How often does an in-house counsel in a business engaged in international trade or shipping need to step out of his or her comfort zone and get advice from foreign lawyers when a crisis strikes? Clearly this is a rhetorical question: cargo vessels and their cargoes tour the world, and problems can arise at any time and in any place.

It could be:

  • an arrest of a ship, her cargo or her bunkers. The business employing the in-house counsel may be the initiating party, the target or an affected third party:
  • the exercise of a lien over the cargo – again the business could be the initiating party, the target or an affected third party;
  • bankruptcy of the shipowner, charterer or cargo owner;
  • a casualty;
  • damage to or loss of cargo;
  • an urgent need to obtain security or to serve proceedings; or
  • advice on obtaining security or on enforcing an award or a judgment.
  • The list could go on and the situations which can arise are infinitely varied. In each such situation, the in-house counsel will need advice and assistance, often as a matter of great urgency, from a lawyer in the appropriate jurisdiction - and often in more than one jurisdiction. Counsel will need ready access to local lawyer(s) and no doubt will have a database with contact details for this very purpose – or, failing that, he or she can seek an introduction from the business’s usual external counsel (often an English solicitor).

A few years ago, Thomson Reuters (who trade as Sweet & Maxwell, one of the leading publishers of legal textbooks) invited Hill Dickinson to work with them to fill what they perceived was a gap in the legal textbook market: they suggested to us that in the situations of which a few examples have been offered above, in-house counsel would value having within immediate reach on their bookshelves a volume which, admittedly in the briefest of terms, would give them some guidance – a thumbnail sketch - as to how the applicable law worked in a number of jurisdictions which were of particular relevance to shipping and international trade.

With the help of such a brief outline of the applicable law, they might be in a better position to add focus to the questions, indeed to have at least a preliminary pointer to what the answers to those questions would likely be. Evidently, the help which such a book could offer would be no substitute for proper advice from a local expert, but it would be a start and could make the process of focussing in on the real issues that much quicker and more cost-effective.

Furthermore, occasions can arise where a party may have a choice as to the jurisdiction to which he might want to go for legal recourse. The volume would therefore be handy in providing in-house counsel with a tool to make comparisons between the laws in the candidate jurisdictions. For this reason, the volume would be deliberately structured to cover specific issues in a uniform manner within each legal system.

We enthusiastically espoused the idea and, after an appropriate period of gestation (with the experienced and efficient help of the publishers), in 2011 we brought out the first edition of Shipping & International Law – Jurisdictional Comparisons, with contributions from respected and leading maritime and trade lawyers in 25 jurisdictions heavily involved in maritime trade.

This volume proved something of a success and the publishers invited us to work on a second edition, not simply to update the law where necessary, but also to expand the scope of the volume to include further jurisdictions. We accepted the invitation and the second edition has now appeared, this time expanded from 25 to 36 jurisdictions. The volume has almost doubled in size, from under 400 pages to 760.

We hope that the book will be of assistance to in-house counsel in trading houses, shipowners, ship operators, P&I Clubs and the like. It is written specifically for a legally trained readership.

A link can be found here: hilldickinson. com/sectors_and_legal_expertise/ sectors/commodities.aspx.

Please note: this link leads to a PDF containing copies of the chapters written by lawyers within the offices of Hill Dickinson, namely those covering the laws of England and Wales, Hong Kong and Greece. The PDF also includes, at its end (on pages 114-118), contact details of all the contributors to the volume in the 36 jurisdictions.

We hope that the book will be of assistance to the market.