The Admiralty Court has handed down judgment in Al Khattiya v. Jag Laadki, The “Jag Pooja”  EWHC 389 (Admlty), rejecting an application by the defendant owners of the Jag Laadki for a stay of English proceedings on the grounds of forum non conveniens and declining to set aside an anti-suit injunction. Robert Thomas QC, Thomas Macey-Dare QC and Benjamin Coffer from Quadrant Chambers appeared in the case.
The application arose out of a collision between the Al Khattiya and the Jag Laadki in UAE territorial waters. The owners of Al Khattiya brought in rem proceedings in the English Admiralty Court claiming damages, and founded jurisdiction by serving them on a sister ship of the Jag Laadki, the Jag Pooja. Shortly afterwards, the owners of the Jag Laadki commenced proceedings in Fujairah claiming damages and a declaration of non-liability. The Al Khattiya owners sought and obtained an anti-suit injunction from the English court to restrain the Fujairah proceedings on the basis that they were hopeless and thus vexatious and oppressive. The owners of the Jag Laadki subsequently admitted liability for the collision. This was the hearing of an application by the Jag Laadki owners to stay the English claim, and to set aside the anti-suit injunction.
The case is significant in two major respects. First, the judgment contains an important analysis of the relevance of the place where the tort occurs in considering the appropriate forum in forum non conveniens cases. Mr Justice Bryan, sitting in the Admiralty Court, considered in detail the line of cases deriving from The Albaforth  2 Lloyd’s Rep 91 and the application of those authorities to a claim arising out of a collision in territorial waters. Declining to stay the English claim, he rejected the argument of the Jag Laadki owners that the location of the collision was, in and of itself, a weighty factor in favour of the Courts of Fujairah as the natural forum, giving more weight to other factors such as the language of the evidence and the location of the witnesses which made England the natural forum.
The second significant aspect of the decision concerns the nature of the connection with England required before the court will grant an anti-suit injunction restraining foreign proceedings on vexatious and oppressive grounds. In refusing to set aside the anti-suit injunction, the judge held that even if England was not the natural forum for the foreign proceedings themselves, it was sufficient that England was the natural forum for determining whether the foreign proceedings were vexatious and/or oppressive, following Thomas J in Shell International Petroleum v Coral Oil  2 Lloyd’s Rep 606.
The judge also rejected an argument that substantial justice was not available to the Qatari owners of Al Khattiya in Fujairah, as a result of the diplomatic dispute between the UAE and Qatar, holding that the English court would require “cogent evidence” before reaching such a conclusion.
A copy of the judgment can be found here.