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President¡¯s Report for 2015-2016

Clive Aston

    In my Report for 2014-15 I noted that a challenge faced by the Associationwas to continue to sustain, and indeed increase, the level of activity achievedin that, and previous, years. I am pleased therefore to report that thestatistics for 2015 confirm that the Association remains by some distance themarket leader in maritime dispute resolution.
    Figures for 2015, including returns from members of the Bar and AspiringMembers of the Association, show a total of 3,160 appointments during the year,representing more than 2,000 new arbitration references conducted on LMAATerms. Of this total, 128 appointments were made under the LMAA Small ClaimsProcedure. As expected, these figures are slightly lower than for 2014 becauseof the reduced level of trading activity. They do nevertheless reflect acontinuing strength and reputation of the Association of which we should bejustly proud.
    The statistics also show that 553 awards were published in 2015, 93 afteran oral hearing and 99 under the LMAA Small Claims Procedure, matching up wellto the figures for previous years. Indeed, the figures for awards under theLMAA Small Claims Procedure are significantly higher than in recent years. Thisfact, coupled with the fall in the number of oral hearings, highlights anadvantage that arbitration in London under LMAA Terms offers over other venues,namely, the ability to dispense with the need for an oral hearing and proceedon documents alone.
    It has also been a busy year for the Association in other respects. Membersof the Association participated in London International Shipping Week with a¡°sell out¡± arbitration workshop. This was followed by seminars in Oslo andCopenhagen. Members of the Association also spoke at conferences in Dalian andXiamen, China and were left in no doubt as to the high esteem in which theAssociation is held there. A significant number of our Members made the journeyto Hong Kong as part of a large London contingent for the very successfulInternational Congress of Maritime Arbitrators (the next conference will takeplace in Copenhagen in September 2017). A further conference will take place inSingapore later this month as well as another in Europe later in the year.
    These conferences provide an ideal opportunity to remind regular users andexplain to new users what we do, how we go about doing it and what is expectedof parties involved in the arbitration process. Parties who lose cases throughinexperience or ignorance of the arbitration process will quickly loseconfidence in it and will vote with their feet by choosing other venues orforms of dispute resolution that appear to offer them better prospects (whetheror not they will in the event be able to deliver on such promises). We aredetermined to make sure that this is not the case with LMAA arbitration:seminars and workshops provide an ideal opportunity to show parties (orpotential parties) how LMAA arbitration works and provides them with theopportunity for a fair hearing.
    It is important also to ensure that our Terms reflect changing marketpractices and demands. A review of the present Terms will take place later thisyear with a view to publishing new Terms early in 2017. In doing so, thesub-committee undertaking this task will have the benefit of comments andsuggestions made during the course of discussions with representatives ofP&I Clubs, law firms (in London and elsewhere) and other users over thelast two years as well as from the two Supporting Members¡¯ Liaison Committees.In the meantime, the Association has continued the policy of issuing occasionalGuidelines to address practical issues and make the arbitral process moreeffective.
    As in previous years we have received delegations from overseas shippingorganisations and government departments as well as student bodies who havemade the Association one of their main ports of call during visits to the UK.Meetings have also been held with judges of the Chinese maritime courts toincrease their understanding of the Association and operation of the LMAATerms. As a result of this very few problems have been reported in theenforcement of LMAA awards in China.
    A point that has been raised with increasing regularity in the last yearhas been that of transparency of arbitrators¡¯ fees. Often in this respect theconcern is less with the actual level of charges than in understanding how theyhave been calculated. This is a perfectly reasonable concern and one that willbe addressed in the coming year.
    During the past year we suffered the sad loss of Tony Scott and IoannisLeftakis. Both were popular Members of the Association, whose differentbackgrounds in shipping added greatly to experience of the Association. We missthem. We were pleased, though, to announce the election of Michael Allen as aFull Member, with several new additions, also, to the Aspiring Full MembersList.
    The Annual Lunch in November at Trinity House and the Annual Dinner atCarpenter¡¯s Hall in March, as always, proved extremely popular and successful.The Dinner in particular, continues to attract a significant number of overseasvisitors and a quite extraordinary number of members of the judiciary. We aregrateful for their continued support as well as that of our growing number ofSupporting Members.
    Finally, I would as is customary take this opportunity to express mygratitude to the members of the Committee for their support and contribution tothe work of the Association. After a period of office over and above the callof duty, Ian Gaunt, retired as Honorary Secretary last November, although heremains a committee member. We thank him for doing so much to promote theprofile and interest of the Association while wishing his successor, DaniellaHorton, every success in the role. Special mention must also be made ofMargareta Svigler who, as Executive Secretary, has continue to run the officeof the Association with the utmost efficiency.

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