Nigel Cooper QC

Called: 1987 Silk: 2010

Practice Overview

Nigel's commercial practice predominantly covers the fields of shipping, energy and insurance law. He appears before the Commercial and Admiralty Courts, in arbitration (both domestic and international) and before the appellate courts. Nigel accepts appointments as an arbitrator and has acted as a mediator and as a party's representative in mediations. He has experience of public inquiries having appeared for the government in the three most recent shipping formal investigations.

Nigel's shipping & commodities work covers most aspects of international trade and the carriage of goods (including international sales disputes and all forms of bill of lading and charterparty disputes); shipbroking and management including related fraud and professional negligence claims; shipbuilding (including superyachts) and off-shore construction; ship sale and purchase; limitation and collision actions, pollution and, occasionally, Merchant Shipping Act offences. In addition to his commercial shipping practice, Nigel has a specialist interest in disputes in the yachting and marine leisure market. In the energy sector, Nigel's work covers both upstream and downstream aspects of the industry. He has advised on disputes relating to drilling and exploration, to production and to the sale and purchase of energy products as well as on related issues such as the enforcement of related guarantees and the insurance of drilling units. Nigel's insurance & reinsurance practice extends to policy disputes in both the non-marine and marine sectors.

In the wider commercial arena, Nigel has considerable experience of handling cases that are factually and technically complex with a corresponding level of documents. He is known for being approachable, and believes in working as a team with those instructing him.

  • What the directories sayView More

    • "A very authoritative advocate." "Calm and measured."

      (Chambers UK, 2019)
    • ‘Exceedingly good.’

      (Legal 500 2019)
    • "Very user-friendly. He gets to grips with things well and provides a good service."... "Flexible, accommodating, patient and easy to work with."

      (Chambers UK, 2018)
    • "He is very clever and knows his area of practice"

      (Legal 500, 2017)
    • "Charming and an able practitioner in both wet and dry shipping matters"

      (Legal 500, 2016)
    • “He is very approachable and conveys his points with clarity

      (Chambers UK 2015)
    • "He is really forthright, and his attention to detail is phenomenal”...“He quickly picks up the issues and is willing to work antisocial hours as required by the case”

      (Chambers UK 2014)
    • "Very careful and perceptive and gives prompt advice"

      (Legal 500 2014)
    • "An extremely approachable QC, who is incredibly easy to work with” He has the “ability to get right into the detail of a case yet still provide clear overall strategy, advice and assistance”.

      (Chambers UK 2013)
    • “Highly intelligent” and “Straightforward and to the point in all he does”

      (Chambers UK 2012)
  • Commercial Dispute Resolution K View More

    Nigel has a broad commercial practice, covering most aspects of international trade (including commodities) and the carriage of goods, as well as construction (including off-shore), railways, professional negligence (particularly in relation to shipbrokers), fraud, international supply contracts and conflicts of law. During 2007 to early 2009, Nigel was heavily involved as junior counsel to one of the ship-broking defendants in the Fiona Trust litigation. Much of 2010 was spent defending a professional negligence claim for US$55 million against a firm of marine surveyors relating to work done for a condition warranty survey. During 2012 and 2013, Nigel acted for BHP Billiton in connection with claims in excess of US$110 million under a settlement agreement relating to a series of FFA contracts.

  • Shipping & Maritime K View More

    Dry Shipping

    Nigel’s dry-shipping and commodities practice is broad and varied. His work covers all types of charter party and bill of lading disputes as well as international trade and related finance disputes. Nigel has a particular expertise in disputes relating to shipbrokers, managers and surveyors including fraud and professional negligence claims. During much of 2008 and 2009, Nigel acted for a firm of shipbrokers in the Fiona Trust litigation. In 2010, Nigel was heavily involved with a professional negligence claim against a firm of warranty surveyors for a sum of about US$55 million. In 2011, Nigel was instructed along with revenue counsel by HMRC in connection with a dispute over the tax treatment of a lease finance scheme for two LNG carriers.  In 2012 and 2013, Nigel acted for BHP Billiton to obtain summary judgment and worldwide injunctive relief in connection with claims in excess of of US$110 million under a settlement agreement relating to a series of FFA contracts. During 2013 and 2014, Nigel acted in a variety of arbitrations, including references concerning project and heavylift cargoes as well as bunker quality disputes and safe ports.

    A significant part of Nigel's work in this sector is international in nature and often raises complex issues relating to jurisdiction, conflicts of law and enforcement.

    Nigel also has experience of the rail and aviation sectors including advising the government on regulatory issues for the rail industry and in relation to a dispute over rights of access to an airfield.

    • BHP Billiton Marketing AG v. TMT Asia Ltd [2012] EWHC 3919 – summary judgment in respect of claims in excess of US$110 million under the settlement agreement for a series of FFA contracts.
    • M.H. Progress Lines S.A. v. Orient Shipping Rotterdam B.V. [2012] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 222 - Time-bar provisions in the Inter-Club Agreement 1996 held to take precedence over the express time-bar provision in an arbitration clause.
    • Lloyd's TSB Equipment Leasing (no. 1) Ltd v Revenue & Customs Commissioners [2012] UKFTT 47 (TC) - Dispute over the proper tax treatment for a lease finance scheme relating to the construction, sale and charter of two LNG carriers.
    • Ferryways v. ABP [2008] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 639 - responsibility of a terminal operator to indemnify a shipowner for liabilities arising out of the death of a crew member notwithstanding exclusion clauses in operator's standard terms and conditions.
    • Almatrans S.A. v. Tutova Shipping Co. Ltd [2007] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 104 - Case concerning the proper interpretation of a P & I club's letter of undertaking.
    • The DORIC PRIDE [2006] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 175 - case concerning the allocation of risk as between the owner and the charterer for delays caused by security inspections at load port.
    • Seascope Capital Services Ltd. v. Anglo Atlantic [2002] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 611 - claim by shipbroker to recover commission having been the effective cause of the financing transaction entered into by the shipowner.
    • Great North Eastern Railway Ltd v Railcare Ltd [2003] EWHC 1608 - claim by rail operator against a contractor for negligence in the maintenance of trains leading to a derailment.

    Wet Shipping

    Nigel specialises in all types of admiralty work including collision, general average, limitation and wreck removal as well as appearing as counsel for the Department of Transport in formal investigations into the loss of the MV Derbyshire, the FV Gaul, and the Marchioness/Bowbelle. Much of Nigel's wet work concerns disputes in the off-shore industries. Nigel also has extensive experience in the field of marine pollution.

    The WESTERN NEPTUNE [2010] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 158 - Application of the Collision Regulations to seismic arrays.
    R (On the application of INTERTANKO) v. Sec. of State for Transport [2007] Env. L.R. 8  - Challenge to the validity of the EU ship-source pollution directive and its compatibility with the Law of the Sea and the MARPOL Convention.

  • International Arbitration K View More

    Nigel appears regularly in international arbitrations including arbitrations under the major institutional rules and under the rules of organisations such as the LMAA and GMAA as well as adhoc arbitrations. Nigel advises regularly on strategies to ensure that parties are held to their agreement to arbitrate and to ensure the effective enforcement of arbitration awards in different jurisdictions.

    Nigel accepts appointments as an arbitrator in all his areas of practice.

  • Insurance & Reinsurance K View More

    Nigel appears in a broad range of Insurance and Reinsurance disputes (both marine and non-marine), often raising issues of non-disclosure or misrepresentation, the proper construction of policy terms and the effect of condition survey warranties. Recent litigation include disputes in relation to coverage for piracy, the meaning of 'one occurrence' under a policy of ship operator cover and an on-going dispute over whether coverage under a marine hull policy extends to cover main engine damage.

    Nigel has a specialist interest in (super)yacht insurance disputes and has previously advised the Treasury in connection with a retrocession dispute for sums in excess of £80million.

    • W.I.S.E. v. Grupo Nacional Provincial S.A. [2004] 1 All ER (Comm) 495, [2004] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 483 - A review of the principles relevant to non-disclosure and waiver in the context of goods-in-transit insurance.
  • Shipbuilding K View More

    Nigel has a strong practice in shipbuilding (including superyacht construction).

    Nigel's work extends to the commercial, government and super yacht sectors.  Recent cases include two major super yacht construction disputes, one for the builder and one for the owner and advising on the proper construction and enforcement of government shipbuilding contracts worth in excess of £300 million. During much of 2013, Nigel acted for owners in connection with a six week arbitration for claims in excess of US$50 million arising under a shipbuilding contract for a bulk carrier.

  • Energy & Natural Resources K View More

    Nigel has a well-developed practice in the field of energy and natural resources including both the oil and gas sectors as well as renewables. Illustrations of the type of cases on which Nigel had advised and acted include disputes relating to drilling and exploration, the laying of pipelines, sale and purchase of energy products, long-term offshore support contracts including support for the supply and installation of wind farms, construction of rigs and other offshore platforms as well as disputes relating to the safe design and operation of terminals.

    Nigel was also counsel for the successful claimant in Ferryways v. ABP [2008] EWHC 225 (Comm), one of the cases routinely cited in relation to the proper construction of exclusion and consequential loss clauses in both the shipping and energy sectors.

    Examples of recent cases include:

    • Instructed on behalf of the owners of a fleet of offshore support and drilling vessels used for drilling projects in West Africa in relation to a dispute over ownership of the vessels.
    • Instructed on behalf of a multi-national supplier of gas turbine packages for use with a jack-up platform in a dispute over the price of the packages.
    • Instructed on behalf of rig owners in a dispute over liability for the price of conversion works to the rig. The dispute is currently going to the Court of Appeal on a jurisdictional challenge; see Kaefer Aislamientos SA v. AMS Drilling Mexico [2017] EWHC 2598 (Comm)
    • Instructed on behalf of rig owners to recover the rig and damages for deprivation of use following the collapse of a drilling project.
    • Instructed on behalf of FPSO owners in connection with claims for the late delivery of the FPSO by builders, including claims for emergency relief from the arbitration tribunal.
    • Instructed on behalf of the UK government (together with revenue counsel) in relation to a dispute about the tax treatment of an LNG project.
    • Instructed on behalf of contractors to advise on liabilities arising from a failure to drill a well in the correct location.
    • Instructed on behalf of employers in an arbitration arising out of the collapse of a well during drilling.
    • Seadrill Management Services v. OAO Gazprom [2010] EWCA Civ 691 and [2009] EWHC 1530 (Comm) – Represented Gazprom, in a US$ 80 million claim and counterclaim against one of the leading drilling rig operators, Seadrill. The dispute involved complex legal and factual issues relating to a mobile drilling rig unit hired by Gazprom. The decisions at first instance and on appeal are important for the interpretation of an internationally recognised form of drilling contract and for the correct approach to "knock-for-knock" clauses.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution K View More

    Nigel is an accredited mediator, and has appeared as parties’ representative in mediations.

  • Administrative Law and Judicial Review K View More

    Having been a member of the Treasury panels and instructed by the Department for Transport for all of the last three shipping Formal Investigations in England & Wales, Nigel is familiar with the Administrative law concepts pertinent to his areas of practice and has experience of judicial review proceedings.

    • R (On the application of INTERTANKO) v. Sec. of State for Transport [2007] Env. L.R. 8 - challenge to the compatibility of the EU ship-source pollution directive with the Law of the Sea and the MARPOL convention.
    • Formal Investigations for The DERBYSHIRE (2000), The MARCHIONESS/BOWBELLE (2001) and The GAUL (2004).

"Very user-friendly. He gets to grips with things well and provides a good service." "Flexible, accommodating, patient and easy to work with."

(Chambers UK, 2018)


LL.B Hons (Leeds), LL.M (London), Dip.E.I. (European Business Law) (Amsterdam).


Member of the Attorney General's panel of Counsel (A & B Panels) from 1997 until becoming Queen's Counsel in 2010.
Accredited Mediator.
Accepts appointments as an arbitrator.
Provides expert evidence on English law for proceedings in other jurisdictions.


Member of SCMA
COMBAR, TECBAR, supporting member of the LMAA, Bar European Group, European Circuit, British German Jurists Association.
Until 2011 Chair/Vice-chair of various Bar Standards Board Committees.


Contributor to The Law of Yachts and Yachting (2012).
Contributor to Butterworths' Commercial Court and Arbitration Pleadings (2005).
Co-editor of The European Advocate (1997-2000).
Co-author of Taylor & Cooper, European Litigation Handbook (Sweet & Maxwell, 1995).
Former contributor to Vaughan`s Law of the European Communities (Butterworths.
Contributor to the Practitioner's Handbook of EC Law (Bar Council/Trenton Publishing).


Nigel is a regular speaker on legal issues pertinent to his practice.


Able to accept instructions in German, Dutch and French.


Nigel is married and has two daughters


Sailing, Climbing and Walking

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