This week the Commercial Court handed down judgment in Tonicstar Limited v (1) Allianz Insurance PLC; (2) Sirius International Insurance Corporation ( PUBL) (London Branch) [2017] EWHC 2753, a matter where the question was whether a barrister was a person “with not less than 10 years’ experience of insurance or reinsurance” for the purposes of a standard form arbitration clause in a reinsurance contract.

It was argued that the clause required experience in the business of insurance or reinsurance itself, and not experience of insurance or reinsurance law

The Judge considered himself bound by the decision of Mr Justice Morison in Company X v Company Y, an unreported decision of July 2000, having found that it was not obviously wrong.  He indicated however, that unless he had been so bound, he may well have decided that the ordinary and natural construction of the phrase did not limit the fields in which experience of insurance or reinsurance could be acquired.  

The case shows how important it is to consider carefully any particular skill sets required of an appointed arbitrator. In the context of general shipping disputes, this is often in the context of the arbitrators being required to be “commercial men”, a concept which has been held to exclude those whose experience is solely as practising members of the legal profession. But, in a case where a solicitor had practiced ‘for many years’ as a full-time maritime arbitrator, and was a director of companies concerned with the carriage of goods by sea, he was regarded as a “commercial man”.