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HFW successfully secures retention of worldwide freezing order

A team of Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) lawyers has acted for charterer Global Maritime Investments Cyprus Limited (GMI) in defeating an application in the English High Court to release a worldwide freezing order (WFO) granted against Gorgonia Di Navigazione SRL (GDN), a defaulting shipowner.

This matter arose as a result of a bank taking steps to foreclose a loan to the shipowner, GDN. The vessel was arrested and judicially sold free of existing charterparties. As a result, the charterer, GMI, lost the vessel and as a disponent owner, faced potential exposure from his subcharterer.

This is a particularly topical issue as a number of banks have publicly indicated a resolve to call in loans, effectively judicially selling vessels where the owners have been in continuous default.

The original WFO, granted by the English High Court on the 11th February, was secured in order to freeze worldwide assets of GDN and force asset disclosure. GDN challenged the granting of the WFO. In the matter before the Court1 on 21 February, Mr Justice Andrew Smith decided that the WFO had been rightfully obtained and should continue. In particular, the Judge, in accordance with English law, reiterated that the WFO applied to chose in action – claims and potential claims, or rights to exploit under a maritime lease. The Judge also clarified that there was no obvious parity between the amount of the freezing order and the amount of any bond put up in support of the cross undertaking: the two were separate and involved different considerations.

A worldwide freezing order is just one of the weapons available to charterers, together with a disclosure order, forcing owners to disclose all their assets and chose in action, so that steps can be taken to assess the charterers' rights.

HFW Partner Brian Perrott commented: "I am delighted for our client that the Court upheld the worldwide freezing order and reiterated the obvious risk of dissipation. The attempts to set the freezing order aside were robustly rejected and illustrate that the Court will come to the aid of a party prior to the constitution of a Tribunal for disputes which are ultimately to be handled by the London Arbitration."

The HFW team who acted for GMI, the successful charterers, consisted of Partner Brian Perrott and Associate Ian Mathew.

Footnote
1. Global Maritime Investments Cyprus Limited v Gorgonia Di Navigazione SRL - Hearing 21.02.2014 (Claim No. 2014 Folio 135)

For further information, please contact Tania Phayre, Head of Marketing Communications on +44 (0)20 7264 8546 or email tania.phayre@hfw.com.

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