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HFW helps client deliver first ever remote evidence from vessel at sea in historic collision case

Posted on: 9 October 2020

Global, sector-focused law firm HFW successfully acted for the owners of a vessel involved in a high-value collision case that saw evidence provided remotely from on board a vessel at sea in a historic first for the UK Admiralty Court.

HFW advised the owners of the Sakizaya Kalon, 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 US$18 million.

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

HFW overcame significant technical challenges to enable the Sakizaya Kalon’s Captain to provide his evidence directly from his vessel while still at sea.

In a judgment handed down on 5 October 2020 – the Hon. Mr Justice Teare QC’s last as an Admiralty Judge – the owners of the Panamax Alexander, 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: “We are extremely proud to have helped our client achieve such a comprehensive victory in this matter. 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.

“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 S.A. 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.”

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