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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Holman Fenwick Willan

18 February 2016

The firm has a long tradition of arbitration but lost key players in Geneva in 2015

Current arbitrator appointments: 7 (of which 5 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 3

Building on a long history in international arbitration, Holman Fenwick Willan established a dedicated practice four years ago, headed by partner Damian Honey in London. The focus reaped near-instant rewards: the firm referred more arbitrations to the LCIA in 2011 than any other law firm.

Holman Fenwick’s first experience of arbitration came through its shipping and commodities work – especially trade body arbitrations under the auspices of the Grain and Feed Trade Association and Federation of Oils, Seeds and Fats Associations. It still does hundreds of these disputes every year, but has now branched out to working under all the major international arbitration rules in cases seated all around the world.

It frequently acts in proceedings in the English High Court under the 1996 Arbitration Act, including handling challenges to arbitration awards and interim remedy applications. It has also long been involved in Bermuda Form insurance and reinsurance arbitrations held in London but applying New York law.


The practice has a 12 lawyers in London, with other key hubs in Paris, Geneva, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Melbourne.

Who uses it?

Clients include mining group Rio Tinto, Maersk Oil Qatar, Trafigura, BP, Noble Resources and BNP Paribas.

The firm has represented a Kazakhstan-based law firm in a London-based arbitration with a former employee, leading to court proceedings in the High Court of Australia and the Commercial Court of England and Wales.

It also acted for Indonesia’s Kaltim Prima Coal in a Singapore arbitration with contractor PT Thiess over the prices charged for mining services in Borneo. The dispute has generated related English court proceedings.

In an important case for the maritime sector, it advised China’s state-run Cosco Group, which had chartered a ship captured by Somali pirates. The tribunal (and subsequently the English High Court) had to decide whether the capture of the ship was an “average accident” that made the ship off-hire.

The firm is rumoured to be advising Swiss and UAE clients in a SIAC arbitration with Sri Lanka’s state-run oil company, Ceypetco.

Track record

The firm acted for Trafigura in a series of arbitrations arising from the collapse of the coal market in South China in the summer of 2012. Two of these took place in London under LCIA rules, with one ending favour of the firm’s client in May 2014. The award was later converted into a judgment by the England and Wales High Court. A further dispute was seated in Singapore.

Holman Fenwick also undertook a significant claim for Trafigura under an alumina contract in 2013, and settled an LCIA matter in Geneva for the company, the night before merits hearings were due to start.

A significant win came in 2012, when the firm successfully applied for the removal of an arbitrator at a jurisdictional hearing in an LCIA arbitration under English law arising from an aluminium supply contract.

In PT Thiess v Kaltim Prima Coal, the firm resisted an application by the other side for security payable in relation to a Singapore arbitration before the English High Court.

Recent events

The firm a scored a win for a Sierra Leone seafood supplier in the English High Court when it successfully disqualified a Lebanese arbitrator appointed by the opposing party in an ad hoc dispute.

It reports that it is defending a national oil company against a
US$2 billion LCIA claim brought by a contractor in connection with an infrastructure dispute.

In 2015, Geneva-based partner Matthew Parish left to set up his own boutique in the Swiss city, Gentium Law. Joining him were HFW colleague Mehtap Tari (a Turkish national) and five associates. Parish had been instrumental in developing HFW’s investment treaty practice.



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