Deputy Managing Partner, John Sze: Disputes, Claims and the Continued Rise of Arbitration

Our Deputy Managing Partner, John Sze, was most recently interviewed by the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA) about JTJB’s pipeline of work over the past year and what to expect for shipping disputes in 2022. Here, we provide a snippet of his thoughts.

Ongoing claims by Judicial Managers and the collapse of oil traders

Over the past year, the JTJB shipping disputes team and our global network of legal advisors have been mobilized to act for several Judicial Managers to manage the claims, disputes and disposal of vessels owned by multiple ship-owning entities that owned over 80 vessels in total.

“The work has thrown up many novel issues involving rights of in rem writ claimants, legal issues arising from the interface of shipping and insolvency laws and coming up with creative and innovative ways to assist the Judicial Managers in managing and resolve hundreds of claims made against the vessels,” John explained.

JTJB is also continuing to act on several disputes raising from the collapse of several oil training companies which started in 2020. These high value claims mainly arose due to a sharp drop in oil prices from late 2019.

The two strands of work, we believe, will persist through 2022. As the maritime sector continues to grapple with uncertain times, and hence a volatile market, we expect more issues and challenges to arise for the industry, giving rise to more claims and disputes that will need prudent legal guidance and defence.

Arbitration as the preferred way to resolve disputes

Arbitration work accounts for a significant part of JTJB’s disputes work, due to the frequent and increasing adoption of arbitration clauses in many contracts across the maritime sector.

The sector has had two prolonged years to familiarise with virtual hearings, they have now become a default part of the course. Legal advisors and their client parties have now taken to virtual arbitration hearings swiftly, and the industry has also certainly developed a greater appreciation to the important role of arbitration in the dispute resolution landscape.

“We have seen that arbitrations, mediations and court litigation have moved swiftly to adopting technology and virtual hearings as a preferred, or sometimes default manner of handling and determining disputes,” said John.

Arbitration is a good mechanism for dispute parties to consider adopting, particularly during such uncertain times.

“Arbitrations can take place anywhere, involving arbitrators, lawyers, parties and witnesses across jurisdictions all at the same time, with little or no disruption to the process or conduct. Tribunals have great flexibility in the conduct of arbitration, and to the credit of many arbitrators, they have exercised creativity, flexibility and a practical mindset to the management of documentation, bundles, hearing dates and timings,” John added.

Over the past year, JTJB has represented clients on several SCMA, Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) and London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) arbitrations. Most of these matters are related to international trade disruptions which resulted in delays, cargo quality and quantity issues, non-performance of cargo contracts and charterparties.


JTJB has specialised in Maritime and International Trade law practice since its formation in 1988. Today, JTJB’s maritime practice is anchored in Singapore with a network of offices across the region to serve the client’s maritime needs in Singapore and in the region. With its experience, specialist focus and dedicated network of trusted legal professionals in this region, JTJB is well placed to serve the maritime sector, and to handle and serve clients’ legal needs anytime, anywhere.