Naftogaz is using the Norwegian firm in two gas price disputes with Gazprom
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Wikborg Rein has practised international arbitration since its foundation in 1923, particularly in the area of shipping. It has expanded significantly since 2000, when it opened an office in Singapore, followed by a Shanghai office in 2002. It also has offices in Bergen, Oslo and London.
The London office expanded in 2010 with the hire of three English partners – Clare Calnan, Chris Grieveson and Robert Jardine-Brown – part of a strategy by the firm to follow its clients into the international arena. It reckons to be the largest non-UK specialist shipping law firm and the only Norwegian firm with a significant English law capability.
Other notable practitioners include Trond Eilertsen and Ola Haugen in Oslo and Øystein Meland in Bergen, who have all served as arbitrators.
Outside its core areas of shipping, energy and offshore oil and gas, Wikborg Rein reports an increasing caseload in banking, defence and telecoms disputes.
Who uses it?
Norwegian engineering companies Kvaerner, Seajacks and Bassoe are some of the offshore clients who have relied on the firm’s London office, as well as shipowners Spar Shipping and Navig8. Commodity traders Ronly Ltd and Bulk Trading are also clients.
In 2013, Oslo partners Dag Mjaaland and Aadne Haga won a gas price adjustment for a Czech affiliate of Germany’s RWE against the export arm of Russia’s Gazprom in an ICC arbitration seated in Vienna. In 2012, the firm persuaded a different ICC panel to reduce the client’s “take or pay” obligations for gas purchased under the same contract.
Another success was in 2011 for Norwegian shipping group Odfjell, securing the enforcement of an SCC award worth US$44 million against Russian state-owned shipyard Sevmash in the courts of St Petersburg.
In 2014, the firm was retained as counsel to Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz for two SCC disputes with Gazprom – one filed by Gazprom to recover arrears for gas deliveries, the other filed by Naftogaz to enforce a price formula in a 2009 supply contract and seek reimbursement for allegedly overpriced gas purchased since 2010. The claims arose after Gazprom cancelled two discounts it had previously granted on gas exports to Ukraine, almost doubling the price charged to Naftogaz.
Wikborg Rein’s London office also acted for a client in a US$112 million LCIA dispute with a major Italian oil company over a major offshore project in Kazakhstan. The hearing was conducted over nine days in January 2014.
Eirik Thomassen, head of legal in the project department at Kvaerner, has high praise for the firm’s work on a complex dispute encompassing many technical and commercial issues. “I think it is their good balance between attention to the details and a holistic approach that distinguishes them from other arbitration teams,” he says.
Thomassen also applauds Clare Calnan for her skilful management of the entire team – not just the lawyers, but the technical consultants, quantum experts, barristers from 4 Pump Court Chambers and the client’s own project team.
An in-house counsel at a multinational oil and gas company, whose case settled before the hearings stage, singled out Mjaaland and Haga for their knowledge and experience in gas price review disputes. “They were certainly much superior to those of the lawyers assisting the defendant,” she says.
Wikborg Rein was founded as a one-man shipping law firm in Oslo, Norway in 1923, and celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2013 as a 240-lawyer full service firm with offices in Norway (Oslo and Bergen), Japan (Kobe), the UK (London), Singapore and China (Shanghai). Wikborg Rein's practice has been international since the very beginning, as the firm followed Norwegian clients, initially in shipping, and later in energy, banking and other industries, abroad. International arbitration has accordingly always been part of the firm's practice. Matters related to the shipping and offshore oil and gas industry remain a mainstay of Wikborg Rein's international arbitration practice.
Since the early 2000s, Wikborg Rein's international arbitration practice has expanded significantly driven by disputes within the international energy industry. In recent years, the international arbitration practice in Wikborg Rein's Oslo, Bergen and London offices have seen an increasing case load in the fields of energy, defence and telecommunications. The firm's appointment in 2014 to represent Ukrainian Naftogaz in its Stockholm arbitration disputes with Gazprom confirms the strength of Wikborg Rein in international arbitration.
For more information about our Dispute Resolution/International Arbitration practice, please contact:
Kaare Andreas Shetelig, Partner
Ola Haugen, Partner
Dag Mjaaland, Partner
Kronprinsesse Märthas pl. 1, 0160 Oslo
PO Box 1513 Vika, 0117 Oslo
T: +47 22 82 75 00