Francis has a broad commercial litigation and arbitration practice, with a particular emphasis on shipping and private international law. His experience includes led and unled work, in high court litigation, ad hoc and institutional arbitrations.
Francis’s shipping law experience includes bareboat, time and voyage-charterparty disputes (including late/early redelivery, laytime/demurrage disputes; NOR issues; and bunker disputes); cargo claims (including transhipment issues); and shipbuilding and/or insolvency disputes. Francis has worked with all the major charterparty and bills of lading standard forms including, among others: Gencon, Congenbill, NYPE, Synacomex, Supplytime, Tankervoy, and Towcon forms. Francis is familiar with all major international arbitration rules including: LCIA, ICC, UNCITRAL, SIAC, HKIAC, the Swiss Arbitration Rules, and LMAA rules.
Prior to joining 36 Stone Francis spent three years at the world-leading international arbitration practice of WilmerHale, where he worked on a range of very high value, complex commercial arbitrations. This included a US$1 billion civil fraud claim relating to the manufacture of potentially toxic baby-milk formula, and a USD900m price-review arbitration relating a 20-year LNG supply contract. During this time Francis worked closely with some of the leading arbitration practitioners in the world, including Gary Born and Franz Schwarz. Prior to joining WilmerHale Francis worked at a leading international shipping firm after completing pupillage at 7 King’s Bench Walk.
Francis was awarded the Falcon Chambers Essay Prize at City University, where he studied for the Graduate Diploma in Law. He is also a Hubert Monroe Scholar and Blackstone Entrance Exhibitioner of The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. Prior to studying law, Francis read English Literature at St Cuthbert’s Society, Durham University, where he graduated with first-class honours, coming third top in his year.
Clarifying key points in relation to shipping law and arbitral procedure (Dera Commercial Estate ...
"International Arbitration in the Financial Sector: Room to Grow?” Commercial Dispute Reso...
What Law Governs the Separability of an Arbitration Agreement?
International Arbitration Review: England & Wales chapters
Trouble in the Caspian Sea: Clarification of the Breadth of the Word “Hereunder” in Arbitrati...
Shipping, International Trade & Commodities
Francis has extensive experience of shipping law, including:
Time and voyage charterparty claims
Francis’s experience includes, among others:
- Drafting a defence to an EUR82,000 claim in relation to a high court dispute concerning the spoilage of a large cargo of blueberries during transit from Chile to Rotterdam.
- Drafting claim submissions for an ad hoc arbitration of a US$ 165,000 claim for damage to rice cargo (mould, shortages, tearing of bags and empty bags) carried from India to Liberia, pursuant to Congenbill 1994 bills of lading, incorporating the terms of an amended GENCON Charter-Party plus additional riders;
- Drafting a claim issued in the English High Court for a declaration of non-liability in relation to a contract for multimodal carriage (road and sea) of pork products from Spain to China. The Defendant contractor alleged the pork products had been damaged by a sub-contractor responsible for the sea leg of the journey and that the sub-contractor was therefore liable for c.£ 101,000
- Drafting claim submissions for an ad hoc arbitration of a US$ 93,000 claim for loss and/or damage to rice cargo carried from Bangkok to Angola, pursuant to Congenbill 1994 bills of lading, incorporating the terms of an NYPE 93 Charter Party;
- Drafting claim submissions for an ad hoc arbitration of a US$ 139,000 claim for shortages and tearing of bags of rice cargo carried from Kakinda to Liberia, pursuant to Congenbill 1994 bills of lading, incorporating the terms of an amended GENCOM charter-party terms plus additional riders;
- Drafting claim submissions for an ad hoc arbitration of a US$ 29,000 claim for shortages and tearing of bags of rice cargo carried from Pakistan to the Ivory Coast, pursuant to Congenbill 1994 bills of lading, incorporating the terms of an amended SYNACOMEX 90 form plus additional riders;
- Advising on whether owners were liable for damage to rice cargo caused by mould during transit, due to a failure to make the vessel’s holds cargoworthy; or, conversely, whether charterer’s choice of route through hotter climes negatived owners’ liability.
1. Drafting eighteen separate opinions on a Defendant Korean shipbuilder’s potential liability for repudiatory breach of eighteen separate contracts, on the basis of its insolvency. This included questions regarding the enforceability of ipso facto clauses and the law regarding the impossibility of performance (a sub-species of repudiation);
- In April 2018, Francis was led by Elizabeth Blackburn QC in a successful application to the High Court under s.24 of the Arbitration Act 1996 to remove the arbitrator in the case on the basis of apparent bias. Such applications are rarely successful and the win marks a significant triumph for chambers and the team as a whole. The underlying dispute related to a dispute over breach of a charterparty;
- An advice on whether a contract governed by English law between charterer and owner of a vessel stipulated which party was required to pay a new tax levied by the People’s Republic of China;
- An advice on whether receivers (purchasers), charterers (sellers) or shipowners were responsible for port tariffs levied against ammonium sulphate imported to Lobito, Angola. The Charter Party – which was on a Synacomex 90 form provided that all charges against cargo were for Charterers’ account. Accordingly, prima facie charterers were liable for the import tariffs. The contract between the receivers and charterers was on a “LINER OUT” basis (i.e. the cost of discharge is included in the freight). Prima facie this kept liability with charterers for the tariffs. However, as the receivers had agreed to follow the outcome of the dispute between charterers and owners, they were estopped from denying liability.
- Drafting an opinion on whether Notice of Readiness had ever been properly given and whether demurrage could be claimed.
Commercial Litigation & Arbitration
Francis has extensive experience of commercial litigation and international arbitration. Francis is familiar with both English High Court and County Court procedure as well as most major arbitration rules including: LCIA, ICC, UNCITRAL, SIAC, HKIAC, LMAA, and the Swiss Arbitration Rules.
Francis’s experience includes:
- Acting as junior counsel on a behalf of a Claimant seeking an injunction in relation to the putative wrongful termination of a concession agreement for the provision of a beauty salon in one of London’s most famous department stores. The case primarily concerns the law of misrepresentation of intentions;
- Advising on: (1) whether two contracts governed by Malaysian law could be enforced in England & Wales without a Malaysian court judgment; and (2) if so could the Defendant apply to set aside the registration of those judgments in the English courts. Question ‘1’ turned on whether the contracts contained exclusive jurisdiction clauses; question ‘2’ turned on an analysis of Pt II of the Administration of Justice Act 1920, CPR 40.8A and CPR 83.7.
- A billion-dollar ICC arbitration, defending an LNG merchant from a price review request brought by a supplier under a long-term supply contract. The case relied heavily on the correct interpretation of the relevant price review clause. It also involved questions of competition law, specifically whether an adjustment to the price under the contract would breach Article 101 TFEU by segmenting the European single market, through the introduction of a dual-pricing mechanism;
- In the same field of oil & gas, Francis has worked on USD60million claim relating to damage to a North-Sea oil rig, by rising metaocean ceiling. The case turned on a dispute over the allocation of liability between the contractor and the purchaser of the rig for required upgrades;
- Francis acted as part of a team of co-counsel on behalf of a claimant pharmaceutical company in relation to a potential joint venture agreement, in an ICC arbitration. The case involved contractual claims for breach of confidence and exclusivity under a Memorandum of Collaboration, as well as non-contractual claims for negligence, fraud and unjust enrichment;
- Research for a USD100million case, Republic of Djibouti v Mr Abdourahman Mohamed Mahmoud Boreh, pertaining to Mr Boreh’s alleged tax evasion, his alleged support of a Somalian warlord and issues of sovereign immunity;
- During pupillage Francis worked on one of the largest cases in the High Court that year, Excalibur v Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited. The case concerned an alleged joint venture agreement between the two disputing parties over a highly profitable oil concession in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq. The claimant claimed to have been unfairly cut out from the joint venture, between the Defendant and the Kurdistan Regional Government (“KRG”), having introduced the Respondent to the ruling members of the KRG.
- In July 2018 Francis drafted a Defence & Counterclaim for a case involving the retirement of a shareholder-director and his alleged obligation to sell back his shares to the company in a negative equity scenario, by paying the company to take the shares back. The case involved questions including: (1) interpretation of contract and implied terms; (2) valuation of company assets and liabilities; (3) breach of directors’ duties under ss.171-177 of the Companies Act 2006; (4) unfair prejudice under ss.994 and 996 of the Companies Act 2006; and (5) just and equitable winding up pursuant to s.122(1)(g) of the Insolvency Act 1986.
Francis has detailed experience of civil fraud cases, including a complex, billion-dollar international arbitration, relating to the manufacture of potentially toxic baby milk-formula. The claim related to a supplier’s alleged and continuing fraudulent misrepresentations that base powder for the manufacture of baby milk formula was safe, despite internal concerns it may concern toxic anaerobic bacteria.
Francis has recently drafted a complex opinion for a £2m fraud and negligence High Court claim concerning a securitized bridging loan provided to a charitable trust, which was guaranteed by two of the trustees. The case concerned questions relating to: (1) trustees’ want of authority; (2) solicitors’ want of authority; (3) the Charities Act; (4) solicitor’s negligence; (5) constructive trusts; (5) Quistclose trusts; (6) fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation; (7) negligent misstatement.
Insurance & Reinsurance
Francis has experience of insurance and reinsurance disputes, and is familiar with the new Insurance Act 2015 and relevant caselaw; this includes questions relating to breach of warranty, and the new duty of fair presentation.
Francis has acted on a number of insurance disputes, including advising a company on the material differences between the state of English law, pre-the new Insurance Act 2015 and subsequently; and advising a defendant reinsurer on its liability for physical breach of a waste facility located on a river in the US and subsequent downstream flooding and damage.
Francis has worked on numerous cases with an insolvency element. Most recently this includes drafting an advice to a company that had emerged from voluntary insolvency in the U.S., on its potential remedies to avoid termination of contract by its contractual counter-party, where the contract contained a contractual right to terminate in the event of either party undergoing insolvency/rehabilitation proceedings. (The contract provided for ICC arbitration under English law.) Should the other side terminate the contract, Francis advised on whether this would likely be considered wrongful termination and what the client’s likelihood of success would be in an arbitration.
Francis is also familiar with making and defending winding-up petitions of companies and bankruptcy petitions.
Other Areas of Specialism
Francis has experience of numerous other areas of law including: professional negligence disputes, competition law, the law of unjust enrichment and restitution, trusts, and conflict of laws issues, including those relating to insurance law.