Israel-Lebanon conflict sparks litigation quagmire

London lawyers are tied up dealing with litigation arising from the 34-day war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, over a month after fighting ended.

The conflict produced a morass of trade and shipping disputes, mainly over the delays caused to cargo after ships were blockaded and prevented from reaching their Middle Eastern destinations.

While most of the trade disputes are reportedly concluded, the shipping world is embroiled in litigation creating work for several London firms. Disputes have arisen over issues such as the interpretation of war clauses, and there is also the chance that disputes over the factual circumstances of the conflict will hit court.

Over 50 cargo vessels were blockaded inside Lebanese ports, including Beirut, Tyre and Tripoli, with hundreds more affected because they could not reach the ports. That meant a dramatic increase in insurance premiums, particularly for oil tankers which have a higher value.

Charles Weller, a shipping partner at Richards Butler which is involved in handling disputes arising from the conflict, said: “For the ship owners and operators caught up in the conflict, the quickly escalating hostilities had a dire knock-on effect for their future contractual commitments.”

– For more, see the special report in Monday’s edition of The Lawyer (September 25)