Veteran maritime lawyer Renato Pezoa Huerta offers his thoughts.
To give a brief summary, what are the most common issues facing navigation law and maritime law in 2022?
The “globalization” of problems now seems to be the general rule for maritime transport. The most important of these is undoubtedly the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which, although it has shown a remarkable resumption of normal life in most countries of the world, is an issue that has a strong impact on maritime transport. The same applies to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has also caused dilemmas not only in the supply chain and in the safety of ships sailing in the conflict zone, but also in the application and the integration of the legal rules of maritime law, as well as in the invocation of certain clauses of charter parties and marine insurance contracts.
In line with what I have just mentioned, we can also mention the enormous traffic jam that occurred in the port of Shanghai until June, after its closure as a measure coming from the Asian authority within the framework of its “Zero COVID” strategy, and which is instrumentalized by the containment of the population after a coronavirus epidemic. This greatly affected Latin America and even the whole world. We understand that Shanghai is one of the largest and most important ports for international trade, and the shipping delay has been brutal for our customers and indeed for all “mainland” trade.
As far as the Russian-Ukrainian belligerence is concerned, attacks on the ships of various shipowners constitute a critical problem. As such, I have advised my clients, who are large shipping companies, on very specific legal disputes, such as: will a shipowner be in breach of a charter-party without liability if he refuses to step into a blocked port? On the same point, in the context of charters, is an official declaration of war necessary or is a threat of war sufficient to invoke a war clause? And clearly the biggest problem: can a charterer claim damages from the shipowner if the captain of the ship decides to unload in a port other than that agreed in the charter?
The “globalization” of problems now seems to be the general rule for maritime transport.
How is a team of legal professionals of multiple nationalities better equipped to face the challenges of the sector?
As far as I am concerned, I chair the maritime law portfolio of Allievi Larre-Marins & Pezoa, a law firm exclusively dedicated to international trade law. As you can see, maritime law is only one link in the huge supply chain. Thus, all the lawyers who make up this boutique law firm are dedicated to various branches of business enterprise. Thus, there is a branch of maritime law, a branch of customs law, a branch of banking law and a branch of international law. Thus, our advice and our representation are comprehensive and allow trade players to rely on lawyers in all segments of the supply chain. The firm’s lawyers are the most prominent in their disciplines and in their respective countries.
But what is perhaps most relevant is the fact that all the lawyers reside in different countries and that we have offices in the main cities of South America: Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Lima, Asunción, Santos, Caracas, Valparaíso and Huasco Port. Thus, our coverage is total in the Pacific, Atlantic and Caribbean oceans. Along with this, we maintain an extensive network of correspondents in Central America, mainly in Panama, and a consolidated team of non-legal professionals, such as accountants, auditors, foreign trade experts and even a ship captain for questions. techniques or expertise. All this consolidates us as a leading law firm in South America, with a huge and powerful presence in all latitudes.
Our way of working is based on solidarity and we use new information technologies to serve our customers. We hold meetings mainly telematically using modern digital platforms, which allows all partners from different countries to be present in front of the client, and the latter has the convenience of not having to travel from his country of origin. origin to one or more countries of the South. American cities.
This makes us the only law firm in Latin America to implement a technological system at the service of our clients and has been very well accepted by those who trust our work. In some cases, such as when a marine disaster occurs or when it is necessary to activate marine insurance or a specific contractual clause, such as in charters, the customer does not need to go to one of our offices and wastes the precious and short time provided for by maritime law. The same means maximum experience and convenience as the customer does not have to leave their busy schedule to contact us.
We have also set up different communication channels to deal with maritime, customs and insurance emergencies, with telephones available 24 hours a day and exclusive emails by subject. All these aspects have allowed us to achieve a high level of quality and professionalism, and to position ourselves as a leading law firm in a short time.
How do you see the maritime law industry evolving in the final months of 2022 and beyond?
The overall picture will not be without its complexities. However, we are far from an economic downturn for shipping companies at present, despite the disruptions and congestion at ports. Spot prices have started to decline, although they are still well above pre-pandemic levels. Despite all these circumstances, I believe that we are far from a drop in consumer demand that could affect shipping. At the start of the pandemic, only two shipping companies qualified as large-cap companies, but in June this year that number rose to six. Despite this, the IMF has warned that high onshore inflation and the war between Russia and Ukraine are having a material effect that could plunge the global economy into a complex recession. For now, however, maritime law is sailing smoothly.
Renato Pezoa Huerta, founding partner
Avenida Vitacura 2939, Piso 10, Las Condes Santiago de Chile, RM, Chile
Tel: +56 9860 04916
Renato Pezoa Huerta is a Chilean lawyer (LLB Hons) specializing in maritime law. He is the author of several books and scientific legal articles on maritime law and is a professor of maritime law and marine insurance. He is recognized as one of the most important and eminent maritime lawyers in Chile.
Alliévi Larre-Marins & Pezoa (ALM&P) is a boutique law firm focused exclusively on international commercial law. With headquarters in Santiago, Buenos Aires and Lima, it is a leading source of expertise for the maritime and transportation market in South America and abroad.