Latest News

Latest News

Brookes Bell's technical evidence stands up to scrutiny in landmark cargo claims case

Expert technical evidence delivered by Dr. Martin Jonas, a partner and consulting scientist at Brookes Bell, played a critical role in overturning the Volcafe Ltd and others v. CSAV case, heard in the UK’s Court of Appeal in November 2016.

The decision by the Court of Appeal has been widely welcomed by the shipping industry, which raised concerns over the ‘detrimental impact’ of the original High Court Ruling that set aside centuries of legal precedent relating to the carriage of cargo.

The case concerned the carriage of 17 non-ventilated containers of bagged coffee between Columbia and Germany in 2012. The coffee was transported by the Chilean container line, CSAV. Despite following the orders given by the shippers and lining the containers with paper in accordance with established shipping practice, a small percentage of the cargo was found to be damaged when it arrived. The cause of the damage was condensation.

When this case was taken to the High Court, the judge went against previous legal precedents and declared CSAV liable for the damage, even though the company had followed standard industry practice in lining the containers. The reason for this verdict was that CSAV could not prove that the lining was a “sound system” for preventing damage, despite its wide use in the industry. This new precedent shifted the burden of proof in cargo claims, with wide-ranging ramifications for the worldwide container industry and the broader shipping industry. Specifically, the ruling limited the right of ship owners to rely on an ‘inherent vice’ defence if cargo is discharged in a damaged condition.

Unusually for a shipping case, the case was taken to the Court of Appeal, and subsequently overturned. During the proceedings, the Court accepted expert evidence from Dr. Jonas at the court of first instance, relating to the science of condensation in the container trade, the limitations of industry guidance and the difficulties of transporting cargo without any wet damage at all.

Dr. Jonas said: “Thanks to a combination of practical and theoretical expertise, Brookes Bell was uniquely placed to deliver expert technical opinion during this case. Where the claimants were forced to rely on two expert witnesses to deal with industry practice and scientific aspects separately, Brookes Bell was able to testify on both accounts. Our evidence stood up to scrutiny in one of the highest courts of the land, and was preferred by both the original High Court judge and the Court of Appeal judges.”

Brookes Bell was involved in the case from an early stage once the incident was pursued as a claim, providing an initial opinion. As the case evolved, Brookes Bell was able to develop its role, producing expert reports and oral evidence accepted at the High Court, and subsequently the Court of Appeal. The successful grant of the appeal ensured a return to previous legal thinking, and marked a significant victory for the container shipping sector. This would not have been possible without the integrity and quality of the evidence presented by Brookes Bell.

A copy of the judgment is available at:

Other news releases on this case at:


Great turnout at Hong Kong’s latest seminar on 3 November 2016

Great turnout at Hong Kong’s latest seminar on 3 November 2016

Our scientist, Tim Moss, opened the evening with the hot topic of mass GMO cargo rejections worldwide. While the idea of GMO cargo being rejected is not a new one, the ever increasing scale of the problem is alarming. In 2014, 1.5 million tonnes of maize was rejected by China alone. It is therefore not surprising that many of our clients were eager to hear Tim’s views on this problem and his suggested solutions to this issue.

No less captivating was Graham Hill’s highly visual presentation on ‘Catastrophic Container Casualties’. With 120 million containers on the move every year, it is perhaps unsurprising that a portion of these are involved in casualties and cargo claims. Graham took us on a tour of container hazards, the logistical problems encountered when managing a container ship casualty and how the General Average aspect of the casualty is approached from the surveyor’s perspective. Skuld have since advised that they have eagerly shared the talk throughout their Hong Kong office and that they found it very informative.

Nearly 40 clients attended the seminar and helped ensure that it was another lively evening. Thanks to all who were involved.

Seminar in Hong Kong on 3 Nov 2016

Our Hong Kong office is holding an evening seminar on 3 November 2016 on the following topics:

GMO Cargo Contamination - What can be done? Our scientist, Tim Moss, will discuss what a GMO cargo is, why it has recently come under scrutiny in shipping and what can be done to mitigate the issues.

Post Incident Container Inspections Our master mariner, Graham Hill, will give a presentation based on his experience of the practical difficulties encountered when inspecting containers and cargo damaged during fires, flooding, collision and container collapses.

The evening will commence at 6.30pm and drinks and canapés will be served around 8.15 pm. For more information and to reserve your place, please contact Connie Li at

View the invitation here.

Brookes Bell Group head to the Monaco Yacht Show

Over the past 30 years Brookes Bell Group have brought unrivalled and multi-discipline in-house skill sets to the super and mega yacht sector. We serve a client base which includes some of the most high profile owners, charterers, managers, H&M and P&I insurance organisations and the main law firms with superyacht practices. Our experience with super and mega yachts also includes new build issues, assessment of design, performance, forensic engineering and provision of innovative and practical safety solutions honed over many years from our experience in the passenger ship industry. Download our brochure to see how our multi-disciplined team of experts can help you. Click here for the brochure.

Young Maritime Professionals

Brookes Bell recently sponsored a very successful Young Maritime Professionals port visit to London Gateway, a container terminal operated by DP World. The trip provided a useful and interesting insight into port operations, as the group were given the chance to tour the port and the logistics park. If you are a YMP member and interested in attending the next port visit on the 29th September contact Amanda Hastings to book a place at

Mersey Maritime F2F

Colin Kershaw, Managing Partner, spoke at Mersey Maritime in August as part of their monthly networking event Face 2 Face. He shared with the audience the journey of Brookes Bell so far and gave a light hearted view of the trials and tribulations when things go wrong in the marine and energy world. He highlighted the growth in numbers of people, geographic footprint and wide diversity of skills now offered by the Brookes Bell Group to the maritime world; all factors which contributed to Brookes Bell winning the Mersey Maritime Award for Global Reach 2015 and SME Business of the Year 2016.

Nigel Thompson

We are very sad to say that our Partner, Nigel Thompson, died suddenly in Shanghai on 28 July. He is missed by us all. We are assisting with the formalities of the Chinese authorities and await details of funeral arrangements in UK. Our Shanghai office are dealing with reassigning Nigel's work cases. For further information, please contact Colin Kershaw in UK or Brendan Cuffe in Shanghai.

New office for Brookes Bell Liverpool

Amidst all the fantastic commercial developments in the Liverpool City Region in recent years, Martins Building on Water Street is being redeveloped into a 5-star hotel, with all tenants having to vacate into new office locations in and around the city centre.

Brookes Bell Group had been tenants for nearly 20 years and they then had the task of finding a space that would accommodate its growing business, ensuring it had enough floor space to continue to grow, while also making the move as seamless as possible for its people. The business has been in Liverpool since 1903 and back in 2010 employed 40 people in their offices in Liverpool and London. The last six years has seen growth, diversity and expansion in to Asia. Now in 2016 the business had to relocate the head office, a globally operating business, employing more than a 120 staff worldwide, a move that would require some serious project management.

After numerous visits to offices in the city, Brookes Bell has now moved a stone’s throw from Water Street, into Exchange Flags, taking up the entire 9th floor of Walker House. A move that sees an increase in office floor space from 7000 to 11,500 sqft. The views from all around the office take in the waterfront, as far as the New Brighton lighthouse and Crosby, the Liverpool Town Hall and as far as the Anglican Cathedral. An impressive collection to be shown off to clients, visitors, and employees not based in Liverpool.

Marine Challenge Cup

Nick Chapman and Daniel Millett of Brookes Bell teamed up with West of England to participate in the annual Marine Challenge Cup 5-a-side competition in London on 7th July 2016.

The competition was organised by Chaffe, McCall, DeCastro & Robles, Horr Novak & Skipp, Palmer Biezup & Henderson, and Keesal, Young & Logan.  It featured teams from across the London market, including Thomas Miller, North of England, Charles Taylor, Britannia, Skuld, HFW, Ince & Co, Mays Brown, CJC, Neon, and Trade Winds.  Having previously been proud winners of the wooden spoon, this year the West of England team made it to the semi-finals of the Plate with the help of 11 goals from Brookes Bell and amidst cries of "ringers!" from the spectators.

Unfortunately the final proved one step too far, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable day of sport and socialising. Roll on next year.

London Industry Seminar

Brookes Bell hosted their annual summer seminar at the prestigious Trinity House in London on the 22nd June. With over 150 people attending the seminars and drinks reception the evening was a huge success and one that will continue to be repeated for those in the industry. The evening began with a set of presentations given by our specialists, on the subjects - Cargo Stowage & Claims, Crane Failures, Bulk Foods & Feeds, Petroleum & Petrochemicals and Container Losses. The guests were then invited to a reception to continue networking and questioning those that gave the presentations earlier in the evening.

Trinity House itself is a charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers, providing education, support and welfare to the seafaring community, an organisation that Brookes Bell is proud to support. Thanks go to all of the staff involved in co-ordinating the event from the business and Trinity House, the event was a resounding success.