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Mediation in International Maritime Disputes

Friday, December, 21, 2012


According to authors Rodney M. Elden and Irene E. Ziebarth, “dispute and controversy are endemic to ocean transport.”  With the vastness of the world’s oceans and the equal vastness and diversity of the cargoes transported, it’s no wonder that disputes arise, particularly between ports and transporters who face varying laws, contracts and regulations.  The authors point to a history of claims and counterclaims that have arisen in the maritime transportation industry that have given rise to disputes.  One particularly interesting example occurred in 1954, when a time-chartered transport owner submitted claims for the cost of limes to protect his crew from scurvy. 

Maritime disputes can arise from a variety of factors but for most, maritime mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that can help the parties involve reach a timely and cost-effective resolution.  While there are no “winners” or “losers” in maritime mediation, the process involves communication between both parties in the presence of a neutral, third-party mediator who is an expert in maritime law.  This mediator then suggests a way in which to resolve the issue that is fair to everyone involved.  The parties in dispute are then able to reject or accept the mediator’s suggestion.  If they chose to reject it, they may pursue arbitration or litigation at any point and the mediator’s suggestion is not legally binding.  

According to Elden and Ziebarth, some of the factors that favor mediation for resolving maritime disputes are if:

a) The business relationship could continue or be resumed;

b) It is desirable to be able to control the outcome of the dispute;

c) The position of each side has merit, and arbitration could well result in either side prevailing;

d) Arbitration preparations would be costly and protracted; or

e) A speedy resolution is important.