Posts con el tag ‘Derecho marítimo.’

Gateway to Asia. An arbitrator in Singapore (& IV)

I wake up bright and early. Get dolled up, ready to play, and sing and look the part. Trying to convince the voices in my head that I have read possibly all the common law jurisprudence that there is on “extending arbitration clauses on third parties” I have the most absolutely delicious breakfast. Roti Prata, a popular South Indian dish. It`s like a rice paper-thin, spider-web thin pancake served with dahl –the one I like –or fish curry- yikes. Full of energy thanks to my friend’s mum who feeds me like a queen, my friend’s dad kindly drives my to Bukit Timah, were the National University of Singapore is located.

I much enjoy the eloquent conversation of this poised, well-educated and charming banker. While driving, he tells me curious details: ERP (Everyday Road Pricing) -most commonly referred as Everyday Robbing Practice – is the toll system in Singapore, payable at booths on the expressways or (more disturbingly) automatically deducted via wireless electronic charge. ERP is supposed to discourage the use of private transport in favour of the subway, since traffic jams are not compatible with the kind of city that Lee Kuan Yew envisions, namely, an efficient, business-friendly city. Wasting time stuck in a road would be an unpardonable crime. However, sometimes, so much control, does have an uncanny resemblance to 1984. On the other hand, though, I am a strong defendant of slightly authoritarian leaders, because the human race is too inclined to idleness. People tend to need direction and guidance and encouragement to do better. People need rules and need to learn to obey. Provided, of course, that these are conducive of excellence and well-being, and not just a bunch of quickly cooked-up impediments to perpetuate the position of those in power not for their merits, but for their “surnames”.

I descend from the car, trotting along with the highest heels I have worn in years because feeling tall gives me a sense of empowerment, which today I am most certainly sure I will desperately need. Before entering the Arbitrator’s room to be briefed about the rules of the Mootcourt, I explore around the different pavilions of the university. You can almost smell that this institution is not skimpy with its students. Both the Lee  Kuan Yew and the Li Ka Shing departments are clean and spacious. The library is not set in a basement and has heaps of bright natural light that seem to encourage you to devour books like Matilda Wormwood or Don Quixote. Anyone can use the computers without having to enter idiotic passwords, printers print on your command, photocopiers photocopy without getting clogged or endlessly begging for more paper and IT people actually know about IT. Everything works. Everything is on time. Even I am on time.

Briefing room. I find my tag name on the table. I am addressed as Meredith, Maria or Miss Sendros; and you can see people squinting as  they struggle to decipher the name of this young girl that contains a “t”, and “x” and a “double l”. The other arbitrators distribute business cards, written in English on the cover, and on Chinese on the reverse –do not ask me if it is the classical or the simplified version, since I am too ignorant to notice the difference. Once again, I am the odd one out: In class, I tend to feel awfully old in comparison to my peers. Here, I feel awfully young. Apparently, I cannot win the age battle.

Kate Lewins –the Australian moot court coordinator- distributes the score sheets – where you allocate points to “legal command” but also to “poise and attire” of the students. On the board, there is a grid that tells me that I will not be presiding the tribunal –thanks be to God- and that I’ve been paired with two Indian arbitrators from the Gurbani partnership.

Room 5. I walk decidedly to my seat, fill in the form with the names of the students, pour myself a glass of water and restrain myself from sighting. I am shaky like a piece of pudding that has fallen from the table to the floor and one of the guests of the party has just stepped over it, and feels like an orphan. I start playing with the pen, trying to calm myself down, and then, zas!, the soft and slow voice of Dr. Montañà seems to whisper in my ear that this is not a very professional “thing” to do. I put the pen down, thanking my teacher without him knowing, and finally, my mind is able to concentrate  on  the Indian girl who is struggling with the “over the ship rail rule” that does not apply to liquefied gas – a rule that establishes that the risk is on the buyer once the goods have passed the ship’s rail. However, how do you establish this with a liquid that goes through a pipe that needs many valves, and whose unloading requires the assistance of  the Port Authorities, the consignee, and the carrier? I am sure that the people from Lukoil in the Barcelona Port now the answer: the ship’s flange.

Just for quick reference, the facts of the case at hand, broadly and extremely colloquially summarized, were as follows: We had this shipment of LNG, evidenced through a magical transport document called Bill of Lading. There were various shipments. For each shipment, you had a different BL. These BL’s (supposedly) incorporated, through general wording, an arbitration clause. However, this arbitration clause was never printed in the actual documents. In the case, the companies that entered into the contract for transport of the liquefied natural gas had a history of prior dealings. One day, catastrophe ensues. One of the members of the crew introduces a flammable device while unloading of the cargo is taking place causing a fire because there is a leak in the pipe of gas. The ship ends up wrecked. Now we are faced with questions such as:

Does the Arbitral Tribunal have jurisdiction to hear the case if the parties did not sign an express agreement to arbitrate, they did not contract on standard terms and the only incorporated clause there is, is incorporated through general wording?

Did the carrier breach its responsabilities for proper care and discharge of the cargo under article II of the Hague Visby rules and therefore the consignee was unable to render possible its obligations? Or did they have a combined duty to discharge it since it was a gas cargo that requires specific pipe to be unloaded?

Having said this,  now it was the turn of the second team. So far, I have not asked one single question, and I wonder if I am stupid , a coward or both.  And  then, like an epiphany, I see clearly that I should ask the Australian boy, who is going on and on and on without end about the Hague Visby rules, how does he come to the conclusion that this Bill of Lading is in fact governed by the Hague Visby Rules! He is thrown of the rail, does not produce a coherent answer, and I feel profoundly sad –for him- and profoundly happy- for me- at the same time. He does not mention the Paramount Clause, and cannot explain that that when the port of shipment has no enactment of the „Hague Rules‟, „the corresponding legislation of the country of destination shall apply.‟

Since shipment occurred in international waters where there is no legislation giving compulsory effect to the Hague Rules, the law of the stated place of destination must be considered. Given that the HV Rules have been given „the force of law‟ in the stated place of destination, the HV rules apply. I confess it took me a lot of time to get this conclusion.

Time’s up. We send the mooters outside of the room. The two Indian gentlemen treat me with the outmost respect, as an equal, and we give the participants the score they “deserve”. Having been an ex-mooter myself, I will discover, being now part of the panel, that in these “contests” luck, or destiny plays a bigger role that you would imagine. The first moot I heard, the participants were anything but mediocre, yet they were princely rewarded with 34 points (out of 40) by the Indians. On another round, a ruthless, phlegmatic, thin like a spaghetti Chinese arbitrator, gave the guys from the UK- much more coherent, who knew their case law and did not go off on a tangent- a mere 25 points. This is only to illustrate, that winning and school marks, may not be as objective as we naïve students are made to belive.

I am exhausted. The rosy, idyllic idea that teachers have an easy ride when they correct exams is complete erased from my head, and I realise that it takes a lot of courage to stand up in front of an audience where you can be shot down with questions. They could always discover that you are less educated than they are. My first day has come and gone like a flash. It has been an enlightening  course of business demeanour, of shipping law, of English language, and above all, a cure of humbleness.

Meritxell Burcet Sendrós. Llavors, alumna de 4rt de vacances. Ara alunma de 5è d’intercanvi a la Bucerius Law School (Hamburg, Alemanya)

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Gateway to Asia. An arbitrator in Singapore (III)

Somehow unexpectedly- as life is just the things that just “happen” to you while you are too busy planning “it” in your head- my afternoon turns into a crash course in architecture. A fragile, teeny-tiny girl –and mind you, the only true Singaporean I’ve met so far- is my Virgil now that we further venture into the streets of Singapore.

Colorful and festive. Dirty and slimy.With a name that rings like a tongue twister. That is Mariammam Temple, the oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore. Its tapered gopuram (tower) is shaped like a beehive that would defy that of an Amy Winehouse. This rococo visual-show of richly ornamented carved sculptures of Hindu deities is a true architectural ode to horror vacui. Bare feet (I try my best to politely set aside any concerns about germs and fungus in the name of religious respect) we enter the garbha gribha (the inner sanctum) were there are an infinite number of trays with bananas offered to the blue four-armed god Vishnu. There is also (gone-off) milk at the feet of Ganesh – the half elephant god of the Beginning and Lord of Obstacles. My galloping thoughts are absolutely irreverent: but all these paraphernalia does not awake in my any spiritual or religious instinct, but makes me feel as if I were queuing for a casting to join a circus.

After asking a lost Portuguese tourist to take a picture of us we leave this place that seems stolen from Burnett’s novel “A little princess” and we brace ourselves for the Sultan and Jamae Mosques. Forget the over-bearing, all-too-voluptous Hindu iconography and embrace this astonishingly austere yet princepesque works of art. Mosques tend to follow a common pattern: all have a prayer hall, a minaret and a mihrab indicating the way to Mecca. However, later on that night, while phoning my parents letting them know that I am a safe and sound, my dad will tell me that Islam is not represented in one unified style in Singapore as it is, on the skyline of Istambul. That night I will “day-dream myself” to sleep, thinking about the sweet waters of the Bosphorus. Moreover, our “Islamic exploration” is cut short, since we learn with great disappointment that our gender bars us from entering any of the Mosques, not even as visitors.

We keep on wandering Arab street. Then, “I-spy-with-my-little-eyes”… a half hidden shop selling flamboyant devices, useless artefacts, and shiny bits and bobs. I excitedly ask my guides if we can detour and they politely smile and let me run wild. We all end up making “glue-indonesian-bubbles” (transparent balloons made of glue that you inflate with a plastic twig), and chatting with a crazy old man that only spke mandarin rhar showed to us a motorbike like one of those that John Travolta would drive in Grease.

Having survived this eccentric parenthesis, we toddle along the edge of Kampong Glam (once the seat of the Malay Royalty), only to find an exellent example of folly modernity rendered on a gigantic scale: In the middle of a piazza were it feels you are being cross-examined by the 18 pairs of eyes of the statues of Churchill, Dante and Chopin and the like, Parkview building pops up. It’s a trapezoidal, golden, kitsch tower with a 1920’s air. Inside, there is a retro bar, with a black polished piano and waitresses flying around dressed as what I can only call “angelical whore” customs that will gladly fetch you an over-priced alcoholic drink if you care to rest for a while in one of the crimson armchairs.

Like bedraggled cats, we are out of breath, out of energy and ready to enjoy the delicacies of… Japanese food. We have dinner with the fragile Singaporean girl, one Malaysian girl, my adorable host and her boyfriend, and and two girls that will be court officials at the Mootcourt. Needless to say the food –laksa, ginger, Chinese tea- is superb. But the dessert! Oh! God! Yet another downfall to my attempts to lose weight. That night I discovered black-sesame ice-cream from Hokkaido (north of Japan). Black sesame ice-cream is like an ugly yet intelligent boy: you look at it and you would not dream of tasting a spoonful of that disgusting food that is the colour of cement, like the hair of an old-gray-granny. Once you are past you initial reticence, you taste it, and you are hooked with its cereal-feel that is a party for your taste buds.

During dinner, we talked about the wonders of London, the joys of CTLS despite the fact that transnational law as separate body of law is a commercial-bluff, about the peculiar -yet profusely loved by all the students – Mr. “Selares”, about Barcelona and Spain, and the fact that Indonesia is the only civil law country in South East Asia and the fact that Singapore has a written Constitution. And we laughed and we were happy, now that is supposedly the time to be happy, now that we don’t have to worry ourselves to the grave about mortgages and “adult” responsabilities.

The fragile girl renders a tribute to “The sound of music” with her lovely lyrical voice before we all say farewell and take the MRT back to Taanh Merah to get some sleep before we really have to face the music and experience what it feels to be an Arbitrator, what it feels to be the one examining, and not the one examined.

Meritxell Burcet Sendrós, ara ja alumna de 5è a la diàspora, a Bucerius Law School (Hamburg, Alemanya)

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Gateway to Asia. An arbitrator in Singapore (II).

Tanah Merah (Red Earth in Malay) it´s not just  the only significant military sea battle in the history of Singapore until World War II, but it will be my home during my brief stay. I rightly say home, for I am immediately welcomed. My friend (a truly smart Singaporean law student) and her family are the most hospitable hosts you could ever hope for. They picked me at the airport, treated me to all the delicacies of South East Asian cuisine, bore with my incessant and annoying questioning, and most importantly, they gave  me so much support and warmth that I never felt alone.

The heat in Singapore was not as sticky as I expected. I suspect that the thousand umbrella trees which have turned the island into a little oasis must have something to do with it.  My friend lives in a condominium- beautiful semi-detached houses which have a communal swimming pool and a gym. This is not the norm: 80% of Singaporean housing facilities are government-built flats. More notably, Singapore does not allow the formation of “guethos”, that is, in every area there must be a balance of races. Clusters of  flats where only Indians, Chinese or Malays live together are forbidden. This is the result of Singapore’s long-term planning to re-house everybody and scatter and mix the different cultures to prevent  the concentrations -such as Geyland Serai- that  existed during British rule and were a catalyst to hate riots.

During my first night I am taken to a sea-food restaurant. Food is a national pastime. We eat Black Pepper Crab, Chili Crab with buns, Scallop with Yam- no words can describe the creamy velvety taste of those little thingies- and Baby Kailan. By the time I´ve finished dinner I know that you must ditch your diet if you come here, or your experience will be glaringly flawed.

I spent my first morning wandering through the streets of Singapore with a girl that had just returned from an exchange programme at IESE. It may be a cliché, but the world is a hankerchief. I, on the order hand, have never been  to Madrid yet.

We meet at City Hall Metro Station. She explains- in a milder accent that reveals that she is originally from Hong Kong- that the Supreme Court is currently being renovated in order to turn it into a world-class (a word repeated constantly by the government)  Arts Museum.  Now, the new guardians of the rule of law inhabit a towering building crowned with what resembles a greyish-UFO. The architecture of the New Supreme Court mirrors the values that it upholds. The glass panes that let the sunshine in are a metaphor for transparency. When you enter this crystal-palace,  you’re faced with numerous escalators to ascend not only to the Court Chambers, but to ascend to justice. As if you needed to go up and up and up to redeem yourself because you have fallen from grace.

We slip stealthily into Lai Siu Chiu´s Court Room, a tiny, leather-faced woman who has a reputation for being a ferocious judge who enjoys  grilling  lawyers with her sharp and incisive manner. The chamber is equipped with all the high-tech gadgets that a computer freak could ever covet: laptops, microphones, pen-drives that contrast with the scarlet upholstered armchairs  provided for the public and media.

Afterwards, we keep sauntering along the lively streets of Singapore until we reach Boat Quay. A string of commercial  and overpriced yet traditional Chinese and Thai restaurants offer exotic meal deals. In front of each restaurant there are huge water tanks with life lobsters and crabs. You choose the one you intend to eat; it´s the freshest of the fresh.  We get to a quaint small street crowded with locals who are looking for a place to have lunch, flickering through the shops located under a once-imposing archway that now looks slightly decrepit. A thick, strong spicy smell fills the air. There is an art to getting a table at this place. “Choping” is the Singlish -a variation of English that incorporates vocabulary from Tamil, Chinese and Malay- word to describe the practice  of leaving a packet of tissues “reserving” your table while you go to the counter to order your food. I am told I take spicy better than most Europeans. However, I am tried by Ikan Bilis – laminated strings of charcoal fish mixed with peanuts and a hotter that hot sauce. Prepare your fire engine when taking even a small bite of this Malaysian appetizer. We tell the waiter  that everything is bagus bagus -good, good- before returning to the Straits Tower Building.

Now, we are in the Financial District. My friend is currently an intern at Rajah&Tann, one of the Big Four firms in the legal arena of S’pore. This partnership, formed by an Indian and a Chinese, is located at a very exclusive address, in one of the few buildings that has a double sky garden. The elevator takes us to the 25th floor. The sight is breathtaking: the little inner bay before Boat and Clarke Quay, the Padang, the 4-part obelisque commemorating those who died during World War II, the glass-paned skyscrapers that shine like enormous needles that defy gravity, the Esplanade….  I was very scared of coming to Asia. One day here, and I am already taken by its welcoming citizens, its efficiency and discipline, and the perfectly welded modern and colonial architecture.  I can’t wait to meet the girl who is taking me on tour the next afternoon. My last free day before the start of any moot court duties.

Meritxell Burcet Sendrós. Estudiant de 4rt.

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Gateway to Asia. An arbitrator in Singapore (I).

If someone were to tell you that this ship was headed for Singapore, what would you say? Well, I could not wait to embark on such a journey!. My disbelief before that opportunity was comparable to that of Anne Darrow when she was asked the same question in the film King Kong. However, this was no movie and I am no beautiful actress. And yet, South East Asia was my next port of call since I had been appointed junior arbitrator in the 12th International Maritime Arbitration Mootcourt. I was equally thrilled and scared at the prospect.

I did not sail with the S.S Venture, but flew with Qatar airways over the north of the Italian peninsula and a myriad of Aegean islands; across the dark vastness of Saudi Arabia and India, as well as the clearness of the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca.

9500 Km away from home and 23 and half hours later I landed at Changi airport. Just one quick look around the magnificence of the arrival terminal was sufficient to confirm that Singapore was swimming in wealth and had money to burn. I am welcomed by hilariously spacious waiting rooms, and corridors beyond elegant which would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. As the main British naval base in the Far East it had neither the prospect nor the aspiration for nationhood until the collapse of the European power in the aftermath of World War II. Today,  the Lion City can still not rival with the monuments we have in the Old Continent, but you can feel that this place is preparing itself to write the history of the future. And a bright one, at that. Singapore has had to sing 4 national anthems: Britain´s God save the Queen , Japan´s Kimigayo, Malaysias’s Negara Ku and finally the national Majulah Singapura. Singapore, to me, is not only a survivor, but a trailblazer. History has shaped the character of the its 5 million inhabitants who have been capable of building skyscrapers in the astonishingly short period of 2 years which glitter and beam at night time, alongside a port that has a life of its own and a Business District en par with London New York and Tokyo. Somehow, I feel surrounded by talent and perseverance. My mind flashes to Prince Sihanouk. He was a film director, scryptwriter, and actor.  Maybe, Singapore really is a movie set. The cameras are about to roll.

Meritxell Burcet Sendrós. Estudiant de 4rt.

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