HFW helps captain deliver evidence from vessel-at-sea

Marine focused, London-based international law firm HFW has successfully acted for the owners of a vessel involved in a high-value collision case which was notable for two reasons – the first was that for the first time in the UK Admioralty Court it saw evidence provided remotely from on board a vessel at sea, and the second was that it was the Hon. Justice Teare QC’s last as an Admiralty Judge.

HFW advised the owners of the2017-built, Panama-flagged, 44,425 gt Sakizaya Kalon (IMO 9749908), a bulk carrier that was struck from behind by a vessel while stopped in the Suez Canal, causing it to then itself collide with another vessel. None of the vessels accepted liability for the collisions, leading to three separate claims, totalling $18m.

The three actions were heard together in July 2020 in a hearing that, due to Covid-19 restrictions, was fully remote, with all documents in electronic format and the Judge, Assessors, counsel and solicitors all taking part from their homes.

HFW said that it managed to overcome “significant technical challenges” to enable the Sakizaya Kalon’s Captain to provide his evidence directly from his vessel while it was still at sea.

In a judgment handed down by Teare J on October 5th 2020 the owners of 2001-built, 38,928 gt Panamax Alexander (IMO 9233492), which struck the Sakizaya Kalon, were found “wholly responsible” for the collision.

HFW’s team was led by Partner Jim Cashman and also included Master Mariner Paul Miller and Paralegal Richard Cooper.

Jim Cashman, Partner HFW said that “it is extremely rare with collision cases for one of the vessels to be found 100% liable. But this really was an open-and-shut-cut case and should never have gone to trial, as it was abundantly clear from the outset who was at fault.”

He also noted that “the Covid-19 outbreak created some unique challenges throughout the process, and it was a real testament to the parties, counsel and all of the solicitors involved that the hearing completed on schedule, in four-and-a-half days. At the time of the trial, our Captain had moved on and was employed on a vessel managed by Aegean Shipping Management SA They were strangers to the litigation process, but willing to assist us in all the arrangements that were necessary for the video link to the South Atlantic. We extend to Aegean Shipping our gratitude for their assistance.”