexit has removed a number of the features that made London very attractive as a centre of world shipping law, notably (but not exclusively) the portability of English judgments and their enforceability without question throughout the EU and the EEA. But this article argues that that is not the whole story. The removal of these advantages may not be as drastic or disastrous as some think. Against it must be placed the freeing of the English courts from the strict, and at times dirigiste, EU rules on jurisdiction, and from a number of other EU constraints. On balance, the conclusion is that Brexit may well turn out to be a gain, rather than a loss, for the shipping law business of the City of London.
Now that some of the dust has settled after Brexit, and we know a little more about what the post-EU legal landscape is likely to look like, it is worth asking: what are the prospects for London shipping litigators, and are they better or worse than before 11 pm on 31 December 2020? The point matters. In 2019, the last full pre-Brexit year, UK legal services exports were estimated at a figure just shy of £7 bn.1 Shipping-related services made up a noticeable proportion of that.2 Furthermore, it is also notorious that, while the UK has a substantial shipbroking and insurance industry, a great deal of the legal shipping work done in the City of London and elsewhere in England has no other real connection with the UK at all. It comes here by choice of the relevant parties, and can go away by the same means.

* Professor of Commercial Law, Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, Swansea University. The following abbreviations are used: BIR or Brussels I Recast Regulation or Brussels I Recast: Reg 1215/2012 on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels Recast I Regulation [2012] OJ L351/1); Brussels Convention: Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 1968; EEA: European Economic Area; EU: European Union; Hague or Hague Convention: Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements; Lugano or Lugano Convention: Lugano Convention 1988: + Lugano Convention 2007: Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 1988 and 2007; New York Convention: UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958.
1. Statistic from Statista.com: see www.statista.com/statistics/611489/annual-legal-services-exports-united-kingdom-uk/. Two years earlier the figure had been estimated at £5 bn.
2. In the legal year 2019/2020, of the 860 or so claims in the Commercial Court, 75 were clearly shipping-related (being entered as “Shipping—Cargo” and “Shipping—charter party disputes”). And appreciable numbers categorised as “Arbitration enforcement applications”, “Arbitration s.69”, “General Commercial Contracts” and “Miscellaneous” will doubtless have involved ships. It is a fair inference that over 10 per cent and possibly nearer 20 per cent of all cases were shipping-related. Add to these the entirety of 190-odd claims in the Admiralty Court, and the numbers could approach 30 per cent. For the relevant statistics, see the Commercial Court Report 2019–2020, pp.21, 26.


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