London shipping cases slide

Shipping litigation and arbitration in the UK continues to slide, the latest figures reveal, as foreign litigants increasingly turn their backs on London’s courts.

Many hoped a decline in courtroom litigation would be offset by a rise in UK arbitrations, but this has not been borne out by the latest International Financial Ser-vices report on earnings from maritime services.

The report shows that London Maritime Arbitrators Association shipping appointments have dropped from around 3,000 a year for most of the 1990s to 2,600 between 1999 and 2001, and then again to 2,030 in 2002.

The number of Admiralty Court actions slumped to 120 in 2002. Along with around 90 per cent of the Commercial Court’s shipping Number of claims, appointments or awardscases, the bulk of them settle before trial. Half of the Commercial Court’s 2,000 cases are maritime-related and the report says that of these an estimated 100 actually reach trial.

Lloyd’s open form salvage agreement arbitrations hit an all-time low of 104 in 2002.

Around 85 per cent of UK shipping lawyers’ revenues, or £170m, is derived from overseas maritime clients. The total net export of UK maritime services is £2.2bn.

The report gives three reasons for the drop: the outcome of efforts made by protection and indemnity (P&I) clubs to limit payouts in smaller claims; shipowners’ attempts at operating in pools of claims, which work harder to settle claims; and fewer ship collisions and losses.