Interview with Mr. Philippe Delebecque, President of the Maritime Arbitration Chamber of Paris (CAMP), conducted by Mr. David Lutran, Lawyer at the Paris Bar and accredited Mediator.
David Lutran: What is the activity of the Maritime Arbitration Chamber of Paris (CAMP)?
Philippe Delebecque: CAMP offers international trade operators efficient solutions for the resolution of their maritime disputes. The Chamber has its own arbitration and mediation regulations offering fast and flexible procedures.
On average, the Chamber receives about 40 arbitration cases per year, with increasing stakes -both financially and in terms of interest. While the average amount at stake per case is currently around 400,000 euros, some cases reach 2 to 3 million euros, or even more.
The activity of the Chamber may seem modest compared to other leading institutions – notably the London Maritime Arbitrators Association – in the field of maritime dispute resolution, but the fact remains that the amounts involved and the diversity of the cases demonstrate its attractiveness to professionals in the sector.
Litigation is itself evolving: while disputes relating to the interpretation of charter parties are declining due to what we can refer to as the Chamber’s case law, which is now well established, others are developing, notably in relation to volume contracts (COA), shipbuilding contracts and insurance. We can also mention the litigation concerning logistics, commission and transport organization contracts (agency, consignment…). Yachting, and especially luxury boating, also give rise to disputes which are increasingly brought to the attention of the Chamber.
In addition, new disputes relating to offshore wind turbines -their installation and, above all, their operation- and other off-shore activities are likely to be referred to arbitration.
DL: Some people underline the crisis that international arbitration has been going through for the past few years, mainly because of the length of the proceedings and their cost. Is CAMP concerned?
Ph.D.: CAMP has, for a long time, been organized to offer professionals fast and cost-effective procedures: awards are rendered within a relatively short period of time (procedures generally between 6 and 8 months) while the fees charged are significantly lower than those of other arbitral institutions.
In addition, CAMP is unique in its professional approach to arbitration. The majority of the arbitrators come from the maritime business sphere, whether they are practitioners or technicians, but also from the maritime legal field – law professors and lawyers experienced in maritime law and its specific procedures.
Such a panel is thus able to answer the questions that professionals who refer to the Chamber ask themselves in addition to – and this point is fundamental – their knowledge of the customs in force in the maritime world. Maritime law is complex and mobilizes numerous notions, which only practice and experience allow to fully apprehend.
In practice, the arbitral tribunal is often composed of three members, two professionals and a lawyer, the latter being called upon to chair the arbitral panel. In any event, the Chamber’s Committee always ensures that the arbitral panel is balanced, so that the awards are clear, easily applicable and fully answer all the questions raised.
The quality of the awards rendered by the CAMP explains without a doubt their spontaneous execution in an overwhelming majority of cases (90%). Appeals against them are extremely rare – two annulments of awards have been reported since the creation of CAMP in 1966 (by the major shipowners and shippers of the time) or, more precisely, its re-establishment, as the institution dates back to 1929.
It should be noted that if the most applied maritime law in the world is the English law due to the fact that it is predominantly chosen by the parties in their contracts and especially in the charter parties. This does not represent a difficulty for the arbitrators of the CAMP, insofar as the law that must be applied and enforced is first and foremost the law of the parties, this being the contract that binds them. Whether this contract is subject to English law or to another law, although not irrelevant, is rarely decisive.
As a civil law lawyer, one can obviously only regret the relative decline in the use of French law, and more broadly continental law, as a written law based on principles that must be applied and put to use in the most concrete situations.
DL: What about mediation?
Ph.D.: While arbitration is the preferred method of dispute resolution in the maritime world, mediation is beginning to find its place, as professionals are now aware of its merits. The fact that the subject of mediation is discussed at meetings of the International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators (ICMA) also attests to its growing importance in the resolution of maritime disputes.
Mediation is a purely conventional but structured process outside of or in addition to litigation (court or arbitration) whereby two or more parties attempt to reach an agreement to resolve their dispute amicably, with the assistance of a neutral, independent and impartial third party called a mediator.
Almost the entire legal spectrum is concerned by mediation, the maritime field being no exception. Thus, parties opposing each other on a maritime matter have the possibility to refer to a mediator to assist them in establishing or continuing a dialogue in order to reach a mutually satisfactory solution.
Unlike a judge or arbitrator, who analyses the case from a legal point of view and will rule to solve the dispute, in principle only through the prism of the law, by means of a decision which will most often take the form of a judgment, mediation brings a different dimension to the resolution of the conflict.
By taking into consideration all aspects of the conflict between them in the light of the power dynamics structuring the case, the parties in mediation reach a solution that is generally more complete than in arbitration, since it encompasses the conflict in all its components (legal, economic and personal…).
The relationship between the parties can therefore be relatively easily preserved and resized, or even ended appropriately if there is no future between them.
The agreement thus obtained will take the form of a contract/protocol which can be given an enforceable force identical to that of a judgment or an award, through a simplified procedure of judicial homologation, with all the consequences attached to it.
It should be noted that the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements resulting from Mediation (known as the Singapore Convention on Mediation), which entered into force on 12 September 2020, will most likely contribute to the development of international commercial mediation, including in maritime matters, with the institution of a simplified mechanism for the enforcement of agreements resulting from mediation. This instrument will perhaps be to mediation what the New York Convention of 1958 was to arbitration.
DL: What is CAMP’s activity in maritime mediation?
Ph.D.: Attentive to the demands of the industry, CAMP has had its own mediation rules since 2012. The mediations undertaken under its aegis mainly concern disputes -national and international- of shipbuilding and ship reparation. The professional nature of the Chamber is a real asset insofar as its mediators, like its arbitrators, have a detailed knowledge of the practices and issues of the maritime world.
It should be noted that maritime cases are frequently settled out of court, with a particular importance for the transactions made through lawyers: 20 to 25% of the cases brought before CAMP are settled before the arbitration procedure is completed.
Given the broad view of the conflict that it allows, mediation has its place alongside settlement in maritime matters as elsewhere, while the actors of the business world in the broad sense are looking for quick and customized solutions.
Moreover, these same actors are looking for techniques and processes capable of containing the risks of their activities and of making them escape from the hazards of all kinds – first and foremost those inherent in legal proceedings.
Mediation is an alternative of choice because of the technical and legal competences of the CAMP mediators: short deadlines, a process freely modulated by the parties and strictly confidential, besides the possibility of welcoming many parties from different jurisdictions and to avoid the sometimes complex questions -jurisdictional competence, lis pendens, junction of proceedings, interventions (…)- which often arise in maritime litigation.
DL: What types of cases are best suited to mediation in maritime matters in your opinion?
Ph.D.: The whole spectrum of maritime law is a priori concerned by mediation, it being observed that arbitration occupies – and will very likely continue to occupy – a preponderant place in the resolution of classic disputes, such as that of chartering.
In my view, other fields might be promising for mediation in maritime matters: that of (international) contracts for the employment of seafarers, the field of large-scale fishing and, above all, the sector of large and even medium-sized yachts where, as I have already indicated, the problems of construction, sale, co-ownership or even space in the ports arise with great acuteness.
Insurance litigation could also be of interest to mediation, even if insurance companies often have their own mediators.
Mediation should also develop and find its place in disputes involving public establishments of an industrial or commercial nature, such as ports, public establishments which cannot in principle resort to arbitration, except with special authorization.
DL: How do you see the future of mediation in maritime matters and its interaction with arbitration?
Ph.D.: Mediation and arbitration are complementary, as shown by the increasingly frequent insertion of the so-called “Med-Arb” clauses, organizing the recourse, simultaneously, or better, successively, to mediation and arbitration by the parties to settle their disputes.
Notwithstanding the probable and obviously desirable development of mediation in maritime matters -following the example of the trends observed in commercial matters in general- arbitration maintain and will continue to maintain all its importance.
Indeed, the maritime world needs, and will always need, predictable and coherent rules which will themselves evolve with the support of state and arbitral jurisprudence, in a perspective of healthy regulation of relations within a more international world marked by the irruption of new actors unfamiliar with its habits and customs.