Simon Kverndal QC specialises in all aspects of maritime litigation and arbitration. He is particularly well-known for his experience and expertise in maritime commercial arbitrations (particularly LMAA) and maritime casualty cases. Consistently ranked by the leading legal directories, with Chambers UK noting that "he is top flight in arbitration matters”. While his work typically involves detailed consideration of the many and varied technical issues which arise in the field of maritime transport, he is further praised for "his ability to identify key issues and hurdles and give clear guidance on how to overcome them."
Simon is frequently instructed to advise and appear as counsel in shipbuilding and shipsale disputes and on related refund guarantee issues. He is a leading specialist in marine casualty claims, under charterparties (unsafe port, fire, cargo damage), LOF salvage and collision actions. Recently he has been particularly involved in offshore disputes, particularly the hire or sale or construction of rigs, support vessels and supply vessels. Though shipping is his main area of practice he was heavily involved in 2013/2014 defending a leading Russian businessman facing committal for contempt of court.
Simon is an accredited mediator and member of ADR chambers. In November 2006 he joined the panel of Lloyds (LOF) salvage arbitrators (re-appointed 2009 and 2014); and is also frequently appointed as arbitrator in charterparty and shipbuilding/shiprepair cases.
He has also been instructed and appeared in other jurisdictions as an expert in English law and is often brought in by domestic and international law firms when heavyweight knowledge is required on international issues and for expert opinions; Simon has also been instructed and appeared in other jurisdictions as an expert in English law and much of his work is by way of direct instruction from abroad.
"An excellent advocate." (Who's Who Legal, 2020)
"Excellent at communicating and discussing cases with his solicitors." (Legal 500 Asia Pacific, 2020)
"He's able to understand a dispute in a very short period of time and crystallise the legal and factual issues in a very clear and succinct manner." (Chambers UK, 2020)
"Simon is a very experienced silk; he pays attention to details and gives pragmatic advice." (Chambers UK, 2020)
"He is an extremely affable, capable and persuasive advocate who has a loyal following among solicitors." (Chambers UK, 2020)
"His advocacy is notably impressive." (Legal 500, 2020)
"Very experienced and knowledgeable." (Legal 500, 2019)
"Affable, courteous, likeable and approachable." (Chambers UK, 2019)
"His knowledge of shipping law is excellent – he provides prompt responses on complex issues." (Legal 500, 2019)
..."Extremely efficient and very good on his feet. He has a very good manner with clients and his drafting is to a very high standard"... (Chambers UK, 2018)
..."Tactically excellent"... (Legal 500, 2017)
..."A very attractive style of advocacy and pleasant to work with." "Very thorough, thinks outside the box."... (Chambers UK, 2017)
..."He is very technically able in relation to ship construction" … [As arbitrator] "He set the tone of the arbitration very well, striking the right balance between proactivity and permissiveness"... (Chambers UK, 2017)
...“A sensible and practical arbitrator with a high sense of integrity”... (Legal 500, 2016)
..."Particularly well-regarded ... natural ability to extricate good points in complex matters ... regularly instructed for his 'solutions-focused' approach"... (Who's Who Legal, 2015)
..."He effortlessly fuses remarkable legal proficiency with commercial mindedness and pragmatism" "He is exceptionally able and knows how to present the case best according to the court in which he has to operate"... (Chambers UK, 2015)
Simon Kverndal is one of the leading advocates in London maritime arbitration and has argued all types of charterparty cases and appeared in many commodities arbitrations. In the eight or so years following the collapse of the shipping markets in 2008 he argued many arbitrations involving early termination of time charters and COAs, giving rise to interesting and various damages issues; in the same period he appeared in a wide variety of shipbuilding disputes. In 2015/2016 the focus shifted offshore and he has been heavily involved advising and appearing in arbitration cases involving the hire, sale or construction of rigs, support vessels and supply vessels (having for many years lectured for BIMCO on the Supplytime charter). Recent examples include:
- Acting for Indian charterers in a 7 day ICC arbitration for a US$40m claim arising out of late redelivery of oil rig in India, raising complex issues of causation and recoverability of loss.
- Acting for leading Norwegian shipowners Teekay against Brazilian petro-giant Petrobras in US$180m claim for termination by Petrobras of long term charter of highly technical offshore loading system (the ‘Hiload’) used to allow large tankers to load direct from FPSOs (floating, production, storage and offloading units).
He continues to be regularly instructed in accident driven dry shipping work, particularly unsafe port cases and fires, as ongoing examples:
- He acts for Owners in a substantial unsafe port case (arising out of the same grounding which led to his appearing in LOF arbitration in 2017) which is due for a one week arbitration hearing in October 2019.
- He acts for Maersk in a major container ship fire case which is scheduled for a three trial in the English High Court in 2020.
Other leading cases include -
- Barco de Vapor v Thanet District Council  EWHC 490 (Ch). Birss J Case involving disputes concerning the extent of a broker’s authority to acting on behalf of Thanet District Council in judicial review proceedings in the Administrative Court following their closure of Ramsgate Port to the export of live sheep.
- Aquadiva. Acting for Korean charterers Samsun Logix in a US$57m claim arising out of termination of the 10 year time charter of a capesize bulk carrier. The arbitrators’ (Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Bruce Harris, David Farrington) award on liability after a one week hearing in July 2014 confirmed the correctness of the controversial High Court decision in the Astra. Now concluded after several hearings on quantum issues during 2015.
- The South West Strategic Health Authority v Bay Island Voyages, The Celtic Pioneer  EWCA Civ 708 Acting for the third party carriers in a leading case on the Athens Convention (personal injury to passengers). The Court of Appeal reversed HHJ Havelock-Allan to hold that the carrier was not as a third party entitled to rely on the two year convention time bar for bringing claims.
As one of the panel of LOF arbitrators, Simon is one of the leaders in the salvage field and as counsel in major salvage cases; he also has a wealth of experience in collision actions in the High Court and has been involved in recent years in a number of Wreck Removal cases. Examples in the last 2-3 years include:
- Advising in relation to two major collisions occurring in the Far East and another in the River Plate.
- Acting in a substantial ICC arbitration (Dubai, one week hearing June 2018) in a wreck removal dispute between a world leading salvage company and a Middle East government owned employer.
- Amongst many LOF salvage cases as counsel, he acted recently for leading international salvors successfully defending a salvage award (which had been increased on appeal to the Appeal Arbitrator) in the High Court, The Flag Mette, Teare J, reported  2 Lloyd’s Law Rep.391.
- In 2017/2018 he acted for Owners defending claims by telecom consortia headed by BT for alleged anchor damage (US$7m) to subsea telecom cables in the Red Sea, raising novel issues concerning the scope of shipowners’ duties when sailing through piracy zones and proof of loss and damage to subsea cables.
International Arbitration is Simon’s core area of practice as counsel, particularly in LMAA charterparty arbitrations but also LCIA and ICC.
He has been heavily involved recently advising and appearing in arbitration cases on the offshore side involving in particular contract termination, sale or construction of rigs, support vessels and supply vessels (Simon is an expert on Supplytime 2005, having lectured on this charter for many years for BIMCO).
As arbitrator Simon has been on the LOF salvage arbitrator panel since 2006 (c.100 appointments) and he is also regularly appointed as arbitrator in shipping and offshore disputes, often as sole (in particular under Wreckhire, Wreckfix, Wreckstage and private submissions). In February 2020 he is due to sit as party appointed arbitrator in a 4 day SIAC case in Singapore.
Recent illustrative cases as arbitrator include:
- Flash (LOF – sole) a capesize bulker aground on rocks off the Tunisian coast; refloated following extensive lightening by Smit Salvage B.V.; award c.US$20m.
- Hansa Brandenburg (LOF – sole): a container ship on fire and abandoned in the Indian Ocean, salved, towed to Mauritius and discharged by joint salvors FOS and Smit.
- CIMC Yantai Raffles vs Schahin (5 week rig construction case – Chairman sitting with Jeffrey Gruder QC and Duncan Matthews QC) concerned claims arising out of the construction of two semi-submersible drilling rigs and involved teams of 4/5 counsel on each side (led respectively by Michael Ashcroft QC (instructed by CDG) and Helen Davies QC (Linklaters)).
Other recent cases (in addition to several LOF awards) include:
• LMAA award in 2018 following 4 day hearing for charterparty claims for delays in cargo loading; party appointed, sitting with two LMAA Full Members
• A week long hearing in June 2015 as sole under Wreckhire leading to awards totalling some US$17m.
Simon has wide experience in shipbuilding disputes, having acted for both yards and buyers; since 2009 he has been particularly active in this field and with related refund guarantee issues.
Illustrative cases include:
- Acting as arbitrator in a major oil rig construction arbitration (as Chairman with Jeffrey Gruder QC, Duncan Matthews QC) related to CIMC Raffles Offshore v Schahin Holding SA  EWCA Civ 644 (CA),  EWHC 1742 (Comm) and claims arising out of the construction of two semi-submersible drilling rigs. This was a very substantial 5 week case involving teams of 4/5 counsel on each side (led respectively by Michael Ashcroft QC (instructed by CDG) and Helen Davies QC (Linklaters)).
- In 2015 he appeared in a 5 day LCIA arbitration for a Turkish yard defending claims by Russian buyers; the claim was ultimately dismissed and the yard succeeded in its multi-million dollar counterclaims.
- In 2014 he was invited to speak at the Swansea University (IISTL) conference on shipbuilding and ship finance; his paper on 'The Application of the Prevention Principle in the Shipbuilding Context' is published as a chapter in Ship Building, Sale and Finance (ed Tettenborn & Soyer, Informa 2015).
Simon Kverndal has a growing following amongst maritime solicitors as a favourite choice to mediate shipping disputes. He brings to his role as mediator a range of skills and qualities which go well beyond those which have made him a successful shipping and commercial QC. He combines an unusual degree of commercial acumen and astuteness with a kind and charming personality and his style, though firm and forthright, is relaxed and friendly.
Simon is a well-regarded and experienced (some 40 appointments) alternative to the usual mediators and has a high success rate.