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SPNL Event weighs in on Maritime Claims

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Jack Hatcher, Senior Associate & Mariner at Hill Dickinson LLP.

Jack Hatcher, Senior Associate & Mariner at Hill Dickinson LLP.

The next generation keep abreast with the latest developments in maritime claims aspect of insurance.

The Shipping Professional Network London (SPNL) treated guests to another fascinating evening as it held one of its many networking events on Tuesday 30th June. Hosted by Moore Stephens LLP, the evening gave an insight into the legal and financial aspects of the maritime industry with presentations on maritime claims and expert witness workfrom Jack Hatcher (Senior Associate & Mariner at Hill Dickinson LLP), Nicholas King (Director Accountant at Moore Stephens LLP) and Paris Mangriotis (Naval Architect at London Offshore Consultants Ltd (LOC)).

Jack Hatcher, a former sea cadet turned English solicitor, got the talks underway by discussing the legal aspects of maritime casualties, with the key point being to focus on mitigation and not causation.

Jack then continued to talk about the risk of litigation and why it’s always best to try and avoid going to court, as many external factors such as an error by the judge, insufficient evidence or leaked information may result in losing the case.

This lead on to the topic of how modern technology can invalidate any incorrect evidence provided by witnesses or even help when paper evidence has been lost due to the modern bridge. Discussing the advance in the systems, Jack said:

“In days gone by, you would conduct a casualty investigation to find out what happened by going on board a ship and speaking to the crew for witness statements. You would get what paper evidence you could and if you were lucky you would try and get some kind of electronic data. That has now completely changed because of the modern bridge and how all the systems communicate with each other. Not only are they recording data within themselves, but they’re also sending data to the black box. More and more we’re having casualties whereby that data is unavailable so we go to the bridge and establish where other pieces of equipment are saving that data and it’s remarkable what you can get these days. If you think it’s not there, it is, there’s always the possibility that some kind of embedded data is there.”

Next to speak was forensic accountant, Nick King who defined expert evidence in the role of forensic evidence in maritime cases. He started off by differentiating between witnesses of fact and expert witnesses. Witnesses of fact are members of the public who are only allowed to say what they saw or heard whereas expert witnesses are allowed to give an opinion based upon what they think happened and why, providing the judge has given permission.

Nick then went on to talk about the original types of expert witnesses and what they should always remember when giving their opinion in court. The two important factors being not to opine on the law, or to put forward points relating to common sense, as neither will be appreciated by a judge.

Nick finished his presentation by defining the role of a forensic accountant as accountants who assist the court in matters of quantum and providing the audience with numerous cases they would work on.

Leaving a word of wisdom to expert witnesses, Nick said: “You can think you’re right and advise on a case, but at the end of the day…the judge decides.”

Bringing the talks to a close was chartered engineer, Paris Mangriotis, from LOC, who spoke about claims, disputes, litigations and general surveys.

SPNL members had the opportunity to hear about many interesting case studies, such as the Costa Concordia, which was the world’s biggest maritime salvage. Paris concluded his presentation by giving an insight into what the expert’s job entails, which included advising on the cost of repair, providing a reason as to why the claim happened, reviewing all the evidence that has been gathered by lawyers and preparing reports.

Following the presentations, guests had the opportunity to address the speakers with any questions before making their way out on the terrace for a successful evening of networking.

SPNL Chairman Claudio Chiste, who works at Investec Bank summed up the evening, “This is the first time we have focused on this relevant topic which I think has been thought provoking, as it highlights the impact of the technological change on marine insurance, ”.

SPNL will be hosting their next working event on Wednesday 22nd July.

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