Rate this article:  

Gard News 182 -

 


A number of changes are being implemented within Gard’s Defence Department in order to ensure a high service level for an ever-increasing portfolio of Defence entries.

Gard’s total entered P&I tonnage has almost doubled over the past 15 years. Along with this there has been a significant growth in the number of Defence entries. In order to ensure high service levels in all respects, Gard is undertaking a thorough review of the Defence product and service, including staff, service factors, product offering and relationship with the market. From the autumn of 2005 a number of actions have already been taken.


From left: Alice Jackson, Jim Edwards, Kelly Wagland

People
In September 2005 the management was strengthened by the appointment of Alice Jackson, Vice President, as head of the Defence department. The team of senior lawyers now consists of Peter Chard, Helenka Leary, Kelly Wagland, Kiran Khosla and new recruit Jim Edwards, who will service Greek members.1

1  See “Staff news” on page 32 of this issue of Gard News.

Kristian Lindhartsen and Lars Ola Almås are on secondment to the London office from Arendal for a period of intense training in English law and practice and Heather Bintley in the London office has taken on the newly-created position of Paralegal.

Improvements
These changes to an already strong team are expected to provide a breadth and depth to the service which will translate in an improved customer experience. Gard’s lawyers work as genuine partners with clients. Each client is assigned a Gard lawyer who will be their main point of contact, acting as both Defence claims handler and legal adviser. The result is a close and trusting relationship and the Gard lawyer builds up an in-depth knowledge of the client’s business and situations it faces.


Lars Ola Almås
 


The closeness of this relationship means Gard can offer continuous support and advice before, during and after a claim as well as contract review, advice on potential problems at an early stage, guidance and assistance in averting a dispute, advice on mitigation, promotion of settlements and payment of debts.

The vast majority of Defence cases are handled in-house, offering a cost-effective and efficient solution for clients. All lawyers are drawn from the major shipping jurisdictions with primary expertise in English, US, Scandinavian and South African law and practice. They also have a general knowledge of shipping law and practice in a broad range of jurisdictions worldwide. They are specialists in handling the type of disputes that fall within the scope of Defence cover, with over 100 years’ experience in total in the team. There are few scenarios they have not come across before.

Product
On the product side Gard now has a licence from the Norwegian authorities to underwrite Defence as a separate product, which means Gard’s Defence cover is now available to any shipowner or charterer, irrespective of whether they have a P&I policy with the Club.


From left: Roxana Wood, Alice Jackson, Kristian Lindhartsen, Heather Bintley.

The cost of legal advice and representation today, even for a relatively small, uncomplicated dispute, can run into tens of thousands of US dollars. The legal environment and the climate of litigation are more complex now than they have ever been, and the pace of litigation has never been faster. For some companies their business operations face a continuous flow of disputes, causing ongoing strain on both human and financial resources. For others it may be one major dispute that could bankrupt their business. Having the right Defence cover in place means that shipowners and charterers can:
– have continuous access to legal advice, irrespective of whether or not a claim has yet arisen, and
– be secure in the knowledge that they have the cover available to help them pursue or defend a claim.

Although the cover is commonly referred to as “Freight, Demurrage and Defence” (FD&D), it is not restricted to defending cases brought against the client, nor to claims for freight and demurrage. Despite being a “named risks” cover, the list of Defence risks covered by Gard has evolved to include numerous types of claims arising under charterparties and bills of lading as well as claims arising in the sale and purchase of ships.

The limit of the Defence cover is USD 10 million per event, although Gard has the discretion to extend cover on a case-by-case basis. Financial security is a vital concern
to all policyholders, and the first-class security of Assuranceforeningen Gard is demonstrated by an interactive rating from Standard and Poor’s of A with a positive outlook, a rating exceeded by no other P&I Club.

  

Gard’s Defence team

Alice Jackson, Vice President, Defence.

London: Peter Chard, Jim Edwards, Kiran Khosla, Helenka Leary, Kelly Wagland, Judy Binnendijk, James Hawes, Heather Bintley (Paralegal), Roxana Wood (Secretary).

Arendal: Lars Ola Almås, Kristian Lindhardtsen, Arne Sætra, Inger Anne Sørlie, Turid Stensland (Secretary).

New York: Sandra Gluck, Evanthia Coffee.

Helsinki: Ulrika Larpes.

Hong Kong: Catherine Wong.

 


Process
Gard continuously seeks to improve productivity and efficiency along with service levels and the Defence Department is no exception. Keywords are response time, accessibility and professionalism. In today’s fast-moving shipping world, the ability to give quick and correct legal advice can result in big financial savings. In order to improve service capability and response time in all time zones Gard has given more responsibility for case handling to regional offices such as New York and Hong Kong. Distributing work in this way provides greater convenience for clients and in the longer term will add to the knowledge and expertise pool of Gard’s legal team.

Where we make a difference
Gard’s lawyers are experienced in responding quickly to deal with complex situations, for example where an owner’s vessel collides with a berth and the damage falls below the owner’s hull & machinery deductible and the vessel is arrested by port authorities for security, or where a time charterer client’s vessel is ordered off the berth by port authorities following a master’s refusal to load. In cases like these, the client’s assigned lawyer will be its main point of contact, acting as both claims handler and legal adviser, counselling the client on their obligations, carrying out negotiations with owners and charterers and appointing local correspondents and lawyers as required.


Arne Sætra
 
From left: Peter Chard, Kiran Khosla


English law governs the vast majority of Defence disputes, which are generally resolved through London arbitration and managed in-house by Gard’s own lawyers, which saves time and costs. Where external lawyers and other advisers are retained, the Gard lawyer acts as case manager, strategist and as a link between all the parties. This is particularly important in complex cases where legal proceedings are ongoing in several jurisdictions simultaneously.

Gard recognises the importance of its Defence product to clients, which is why it is devoting time and energy to enhancing the service on offer. Gard has one of the leading Defence teams in the market, who are excited by the changes being implemented, and look forward to talking to clients about how they can help.

Gard News 182, May/July 2006

Any comments to this article can be e-mailed to the Gard News Editor.

Gard News is published quarterly by Gard AS, Arendal, Norway.