Bills of Lading - incorporating an English Law & London Arbitration clause

Very often in shipping Bills of Lading are issued in a form that does not contain an express law or jurisdiction clause.  Instead, the Bill will purport to incorporate the terms of the Charterparty referred to on the front of the Bill ‘including the law and arbitration clause’.  In a recent decision (the 'MV Bulk Poland') the English Court had to assess the effectiveness of that standard approach when considering an application for an anti-suit injunction in favour of London arbitration against court proceedings commenced in China.

The Court decided that:

  • Under English law, the incorporation of a Charterparty governed by English law into the terms of a Bill of Lading constitutes an effective choice that English law applies to the Bills of Lading.

  • Words in a Bill of Lading which specifically refer to the arbitration clause in the Charterparty are sufficient to incorporate that arbitration agreement into the Bill of Lading.

Grace Ocean v COFCO Global Harvest, MV “Bulk Poland” [2020] EWHC 3343 (Comm)

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