Oslo: Since we last met up with Susanne Munch Thore 18 months ago much has changed in both the shipping markets and the maritime legal world. The managing partner at Norway’s Wikborg Rein says one of the biggest trends in the wider legal market has been the developing competition for cross border dispute resolution cases.
“There are now a number of dispute resolution centres challenging London and Hong Kong’s position as the go-to venues,” Thore says. Singapore has just announced the opening of the Singapore International Commercial Court, Dubai has the Centre for Amicable Resolution of Disputes, and China – Shanghai especially – are all looking for a slice of the action.
“Time will tell how successful these venues are but,” she reckons, “undoubtedly, as the shipping industry moves east, so will arbitration and dispute cases.”
Another trend Thore has seen over the past two years is the powerful statement made in international shipping and offshore financing by the Chinese banks and leasing institutions. Wikborg Rein is in the process of setting up its second Chinese office – in Beijing – as a result.
With shipping’s malaise lasting longer than anyone could have predicted, lawyers have been busy the world over, but, says Thore, not necessarily winding up companies, often providing solutions too.
“The best legal teams and lawyers don’t just advise on points of law, they provide pragmatic commercial options,” she says, “even, surprisingly, a few solutions—restructuring, asset sales, tax advice, debt and equity options, joint ventures, pooling arrangements, mergers and acquisitions—in a tough market a little bit of imagination goes a long way.” [19/11/14]