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.
Double-Recovery in Cargo Claims: are sales contracts truly res inter alios acta?
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.
Recent Advocacy Work
■■ Currently representing shipowners in an appeal to the Court of Appeal, challenging cargo-interests’ title to sue in litigation raising
issues of limitation of liability under the Hague-Visby Rules.
■■ Currently representing a charterer on a $50 million claim on a 17 year long term bareboat charterparty dispute.
■■Represented shipowners in a Part 86 Stakeholder/Interpleader trial, obtaining a Court Order for the discharge and sale of the
goods to which seven cargo interests laid conflicting claims.
Recent Advisory Work
■■ Currently advising on a share transfer dispute in shipping companies worth in excess of $13 million.
■■ Recently advised on potential liability for carrier in issuing switch bills of lading.
■■ Recently provided Opinions to shipowners for use in a mediation in a dispute raising points relating to the relationship between the Hague-Visby
■■ Rules and the general rules of remoteness of damages and points relating to title to sue under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992.
■■ Recently provided an Opinion to shipowners on matters relating to the application of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992.
■■ Recently provided Opinions for use in foreign litigation by insurance brokers on a marine insurance policy involving the proper construction of a policy covering jack-up operations for drilling operations in Africa.
■■ Provided an Opinion for use in foreign litigation on the construction of a laytime and demurrage clause when delay is caused by
active hostilities in a war zone.
■■ Advised on exposure of Owners under a Contract of Affreightment to liability for cargo claims brought by shippers taking bills of lading from sub-charterers and also on Owners’ right to demurrage.
■■ Provided an Opinion to a South American oil company for use in foreign litigation relating to the incorporation of charterparty terms into a bill of lading.
■■ Prepared an Expert Opinion on the transfer of risk in a delivered contract and gave oral evidence before a civil jury in Houston, Texas on a claim for damages caused by the loss of a multi-million dollar electrical generator entering the port of Houston.
Appointments as Arbitrator
Charles has taken appointments as arbitrator since 2002, since when he has written or sat in well over 200 arbitrations. He regularly sits under LMAA,
LCIA and ICC Rules and also in ad hoc arbitrations. Charles has sat as sole arbitrator, as chairman of tribunals and as a party-appointed arbitrator. Several of his Awards have been confirmed on reference up to the Courts and has yet to suffer a successful challenge. Charles is a member of the Shanghai International Arbitration Center’s (SHIAC) panel of foreign arbitrators.
Charles has written prolifically in his areas of expertise, and is closely associated with the drafting and development of COGSA 1992, Incoterms 2000 and 2010, the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (the UCP 600) and the Singapore Sales Form.
His writing has frequently been cited in courts in the UK, for example in:
■■ Profindo Pte Ltd v Abani Trading Pte Ltd 2013 SGHC 10, Court of Appeal, Singapore.
■■ AP Moller-Maersk v Sonaec Villas  1 Lloyd’s Rep 1 on straight bills of lading.
■■ The Mercini Lady  2 Lloyd’s Rep 679 on certificate final clauses.
■■The Rafaela S  1 Lloyd’s Rep 347 on straight bills of lading.
■■ Uco Bank v Golden Shore Transportation  SGCA 42, Singapore Court of Appeals, on the endorsement of bills of lading.
■■The Starsin  1 Lloyd’s Rep 371 on the identity of the carrier in cargo claims.
Major publications include:
■■ Ship Sales and the Singapore Sale Form [with F. Lorenzon], Lexis-Nexis, 2013
■■Maritime Law, Sweet and Maxwell, 3rd Ed 2017, co-author
■■Transfer of Property in International Sales (ICC-Paris, 2010), co-author
■■ The Rotterdam Rules: A Practical Annotation, Informa 2009, co-author
■■Bills of Lading in Export Trade, Tottel Publishing, third edition January 2009 (4th Ed in preparation)
■■ Halsbury’s Laws of England, vol 4, Carriage and Carriers; November 2008
■■ Halsbury’s Laws of England, vol 41, Sale of Goods and Supply of Services, 2005
■■ Halsbury’s Laws of England, vol. 43(2), Shipping and Navigation, 1997, with Hardy Ivamy
After a disciplined education at grammar school in Malta, enjoyed a rather free-er Quaker atmosphere at boarding school outside Reading on a Commonwealth-funded scholarship, after which back to the rigour of a Civil Law education at the Royal University of Malta (as it then was), graduating LL.D. in 1977, and then on to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar at St Edmund Hall (B.A Jurisprudence, 1979 and M.A. in 1983). All thoroughly enjoyable, if diverse, experiences.