Gotta Serve Somebody: Ensuring your arbitration notice has been correctly served
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the original author or contributor. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the UK P&I Club.
When Dylan sang “…you're gonna have to serve somebody…” he was right; however, the recent decisions in The Amity and Sino Channel Asia v Dana Shipping & Trading show, you do need to beware of some potential pitfalls.
Your starting point should always be the charterparty. Does it contain any specific service requirements within the arbitration clause? Does it specify parties who are authorised to accept service?
If not, then for service under English Law you should turn your attention to s.76 of the Arbitration Act 1996, which essentially allows service by “any effective means”. This could mean that service on a generic email address is valid (The Eastern Navigator), but this may not always be the case.
The recent decisions in both The Amity and Sino Channel Asia show, risks arise when notice is served on an individual only. Unless you are able to satisfy yourself that the recipient has the relevant authority to accept service, then you should take additional steps to ensure that service is valid.
Checklist for service
Is the party you have been communicating with actually the party you have contracted with? If not, although there may be an implied authority, additional steps should be taken - i.e. notice sent via recorded delivery to the registered address of the company as per s.76 (4) Arbitration Act 1996.
Is there a generic email available as well as an individual email? If yes, send the notice to both.
Is a P&I Club or broker involved? If yes, you may want your Club/broker to forward a copy to their counterparty. However, be aware that the brokers or Clubs may not have general authority to accept notices of arbitration.
You may also be interested in:
QCR Spring 2019: Whether holder of bill of lading bound to submit to arbitration of demurrage dispute notwithstanding it had not exercised rights of suit
SEA MASTER SHIPPING INC v ARAB BANK (SWITZERLAND) LTD (THE “SEA MASTER”)  1 Lloyd's Rep. 101 – 25th July 2018
QCR Spring 2019: Cour de cassation - French courts will now have to refuse jurisdiction with respect to direct actions against P&I Clubs, provided there is an arbitration clause in the Club’s Rules
Voies Navigables de France v SC Navi SARL - Cour de Cassation (1ere ch.civ), 19 December 2018, Decision Number: 17_28_951 - FRANCE
QCR Autumn 2018: Contractually agreed time bars in a charterparty chain will be strictly enforced
P V Q; Q V R; R V S  EWHC 1399 (Comm)