Lodewijk Wisse: An efficient way to settle shipping disputes at reasonable cost

Lodewijk Wisse, Senior Policy Advisor Fiscal and Legal Affairs at the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners, is a strong supporter of arbitration as a means for resolving shipping disputes. Here, he elaborates on his perspective, and explains why (Dutch) shipowners need to be aware which national law they incorporate into their contracts and why they should seriously consider opting for dispute resolution in the Netherlands, where civil law is the norm. He also calls on in-house counsel and lawyers to raise awareness for UNUM as an efficient way to settle shipping disputes at reasonable cost.

Traditionally, common law jurisdictions and London are given as the standard in many charter parties and shipping contracts. However, according to Lodewijk Wisse, the Dutch approach and legal infrastructure are far faster, more practical, and more efficient, with substantial advantages that make arbitration through the Dutch system a great alternative for court proceedings.

Excellent legal infrastructure

Coming from a background in tax law, Lodewijk Wisse found himself involved in tax matters related to logistics, in time focussing increasingly on the maritime sector. Slowly but surely, he became hooked on the shipowners’ side. This perspective, combined with an ambition to bridge the gaps between legislation and the industry’s practice, ultimately led to a position at the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners. “Even though societies are highly dependent on the shipping industry — roughly 90% of all products and goods are transported over sea — the actual process is invisible to the general public”, Lodewijk explains. “Without shipping, societal challenges such as the energy transition would simply not be possible.”

“The Dutch are known to be the cream of the crop in the field of maritime sustainability innovations. If we want to use this reputation to our best advantage, we must focus on showcasing the role of the shipping industry in both public and economic matters”, Lodewijk continues. “In addition the Netherlands has an excellent legal infrastructure, such as the maritime chamber in the Rotterdam District Court. This adds to the success of the Dutch maritime industry as a whole and helps to create a favourable investment climate for shipowners.”

Clarity and attractive rates

But for shipowners to benefit from this infrastructure, they need to make sure Rotterdam is included in contracts. “Under civil law, parties can choose to solve disputes among themselves without the risk of eventually having to go to court when a legal issue arises. Moreover, the Dutch system provides more clarity and the legal rates are more attractive than in London”, he adds. “Shipowners should be aware that most arbitration clauses include London and common law. That’s why I believe we need to highlight the advantages of arbitration in the Netherlands, particularly the UNUM rules. If we manage to do this successfully, commercial and legal experts will be able to make clear judgements and will most likely start to give Rotterdam and UNUM as the preferred means of recourse for dispute resolution in their contracts. ”

According to Lodewijk, in-house counsels and lawyers should take a pro-active role in familiarising the market with the added value of arbitration in, and through, the Netherlands: “I believe Dutch legal experts should make a name for themselves and increase awareness for the UNUM rules as an efficient way to settle shipping disputes at reasonable cost. In my view, we have a unique approach and a system that provide a valuable contribution to the maritime business climate of the Netherlands.”