Maritime disputes tend to be international and commercial in their nature and often highly complex. Thankfully today court litigation is not the only method for resolving a dispute. There are essentially six modern methods of dispute resolution, as follows:
Negotiation – This is where the parties get together and try to negotiate a settlement of the issues and perhaps claims between them. It can be effective because the dispute will be elevated to a higher level within the firms in question, perhaps taking the dispute out of the hands of the individuals who are at loggerheads. Commercial considerations begin to be more at play and there can be a greater appetite to compromise. It is also the most cost effective method costing nothing, other than perhaps the cost of supporting legal advice or assistance with the negotiation process.
Mediation – Mediation essentially involves the appointment of an individual to go between the parties and see if they can find common ground or tease out settlement terms that would be acceptable to both sides.
Conciliation – Tends to be reserved for employment disputes.
Adjudication – Tends to be reserved for construction disputes. This method is very quick because often there is a strict timetable for submitting evidence and providing an Award. The adjudicator in Construction disputes in the UK must provide a decision within 28 days of the instruction. This has been intentionally designed for construction disputes where daily costs are often being incurred of hundreds of thousands and if a project were to be delayed for a series of months it would cause considerable economic impact. So the parties sacrifice the ability to present their case and analyse it in granular detail for the right to obtain a swift judgment.
Arbitration – This where the parties appoint an arbitrator or a panel of three arbitrators to listen to their case and give a judgment in much the same way that a court would, but without the strict rules of evidence, delays, formality and the need for lawyers. Also, importantly, it can be done and normally is in private. So the media and the public never become aware of the facts or judgment. The parties can go to arbitration by having a standard term in their contract agreeing to do so, or by agreeing to resolve a dispute that has otherwise arisen by arbitration. They may decide on almost every element of how the arbitration should be conducted, but tend to choose a standard form of rules such as the UNCITRAL, CIArb, CII Rules etc., which provide adaptable templates for Arbitration procedures. Arbitration is by far the most common way to resolve maritime disputes and frequently the LMAA (or London Maritime Arbitrators’ Association) Rules are used.
Litigation – If all else fails the parties always have their original recourse to a court of law.