London remains top for maritime arbitration

HFW research shows London, which last week hosted a global international disputes week LIDW19, has 80 per cent share of global maritime arbitration market, despite Brexit fears.


Research by global, sector-focused law firm HFW has found that London continues to dominate the market for maritime arbitration, despite suggestions that Brexit would see activity shift to emerging disputes hubs around the world.

Market leader

London accounts for more than 80 percent of global maritime activity, according to HFW’s analysis of data from 13 major maritime institutions around the world. London handled approximately 1,500 maritime arbitrations in 2017, compared to around 140 in Singapore and just over 100 in Hong Kong. HFW’s research also found that, after local law, English law is the most commonly chosen law in arbitrations globally across all sectors, including maritime arbitrations. English law was the applicable law in 85 percent of all LCIA arbitrations in 2017. Craig Neame, partner at HFW, says “There has been a lot of debate about whether London will lose business as a result of Brexit. Our research clearly shows that, when it comes to shipping disputes, London is still the clear market leader, and we see nothing to suggest that will change in the foreseeable future. Mr Neame explained, “Singapore and Hong Kong will continue to be attractive to companies operating in Asia, and Dubai and the Nordic countries will develop a larger arbitration caseload once EMAC and NOMA become more established. But English law will remain a popular choice among those in the shipping industry and we expect London to continue to attract the majority of maritime arbitrations.”

2017 downturn

The research explains that “whilst London saw a slight decrease in arbitration in 2017, the statistics nevertheless remained robust, and were very likely a symptom of the global arbitration downturn. Concerns that Brexit will affect arbitration numbers in London may be misplaced, particularly in light of the evidence that no other arbitration institution we surveyed experienced a significant increase in the number of arbitrations taking place there in 2017. Brexit may always have been something of a red herring, given the fact that this has no impact on the UK’s position as a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.” The report concluded, “Talk of alternative maritime disputes centres around the world gaining ground on London is likely to continue. Our analysis suggests that London remains strongly in favour within the shipping industry and is likely to continue to attract the majority of maritime arbitrations.” The report can be found here.

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