WHAT THE COURTS DO

Shipping disputes concerning charter-parties and bills of lading are the main types of work of the court but it also deals with disputes in insurance and reinsurance, banking and international sales of goods. More general commercial disputes such as agency and distributorship contracts and joint trading ventures also fall within the Court's ambit as does judicial control of arbitration.

Commercial judges have had substantial experience of commercial litigation and arbitration while practising as barristers. Appointments in the past 30 years have come from only nine sets of chambers.

A core number of City firms are instructed for most of the work. These include shipping and insurance firms such as Clyde & Co, Ince & Co and Richards Butler. Some lay clients are repeatedly involved in Commercial Court litigation, most notably the ship-owners Protection and Indemnity clubs, several of the major insurance companies and Lloyd's marine syndicates.

Few would deny that on the whole the court does a good job in managing the disputes which come before it. In over 50 per cent of its cases, both parties come from outside the jurisdiction, and with one foreign party in 80 per cent of the cases, that is evidence of its high standing abroad.