West Tankers: Will the Future Italian Judgment Ever be Recognised in the UK?

On April 6th, 2011, the English High Court delivered a new judgment in West Tankers.

Most readers will recall the basic facts of the case. A dispute arose after a collision between a ship, the Front Comor, and a pier at a refinery in Italy. The charterparty provided for arbitration in London. The charterer first initiated arbitral proceedings against the owner of ship. It then sued the defendant before Italian courts. After an English Court issued an antisuit injunction restraining the claimant from continuing the Italian proceedings, the case was referred to the European Court of Justice which held that the English court was not authorised to issue such injunction.

But on November 12th, 2008, the arbitral tribunal delivered its arbitral award and held that the defendant was under no liability to the claimant and its insurer. 

The issue before the English court was essentially one of English arbitration law: whether such award could be declared enforceable in the UK. An interesting issue was whether the Brussels I regulation was relevant here, as an English judgment declaring the award enforceable in the UK might be considered as a bar to the recognition/enforcement of any inconsistent judgment rendered in another member state. And an Italian judgment ruling in favor of the claimant would be hardly concilable with an English judgment given in the terms of the arbitral award. But would such English judgment be a Regulation judgment in the first place?

In his judgment of April 6, Justice Field held that, as long as the Italian judgment had not been rendered, it was not necessary to decide the issue. In the meantime, however, he confirmed that judgment in the terms of the award could be entered into. 

Tip-off: Sebastien Lootgieter