Cochin Chamber of Commerce and ADR Centre jointly organized the seminar on the topic “Resolving disputes for a better maritime business” on 8th July 2010 at Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The seminar was to give the maritime professionals a better understanding of the various aspects of maritime dispute resolution. Adv. V M Syam Kumar spoke on the various disputes connected with maritime business focusing on how disputes affect the growth of business.  The practice of alternative dispute resolution methods like face to face meetings, mediation and arbitration can improve business by minimizing legal costs, ensuring prompt dispute resolution and also preserving business relationships.

Maritime dispute resolution is the alternative means of resolving problems outside the court. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms include arbitration, conciliation and mediation.

In general, these methods serve as key tools to help various parties come to an agreement without litigating or using the judicial system. In arbitration, the parties in conflict agree to hire a third party to provide impartial opinion. This may be the final word on something and it could have the potential to become a protracted legal battle.

Different methods apply to different maritime cases. In arbitration, the decision of the arbitrator (award) is binding. This means that the parties agree to abide by the finding of the arbitrator. In other methods like mediation, the third party acts as only a resource and hence his suggestions are non binding.

Parties resorting to ADR methods have the following benefits:
•          Legally valid as per Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996
•          Settlement agreements are accepted by courts
•          Saves time for both parties
•          Helps maintain business relationships
•          The help of experienced persons can be sought to solve complex maritime disputes
•          Confidentiality can be maintained
•          The process is cheaper than long legal battles and the parties have the freedom to decide on the arbitrator’s fees
•          Compliance level is very high, as the parties voluntarily agree to resolve the dispute
In the maritime sector, contractual disputes over bill of lading and sea-way bills, cargo and insurance claims, and disputes over multi-modal transport documents are a few areas where ADR methods can be easily explored. The Centre provides arbitration services for settlement of maritime disputes arising out of charter party contracts. It has framed maritime arbitration rules for the same. 

The seminar suggested that parties needed to develop a culture of exploring possibilities of ADR methods before resorting to courts. These methods are legally valid, less procedural, quick and cheaper.

It was reiterated during the seminar that a change in attitude towards litigation and business community was the need of the hour. A cultural change is important, like those in Western countries, wherein parties first explore the possibilities of settling disputes amongst themselves, before approaching the courts.

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