Instruct James

To instruct James please contact our clerks on +44 (0)20 7842 5555 or email

James Watthey is an experienced commercial barrister handling heavyweight international arbitration and litigation.

In addition to LMAA, LCIA, SIAC, ICC and other institutional and ad hoc arbitrations all around the world, he also frequently handles disputes in the Mercantile Court, the Commercial Court and the Admiralty Court, as well as other divisions of the High Court. He has particular experience of international actions involving jurisdictional disputes.

He also has experience in mediation and as an Arbitrator and expert in English law in foreign proceedings. His arbitration practice includes both substantive proceedings and challenges under the Arbitration Act 1996, on grounds such as want of jurisdiction, apparent bias, serious irregularity and errors of law.

James has a broad commercial practice, with particular specialist expertise in:

  • Shipping
  • Shipbuilding, Offshore Construction & Energy
  • Trade, Commodities & International Arbitration
  • Insurance & Reinsurance
  • Professional Negligence
  • Banking & Finance

James is recommended as a leading junior in the Legal 500, Chambers & Partners and Legal Experts.

Comments include:

  • Superb intellect
  • An extremely charming man but can turn on the Rottweiler routine when needed
  • Greatly impresses instructing solicitors with his commercial approach
  • He is very responsive to clients’ needs, and seeks solutions that fit clients’ requirements
  • Impresses with his ‘ability to drill down to the essential issues in dispute and then apply maximum pressure to the opponents’ case
  • Good, sensible and strategic advice
  • A great counsel who understands and gets to the point in issue. He deals with it swiftly and effectively and doesn’t waffle around
  • Very approachable and fantastic with clients

James regularly acts in charterparty and bill of lading disputes, contentious sale and purchase, shipbuilding contracts, piracy, forward freight agreements (FFAs), claims arising out of carriage of goods by rail, air and road, and commodity sale and purchase agreements, and crew/passenger claims. He also has experience of Admiralty matters such as arrests, collisions, groundings and ship mortgage claims, and in marine insurance and superyacht claims. He also has expertise in aviation matters.

Featured Shipping cases

Austen v Pearl Motor Yachts Ltd [2014] EWHC 3544 (Comm): A technical dispute concerning the cause of failure of the vessel’s hull, which gave way after light grounding. The trial, before Eder J, involved complex expert evidence.

Sun United Maritime Ltd v Kasteli Marine Inc (The “IMME”) [2014] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 386: An appeal under section 69 and jurisdictional challenge under section 67.

The “Mitchell” case of Summit Navigation v Generali Romania (The “BERIL 1”) [2014] EWHC 398 (Comm); [2014] 1 W.L.R. 3472, in which James subsequently won at trial, and recovered an indemnity for Turkish shipowners against their hull underwriters.

Med Marine v Castillo Schiffahrts-GMBH & CO KG MS (The “CONTI CARTAGENA”) [2014] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 162: A decision on the proper method of construing apparently conflicting jurisdiction clauses. The claim is for a declaration of non-liability for damage suffered in towage operations in Turkey.

Defending a cargo claim in arbitration, arising out of shipment of bananas to Syria that are said to have suffered chilling damage.

Advising on the right to an indemnity and/or apportionment under the Inter-Club Agreement and the proper means of claiming the same.

A charterparty dispute in LMAA arbitration, arising out of the refusal of the Master to load iron ore that was said to present a danger of liquefaction.

A GMAA arbitration in Hamburg arising out of the shipment onboard deck of a superyacht, which was damaged during the lifting process.

“TE HSING”[2012] EWHC B16 (Comm); Lloyd’s Law Reporter, 21 Sep 2012; [2012] All ER (D) 115 (Sep); NLJ: The Commercial Court clarified the rules on what is required in order to obtain security for costs against a party that is resident outside the EU. The case was then settled, and James’s Chinese shipowner clients obtained a full indemnity from their hull underwriters in respect of the CTL of the vessel.

Barnes v the Charterers of the Motor Vessel (The “SNOW BUNTING”): The Admiralty Court clarified and interpreted the Regulations that govern liability for collisions in the non-tidal Thames.

George v Coastal Marine 2004 Ltd (The “BON AMI”): Successfully defending an unsafe port claim against wharfingers in a 3 day trial before Gloster J. The decision establishes the duty of care for wharfingers who own and control the quay wall but not the tidal foreshore on which moored vessels come to ground at low water.

A dispute between hull underwriters and owners as to whether the H&M policy covered ransom to be paid to pirates for the release of a bulk carrier, in circumstances where a specific K&R policy was in place.

A helicopter charter dispute, in which it was alleged that the charterer’s pilot caused the aircraft’s engines to overheat and suffer irreparable damage.

James’s work has a particular emphasis on shipbuilding and repair, construction of dock facilities, oil and gas rig / pipeline work and energy distribution, and other large scale engineering projects. He has considerable experience of most of the common type of dispute (such as delay, extension of time, termination), the technical aspects of ship design, repair and construction, and of enforcement of refund guarantees.

Featured Shipbuilding, Offshore Construction & Energy cases

Acting (against Queen’s Counsel) as sole counsel for a Spanish shipyard defending a claim in which the buyers of a new-build cancelled due to alleged delay in delivery and claimed a refund of instalments of over €39million plus interest. James’s instructions were from the bank against whom a claim lay under the refund guarantees.

Acting as leading counsel for a Chinese shipyard in a very high value LMAA arbitration and related Commercial Court appeal. As well as claims for payment and cross-claims for delay and defects, related claims were made upon the refund guarantees in the same arbitration.

Advising in a series of Supplytime charterparty disputes arising out of alleged defects with the various OSVs (including speed, consumption and geopositioning) and their equipment (including ROVs).

A fatal accident suffered by a commercial diver carrying out survey and repair work at an offshore wind farm in German waters.

A devastating injury to a chief engineer suffered during sea trials of a new-build. James acted for the Korean shipyard and handled a complex jurisdictional dispute before settling the dispute at mediation.

James advises the international commercial community in relation to the sale of goods, services and physical commodities (for derivatives, see Banking section).

Featured Trade, Commodities & International Arbitration cases

A complex oil trading claim in LCIA arbitration, involving disputes over performance, delivery, transhipment, termination and an allegation of defamation.

A quality dispute in SIAC arbitration arising out of the sale and buy-back of met coke.

An LCIA arbitration concerning the balance of payments due under an oil purchasing joint venture.

A media services dispute concerning promotion of concerts by a well-known Islamic pop star.

James has a leading marine and non-marine insurance practice, acting for and against members of the London Market, P&I Clubs and the international insurance and reinsurance community. Before coming to the Bar, he worked as a member of the Insurance and Reinsurance Disputes team at what is now Hogan Lovells.

He deals with the full range of coverage disputes: non-disclosure, misrepresentation, fraud / scuttling, breaches of warranty / condition precedent, and policy construction.

Featured Insurance & Reinsurance cases

Claims against insurance brokers (see Professional Negligence section).

Handling a Commercial Court hull claim on behalf of Chinese shipowners against Eastern European underwriters.

A dispute between hull underwriters and owners as whether the H&M policy covered for ransom to be paid to pirates for the release of a bulk carrier, in circumstances where a specific K&R policy was in place.

Total loss of a vessel lost after striking a reef, involving breach of a warranty as to minimum complement of crew.

Responding to a Lloyd’s complaint and pre-action correspondence relating to an alleged scuttling and material non-disclosure.

Defending a claim on a marine policy due to scuttling.

Various claims by judgment creditors under the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 1930.

Advising underwriters on coverage of public liability after a fatal accident at a shipyard.

Insurance claims arising out of piracy (see Shipping section).

James has vast experience in professional liability actions involving a wide range of industry sectors and professions, including: solicitors, engineers, architects and other construction professionals, barristers, insurance brokers, chartered surveyors, and marine surveyors.

Featured Professional Negligence cases

Successfully bringing a high value negligence claim against brokers who had failed to put in place appropriate Business Interruption insurance; acting on behalf of a post-production house whose operations were disrupted by Hurricane Sandy.

An allegation that conveyancers had failed to consider and advise on the effect of new-build property being sold without the benefit of NHBC cover. Allegedly negligent advocacy leading to a claim for catastrophic financial losses.

A series of actions acting for banks against valuers who were accused of negligent or even fraudulent valuations.

Advising on a claim against a transactional shipping lawyer in relation to his handling of the sale of an oil rig.

James deals with the financing side of shipping, construction and trade, as well as practising banking law as a separate specialism. Expertise includes derivatives agreements based on the ISDA 1992 and 2002 master agreements, documentary credits, asset finance (including ship mortgages and aircraft finance), together with all manner of retail and commercial banking disputes such as dishonoured cheques and recovery of mistaken payments.

Featured Banking & Finance cases

Advising on and drafting proceedings in a US$13million freight derivatives dispute arising out of a swap based on ISDA 1992.

Oliver v Dubai Bank Kenya Limited, a £1.29m letter of credit claim; authority on the legal test where one of the documents to be presented was a certificate of compliance with the underlying contract that had to be issued by the Issuing Bank.

Lombard Marine Finance v Hussein LTL, a claim on a ship mortgage.

Advising a German bank regarding a bill of exchange indorsed on a “non recourse” basis and not paid by the acceptor.

Limitation of liability: the Court of Appeal rules that a marina is a “dock” and can limit liability

Holyhead Marina Ltd v Farrer & ors [2021] EWCA Civ 1585 Overnight on 1 – 2 March 2018, Holyhead Marina was...

Anti-suit injunctions: foreign proceedings in breach of an (alleged) English jurisdiction agreement.

In HAPPY LUCKY -v- FESCO VOYAGER, James Watthey successfully defeated an anti-suit injunction application in the...

James Watthey has been newly appointed to the Attorney General’s London A Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown

4 Pump Court is delighted to announce that James Watthey has been appointed to the Attorney General’s London A Panel...

London International Shipping Week 2021

London International Shipping Week 2021 is a week long global shipping and maritime event that is being held during the...

Instruct James

To instruct James please contact our clerks on +44 (0)20 7842 5521 or email

Appointed London A Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown

  • LMAA
  • LCIA Users’ Council
  • MA (Cantab) Law
  • BCL (Oxon)

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