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Julian Clark, senior global partner with Ince

Legal fallout from Covid-19 very different to 2008 financial crisis: Ince

The legal landscape in shipping resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic is very different from the last global crisis in 2008 according to Ince senior global partner Julian Clark.

In an interview with Seatrade Maritime News Clark says that the immediate comparison when people realised the world was entering a crisis with Covid-19 was with the 2008 and the Lehman Brothers collapse. “But it’s very different from that, and I think it will continue to be different from that.”

A highly renown shipping lawyer Clark joined Ince as the world was already gripped by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic with lockdowns across the globe.

On the comparison with the 2008 global financial crisis he says:  “After 2008 it actually became quite a busy time for law with collapsing contracts, frustrations, dealing with the fallout of the international banking crisis. I think this is going to be different, so I don’t think you’re going to see that spike.”

What he says the firm is seeing instead is a steady flow of work, with almost no activity from some sectors and a large volume from others.

“Cruise for example is completely shut down – we’re not seeing anything there. In the tanker markets we’re seeing a lot of activity because the large tankers are all being moved into floating storage because of issues with the oil price,” he explains.

Clarks says they are seeing concerning trends in both the dry bulk and container shipping sector. Specifically for containers there is the question whether containerisation will remain the global force it has been or a shift to more local production and sourcing of goods.

A slightly different perspective is seen from Asia. Wai Yue Loh, head of Ince’s China Practice in Singapore and chief representative of its Beijing office, while seeing a common global challenge with Covid-19 sees more positive signs in China and the wider Asia – Pacific region.

“China seems to be in a rather unique position not least because they have managed to get out of the woods a little quicker and the size of the economy being the largest net importer of raw materials is what continues to buoy work from the China,” Loh explains.

wai_yue_loh_ince (002).png“Both in China and the Chinas practice group here in Singapore. what we see is it’s very much business as usual in the bulk and tanker sectors with the Chinese refiners trying to capitalise on the relatively volatile markets for oil.

“What we see here is a further consolidation by the Chinese players in the commodities markets and that includes on the shipping side where they have maintained a rather good ratio in terms of tonnage. We are seeing quite a lot of activity on that front.”

In Singapore the collapse of Hin Leong Trading and Ocean Tankers is keeping the entire maritime legal community busy, including Ince.

“In terms of the work volumes it hasn’t been affected that much it hasn’t been affected that much by Covid and I think that’s a positive thing pointing to Asia -Pacific region being a very important part of our business,” Loh states.


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