JHA | No agreement to submit to jurisdiction of English High Court

No agreement to submit to jurisdiction of English High Court

May 19, 2015

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The Admiralty Court has held that correspondence between the parties did not constitute an offer by the claimant to submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts, where the claimant’s purpose in issuing proceedings was simply to obtain security for its claims.

The case concerned, among other issues, a claim for damages for the unlawful termination of ship management agreements which were subject to a German arbitration clause. The claimant’s purpose in issuing High Court proceedings was to obtain security for its claims. The defendants wanted the claims to be decided by the High Court and argued that in correspondence between the parties the claimant had expressed willingness to confer jurisdiction on the English High Court in relation to the claims.

Simon J held as follows:

  • The correspondence between the parties could not be read as an offer by the claimant to submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts which was capable of acceptance. The claimant was merely stating that it would have been willing to submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts but for the defendants’ opposition to such a course of action. Since the defendants did not agree to English jurisdiction, the claimant was not seeking to submit the disputes for determination by the English courts.
  • The object of issuing the claim was the legitimate purpose of obtaining security for foreign arbitration and legal proceedings. The claimant’s action in issuing the claim to obtain security was both unexceptional in domestic terms and consonant with Regulation 44/2001 (the Brussels I Regulation). The court would normally recognise both the obligation to submit disputes to arbitration or courts in a foreign jurisdiction, and the claimant’s right to obtain and retain security in respect of such disputes.
  • The claim in the High Court was therefore stayed, subject to the provision of appropriate security in the arbitration proceedings.

Harms Bergung Transport und Heavylift GmbH & Co KG v Harms Offshore AHT ‘Uranus’ GmbH & Co KG and others [2015] EWHC 1269, 7 May 2015