Charles Debattista has a busy and successful practice, both as an advocate and as an arbitrator, in dry shipping and international trade disputes, in which areas he also has a thriving advisory practice.

He has had extensive experience in charterparty work, bills of lading, cif and fob disputes, letters of credit, ship management issues and general commercial contract disputes.

Key cases & testimonials

Represented a steel trader in a cargo claim in the High Court where a carrier issued bills of lading known to contain inaccurate weights when compared with VGM values. Leading a junior from another chambers opposite a Silk.

Represented a commodity trader in a High Court challenge to the jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal under section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996. Leading a junior from 36 Stone.

Chaired a tribunal brought under the rules of the Malta Arbitration Centre in respect of disputes arising from the multi-million Euro refit of a superyacht. The arbitration included a claim and a sizeable counterclaim with several interlocutory applications being dealt with between start and finish.

Sole arbitrator in a large LMAA arbitration relating to laytime and demurrage. The matter raised a number of important substantive issues but also several problematic procedural problems given that one of the parties was situated in a warzone and could not consequently participate in the arbitration as it might otherwise have done.

Charles knows more about commodities litigation than almost anyone and provides clear advice on both the legal and commercial elements of the matterLegal 500 2024
Charles is an expert and knowledgeable barrister with an outstanding intellect.Legal 500 2024
Charles has a deep knowledge on shipping and commercial law. Chambers & Partners 2024
Charles has a unique combination of academic skill and commercial acumen. Chambers & Partners 2023
He has an outstanding intellect, his submissions carry real authority, and he is tenacious and fights his client’s corner with the utmost charm.Legal 500 2022

Further information

After graduating first in Malta and then at Oxford, Charles started his career lecturing at the University of Southampton in 1979, taking a Chair in Commercial Law and heading the University’s Institute of Maritime Law for six years. Charles started an energetic practice as arbitrator in 2002. He joined Stone Chambers in 2004 and moved into full-time practice at the Bar when he left academic life in 2011.

MA University of Oxford (1983)

BA (Hons) (Juris), University of Oxford, Rhodes Scholar, St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford (1979)

LLD, Royal University of Malta (1977)

Appointments & Memberships:

Charles is a member of the Baltic Exchange, of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, of the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration, of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and a Supporting Member of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association. In a previous life, Charles was a Professor of Commercial Law and Director of the Institute of Maritime Law at the University of Southampton. He is now a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Laws at University College London.

LMAA, Supporting Member
Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
Baltic Exchange
British Maritime Law Association
Middle Temple
Shanghai International Arbitration Centre
Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitrators
Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre

External Publications:

Charles’s most recent substantial work was Debattista on Bills of Lading in Commodity Trade, 4th ed, Bloomsbury Professional, with Francis Hornyold-Strickland.

Charles has also kept up his writing profile with shorter pieces published on line, latest examples of which would include: ‘The Electronic Trade Documents Bill’ (here), ‘Consequential Loss in Breach of Contract’ (here), ‘Busting Hague-Visby Limits to Damages; Intentional or Reckless and with Knowledge’ (here), ‘Halliburton v Chubb: What does it mean for shipping and commodity arbitrations?’ (here).

In his earlier academic life, Charles also published works on the Rotterdam Rules, the Singapore Ship Sale Form, the Transfer of Property in International Sales.

Charles was also closely involved with the drafting of several important legislative instruments: the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992, Incoterms 2010, 2010 and 2020, and the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP600).


Speaks Italian.