Richard Sarll

Practice Profile


Richard Sarll was called to the Bar in 2005 and specialises in disputes relating to commercial and admiralty law.  He is particularly well-known for his work in shipping, commodities, insurance and reinsurance, energy, and shipbuilding disputes.

Richard is ranked as a leading junior in the fields of Shipping, Commodities, and Insurance by Legal 500, who place him in their Tier 1 category of juniors for both Shipping and Commodities.  In 2019 he was shortlisted by both Chambers UK and Legal 500 for Shipping Junior of the Year.

Richard has been repeatedly singled out in the legal directories for his collegiate approach (“user-friendly”, “great to work with”, “very personable”); for rigorous analysis (“very diligent”, “noted for his attention to detail”,precise, accurate and succinct”); and for his industry knowledge (“He has made a real effort to understand the commercial realities”).  He is a persuasive advocate who has acquired praise in reported decisions for “interesting and able arguments” (The “Free Goddess”) and “for the admirable way in which [a] case was prepared and presented” (Clothing Management Technology v Beazley) He has been described in Who’s Who Legal as “a very good, hard working barrister who gets great results”.

He lays claim to an impressive tally of 19 reported decisions between 2009 and 2019.  Of that number, Richard argued 8 of them on his own, the others with leading counsel.  It is a reflection of the confidence placed in his advocacy that he is regularly instructed to appear against QCs.

Richard appears before the Commercial Court and the Admiralty Court.  He also has experience of appellate proceedings, having appeared on a number of occasions before the Court of Appeal, as well as in the UK Supreme Court.  In terms of interlocutory hearings, he has experience of obtaining freezing injunctions, as well as other types of injunctive relief.  He has conducted numerous multi-day trials on his own.  His involvement in lengthy, multi-million dollar litigation includes the five-month long trial in the matter of the “Brillante Virtuoso”, a well-known marine insurance dispute.  Much of his work is in confidential arbitration.

Richard’s cases have been amongst the most significant in his fields of expertise, and include the following.

Carriage of Goods The MSC Napoli Litigation Major containership casualty, famously beached on Devon coast.
Sale of Goods    Vitol SA v Beta Renowable Effect on interdependent obligations of unaccepted anticipatory breach.
Marine War Risks Insurance The Brillante Virtuoso (No. 1) & (No. 2) Evaluation of constructive total loss on figures.  Trial of wilful misconduct defence.
Marine Cargo Insurance Clothing Management Technology v Beazley Constructive Total Loss due to unlikelihood of recovery of goods.
Loss of Hire Insurance The Toisa Pisces Standard and burden of proof applicable to the Inchmaree risks.  Aggregation of losses.
Salvage BP Thunderhorse PDQ Salvage of semi-submersible oil platform believed to have been the largest salved fund ever to be the subject of LOF salvage.
General Average The Longchamp Supreme Court decision upon the application to ransom payments of the principle of substituted expenses.
Admiralty Practice  Niyazi S v Stolt Kestrel Leading case on jurisprudential basis of the Admiralty Court’s jurisdiction in rem.
Private International Law The Free Goddess Identifying the place where the damage occurred under Art 8(3), Brussels 1 Regulation in the case of an economic tort.

Alongside those traditional areas of commercial and admiralty practice, Richard accepts instructions in a wide variety of contractual disputes.  He takes pride in finding solutions to difficult contractual problems which draw on the depth of legal analysis that has built up in these traditional practice areas.

Richard has an affinity for technical disputes, and enjoys working with and learning from expert witnesses in diverse fields.  The cases in which Richard has applied these skills have been wide-ranging, spanning such areas as oil well design; fire investigation; and subsea cable laying.

As an adjunct to his successful Court and advisory practice,  Richard has contributed to two major commentaries comprised within the British Shipping Law Series.  He is a co-author of “Carver on Charterparties”, First Edition, in which he is responsible for a chapter concerning discharge of contract by repudiatory breach and frustration.  He is also a co-editor of “Lowndes & Rudolf”, 15thEdition, the leading textbook upon the law of general average – a field in which he has a preeminent reputation and upon which he regularly gives expert evidence to foreign courts upon English law.

At the outset of his practice, Richard undertook professional training alongside his counterparts in industry, taking evening classes in shipbroking and chartering, and in average adjusting (i.e. loss adjusting under policies of marine insurance and general average).  Richard holds an Advanced Diploma of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers with a concentration in the chartering of bulk carriers.  He is also an Associate Member of the Association of Average Adjusters, having passed the requisite examinations in marine insurance law and practice with distinction.

Richard is the Vice-Chairman of the Admiralty Bar Group, which he co-founded in 2017.  He is a member of the Admiralty Court Users’ Committee.  He is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Association of Average Adjusters upon matters relating to General Average.

Before being called to the Bar in 2005, Richard attended Jesus College, Oxford University where he read French and German.  He accepts documents in those languages without translation.

Outside of his practice, Richard has enjoyed collaborating with the Chelsea Society on successful campaigns to save Chelsea pubs from closure by property developers.

Shipping & Transport is a mainstay of Richard’s practice.  At the outset of his career, Richard pursued evening classes for two years in the fields of bulker chartering, tanker chartering, and ship operations and management. (The evening classes were the successors to those which were formerly required of shipbrokers wishing to gain admission to the trading floor of the Baltic Exchange.)  He sat exams set by the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers in 2009, obtaining an Advanced Diploma with a concentration in dry cargo chartering.  Subsequently, he undertook coaching in average adjusting (i.e. loss adjusting under policies of marine insurance and general average) and sat exams set by the Association of Average Adjusters in 2012.  He therefore brings a wealth of industry knowledge to his cases, as well as a strongly commercial approach.

Richard has experience in both “dry shipping” and “wet shipping”. He is increasingly well-known for cases involving a navigational angle, such as complex unsafe port disputes. In addition, he has extensive experience in marine insurance.  He takes pride in being able to provide insights into shipping disputes which take account of all these fields.

With 18 reported cases related to shipping and transport since 2010, Richard is one of the most prominent junior barristers practising in this area of the law.

Most of Richard’s work in this area is conducted in arbitration and, as such, confidential.  The following headings provide an outline.

Containerships and liner trades

Richard has acted in a number of high-profile casualties involving container vessels.  He is currently instructed in relation to a container ship which suffered a fire offshore South Africa in 2017.  He is familiar with the complex chartering arrangements of these vessels; container yard infrastructure; and the planning of liner operations.

Selected cases:

  • The “MSC Napoli” Containership casualty. Between January and May 2010 Richard was seconded to the solicitors representing the owners in connection with claims by a variety of interests arising out of the structural failure and subsequent beaching of the vessel.   Richard oversaw the expert case, which involved expertise in naval architecture (including finite element analysis), deck operations, wave physics, meteorology, and hydrodynamics.

Dry bulkers and tankers

Richard is regularly instructed in connection with disputes relating to bills of lading, charterparties, and long term COAs.  He also has experience in freight and goods derivatives.  Typical cases involve claims for damage to cargo upon outturn; for unpaid charter hire; demurrage; speed and performance; and unsafe ports.    He has a strong knowledge of the technical and operational side of these ships, including in matters of naval architecture, marine engineering, cargo surveying (including oil cargoes), deck operations, and port set-up. He is increasingly gaining a reputation for his aptitude for cases involving navigation, having recently dealt with a number of complex unsafe port disputes.

Selected cases:

  • LMAA Arbitration. Acting for the chartering division of a major commodities trading house in defence of a claim for breach of the safe port warranty with damages in excess of USD 4.5 million.  The case involved a grounding and subsequent capsize of a tug with attendant loss of life.

Gas carriers and chemical carriers

Richard has acted in a number of cases involving gas carriers, both LNG carriers and fully pressurised gas carriers.  He is familiar with the technology associated with the carriage of LNG, and with the special features of LNG charterparties, including their speed and performance provisions.

Selected cases:

  • LMAA Arbitration. Acting as junior counsel in a hard-fought 4 day arbitration worth in excess of USD 4.5 million.  In issue was whether a vessel could comply with its obligation of cargoworthiness in circumstances where the degradation of a cargo of butadiene had occurred due to its inherent characteristics upon exposure to a method of carriage which both shipowner and charterer had contemplated.
  • LMAA Arbitration. Acting as junior counsel in a case involving 2 LNG carriers which had allegedly overconsumed boil-off gas for almost a decade and where damages claimed were in excess of USD 40 million.

Freight forwarding and project cargoes

Richard is familiar with all aspects of multi-modal transportation, and has acted in disputes relating to “through transport” and “combined transport” bills of lading, as well as booking notes for the carriage of project cargoes.

Selected cases:

  • SKNL (UK) Ltd v Toll Global Forwarding [2012] EWHC 452 (Comm). Acting for a clothing manufacturer in a dispute against freight forwarders who were preventing the release of imported goods from their warehouse until alleged debts were satisfied.  Richard obtained an injunction for the release of goods which were urgently needed in stores.

Richard has been praised in the legal directories for being “particularly well regarded for his admiralty law expertise”. He has extensive experience of disputes falling within the admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court, including ship arrest, shipowners’ limitation of liability, collision proceedings, and salvage.  He has recently been involved in a number of cases involving damage to subsea cables. He also has a preeminent reputation in the field of general average.

At the outset of his practice, Richard regularly acted as junior to Timothy Brenton QC in salvage proceedings, including BP Thunderhorse PDQ, a semi-submersible oil platform believed to have been the most valuable asset ever to be subject of LOF proceedings.  He cemented his reputation in admiralty matters with a succession of cases concerning the time bar applicable to collision proceedings, including The Stolt Kestrel, currently the leading case on the jurisprudential basis of the in rem jurisdiction.  In 2017, Richard co-founded the Admiralty Bar Group, a specialist bar association promoting the work of the Admiralty Court.  In 2018, he was appointed to the Admiralty Court Users’ Committee by the Admiralty Judge.  He has contributed to revisions of the Civil Procedure Rules relating to the Admiralty Court.

Ship arrest

Richard is familiar with all aspects of ship arrest, including practice and procedure; its interrelationship with private international law; applications for default judgment; and orders for sale.

Selected cases:

  • In 2018, Richard obtained an order on behalf of unpaid crewmembers for the arrest and sale of the “Malaviya 20”, an offshore supply vessel whose owners were embroiled in insolvency proceedings abroad. The fate of the crew, who had been stranded at Great Yarmouth for over 2 years on account of unpaid wages, made national headlines.  Following their repatriation, they were paid in full from the proceeds of sale.

Salvage

Richard gained considerable experience in salvage as a junior to Timothy Brenton QC.  As sole counsel, Richard has argued a widely discussed case upon the true construction of the SCOPIC clause, successfully establishing on behalf of ship interests that the costs of repairing salvage equipment after the termination of services were not recoverable under the clause.  He has also appeared as sole counsel on behalf of contractors at a LOF arbitration hearing against unrepresented cargo interests following a major containership casualty.  In 2009 Richard participated in the “Managing Maritime Emergencies Course” put on by Smit Salvage in Rotterdam.

Selected cases:

  • LOF Arbitration Acting as junior counsel for contractors in respect of a bulk carrier which grounded offshore Tunisia and languished idle for over a year with her cargo of coal still onboard.  (Richard did not appear at the hearing, but assisted with expert reports)
  • LOF Arbitration Appearing as sole counsel for ship interests at a one day hearing concerning the true construction of the SCOPIC clause.
  • LOF Arbitration Acting as junior counsel for contractors in defence of a claim for negligence in connection with their provision of salvage services which were disrupted during the Arab Spring.  Case settled before hearing.
  • LOF Arbitration Appearing at an LOF hearing as sole counsel for contractors against unrepresented interests in the matter of a major containership casualty in the port of Mumbai.
  • LOF Arbitration Acting as junior counsel for contractors in connection with a bulk carrier which ran aground offshore Malaysia, and which was initially the subject of a Wreckhire agreement.  The Wreckhire was subsequently transitioned to a LOF, with cargo interests disputing owners’ authority to bind them to such an agreement.  Case settled before hearing.
  • BP Thunderhorse PDQ. Richard was led by Timothy Brenton QC in the matter of “BP Thunderhorse” a semi-submersible drilling rig that was the subject of salvage services in 2006.  The matter went to a 3 week hearing examining dangers, and settled shortly before a further 2 week hearing involving values.  Richard worked closely with experts in naval architecture, marine environmental surveying, photogrammetry, sub-sea infrastructure, and valuation.

General Average

Richard has a pre-eminent reputation in the field of general average. In 2012, Richard was admitted as an Associate member of the Association of Average Adjusters, having passed the requisite examinations with distinction.  In 2013 he was appointed to a sub-committee of the AAA reporting to the Comité Maritime International on the drafting of the York-Antwerp Rules 2016.  He is a co-editor of Lowndes & Rudolf, 15thEdition.  He is also a member of the Association of Average Adjuster’s standing committee on matters relating to general average, and the only lawyer on that panel.

Selected cases:

  • The Longchamp.  General Average. Whether expenses incurred during detention of vessels by pirates are admissible in GA pursuant to Rule F, York-Antwerp Rules 1974.  First case relating to general average to be considered by the UK’s highest appellate court since 1994, and first reported case ever on the operation of Rule F.

Collision

Richard has experience in pursuing collision actions in the Admiralty Court.  He is also well-versed in the interrelationship between collision liabilities and policies of marine insurance, and general average.  He is currently instructed in relation to a collision involving a cruise liner in Venice.

Selected cases:

  • Collision action. Collison during STS transfer between oil tankers offshore Togo.  Settled after CMC.
  • Collision action. Collision in Gulf of Oman between a bulk carrier and a dredger that was under tow.  Settled after CMC.
  • Collision action. Collision between tanker and Single Point Mooring offshore Lithuania.

Shipowners’ Limitation of Liability

Richard has experience in both obtaining limitation decrees and in pursuing claims against limitation funds.  He contributed to the process of revising the Civil Procedure Rules to facilitate the establishment of security by way of letter of undertaking.

Selected cases:

  • Limitation action. Pursuing a claim on behalf of an electricity provider against a fund constituted by a shipowner following a series of cable strikes in the English Channel due to the dragging of an anchor.
  • Limitation action. Constitution of a limitation fund following a fire aboard a yacht.

Admiralty Practice

Richard has extensive experience of the procedural aspects of admiralty jurisdiction.  Between 2013 and 2015 he was instructed on a series of cases concerning the time limitation period applicable to the commencement of collision proceedings, culminating in the Court of Appeal decision in The Stolt Kestrel.

Selected cases:

Richard’s practice covers all aspects of insurance and reinsurance in line with Chambers’ profile as a leading set for insurance disputes.

He has particular expertise in marine insurance, and has been involved in some of the most important recent decisions in that field.  Richard’s interest in this subject was fostered by coaching in average adjusting (i.e. loss adjusting under policies of marine insurance and general average) by the well-known marine consultant, Charlotte Warr.  In 2012, Richard passed the Associateship examinations of the UK Association of Average Adjusters with distinction.  Since then, he has gained a strong reputation for his understanding of marine insurance, and has been instructed in such well-known cases as The Renos and The Brillante Virtuoso.

Notable cases include:

  • Suez Fortune Investments & Anor v Talbot Underwriting & Others (The “Brillante Virtuoso”) (No. 2) [2019] EWHC 2599 (Comm).   Acting for the mortgagee bank in this well-known litigation against war risks insurers following an engine room fire aboard an oil tanker in 2011. Claim worth approximately USD 85 million.  Defence of wilful misconduct. Commercial Court trial lasting between January and July 2019.
  • Sveriges Angfartygs Assurans Forening (The Swedish Club) v Connect Shipping Inc (The “Renos”) [2019] UKSC 29.  Hull and Machinery Insurance.  Evaluation of CTL on the figures.  Richard did not appear at the hearings which culminated in a decision of the Supreme Court, but was instructed by the appellants to assist in the formulation of grounds of appeal, and the written case before the Supreme Court.
  • Suez Fortune Investments & Anor v Talbot Underwriting & Others (The “Brillante Virtuoso”)(No. 1) [2015] EWHC 42 (Comm). Marine War Risks Insurance. Wide-ranging decision on the evaluation of a CTL on the figures.
  • Sealion Shipping Ltd & Anor v Valiant Insurance Co (The “Toisa Pisces”) [2012] EWHC 50 (Comm); [2012] EWCA Civ 1625. Marine loss of hire insurance. Avoidance for non-disclosure / misrepresentation.  Proper operation of the proviso to the “Inchmaree” clause.  Aggregation and operation of the policy deductible.
  • Clothing Management Technology Ltd v Beazley Ltd [2012] EWHC 727 (QB). Dispute concerning a marine stock throughput policy covering a wide range of points. Whether ATL or CTL. Consequences of failure to serve Notice of Abandonment. Whether there was a breach of the Claims Cooperation clause. Whether the loss was due to theft, or other exceptions. Whether there was a failure to take measures to avert loss. Whether coverage lapsed due to a failure to submit a ‘storage questionnaire’. Whether there was a material change in risk. Whether the policy was valued or unvalued.  The meaning of ‘invoice value’.  Richard succeeded in defeating all policy defences.
  • Lloyd’s Syndicate 980 v Sinco SA [2008] EWHC 1842 (Comm). Binding authority for the writing of motor insurance.

Richard has acted in a number of important cases concerning oil rigs and oil production.  He is familiar with the technology involved in well design; sub-sea infrastructure; coring and pre-loading; naval architecture of MODUs; and drilling equipment.   Richard has also acted in a large number of cases involving sub-sea electricity cables.  He has built up a strong reputation for handling cases involving damage to submarine cables caused by shipping and fishing vessels.

  • LCIA Arbitration Contract for the hire of an oil rig alleged to have been vitiated by fraudulent misrepresentations as to its readiness for drilling. Claims and counterclaims worth USD 40 million.
  • BP Thunderhorse PDQ. Richard was led by Timothy Brenton QC in the matter of “BP Thunderhorse” a semi-submersible drilling rig that was the subject of salvage services in 2006.  Richard worked closely with experts in naval architecture, marine environmental surveying, photogrammetry, sub-sea infrastructure, and valuation.
  • London Arbitration.  Advising in relation to rights and obligations arising out of a Wreckstage ’99 contract for the removal of a sunken jack-up drilling rig.

Richard has been involved in a number of significant cases in which fraud has been alleged, including Suez Fortune Investments Ltd v Talbot Underwriting Ltd, The “Brillante Virtuoso”, a high profile marine insurance case worth approximately USD 85 million in which London underwriters alleged that the loss was caused by wilful misconduct.  The Commercial Court trial lasted between January and July 2019.

Richard has experience in obtaining freezing injunctions, including ancillary orders for disclosure.

Notable cases include:

  • Suez Fortune Investments & Anor v Talbot Underwriting & Others (The “Brillante Virtuoso”) (No. 2) [2019] EWHC 2599 (Comm).   Acting for the mortgagee bank in this well-known litigation against war risks insurers following an engine room fire aboard an oil tanker in 2011. Claim worth approximately USD 85 million.  Commercial Court trial lasting between January and July 2019.
  • LCIA Arbitration Contract for the hire of an oil rig alleged to have been vitiated by fraudulent misrepresentations as to its readiness for drilling. Claims and counterclaims worth USD 40 million.
  • “Richard Sarll is an excellent lawyer and fine advocate who prepares his cases very well.” “He is a leader in multi-jurisdictional shipping collision disputes.” “He is measured, knowledgeable and has an engaging style.” Chambers & Partners 2021
  • “Richard Sarll is the great expert on general average.” “He has a very impressive brain.” “He’s very diligent and finds solutions to very difficult problems. He is very personable and easy to get along with as well.” Chambers & Partners 2021
  • ‘Just brilliant, he is a powerful advocate who thinks outside the box and sees the bigger picture.’ Legal 500 2021
  • ‘Excellent at picking out the important points from the detail, responds quickly and works very hard.’ Legal 500 2021
  • ‘Excellent at picking out the important points from the detail, and the legal points arising therefrom.’ Legal 500 2021
  • “Richard Sarll is the great expert on general average.” “He has a very impressive brain.” “He’s very diligent and finds solutions to very difficult problems. He is very personable and easy to get along with as well.” Chambers & Partners 2020
  • “Very thorough, dedicated, friendly and easy to work with.” “Extremely well known in the marine market and very smart.” Chambers Global 2020
  • ‘A strong player in international trade, shipping and commodities.’ Legal 500 2020
  • ‘He researches the law thoroughly and does not hesitate to be honest about the prospects of a case.’ Legal 500 2020
  • ‘He is precise, accurate and succinct and is real thinker.’ Legal 500 2020
  • “Very thorough, dedicated, friendly and easy to work with.” “Extremely well known in the marine market and very smart.” Chambers & Partners 2019
  • ‘He is rigorous and persuasive.’ Legal 500 2018
  • ‘He has forged a practice that has pushed into every aspect of international trade and knows the commodities sector well.’ Legal 500 2018
  • “a very good, hard-working barrister who gets great results” Who’s Who Legal UK Bar 2018
  • “Absolutely the go-to person for all matters relating to general average. He is very knowledgeable and experienced in this area and highly recommended.” “Very focused on factual issues and in finding solutions to difficult problems.” Chambers & Partners 2018
  • “Very impressive.” Legal 500 2017
  • “Knows his way around the commodities industry, works quickly and effectively, and his written work is impressive.” Legal 500 2017
  • “He is quick, intellectually sharp and great to work with.” Chambers & Partners 2017
  • “His written work is excellent and his advice is top-notch.” Chambers & Partners 2017
  • “Very bright and user-friendly.” Legal 500 2016
  • “Very diligent and delves down into the darkest recesses of a case.” Chambers & Partners 2016
  • “Approachable, easy to work with, intelligent and dependable.” Legal 500 2015
  • “Particularly well regarded for his admiralty law expertise, and acts on matters such as salvage and collisions. He is also noted for his expertise in issues relating to insurance and the carriage of goods by sea.” Chambers & Partners 2015
  • “He has made a real effort to understand the commercial realities of the business.” Chambers & Partners 2015
  • “Strong on a wide range of maritime disputes, he is noted for his attention to detail and his easy-going manner.” Chambers & Partners 2014
  • “Incredibly hard-working and helpful, he has an impressive grasp of detail and a strong ability to express arguments clearly on paper.” Chambers & Partners 2014
  • “He is succinct, precise and effective.” Chambers & Partners 2014
  • Jesus College, Oxford: MA (Oxon), Modern Languages. (French and German), First Class (2002)

    College of Law, London: Graduate Diploma in Law (Distinction) (2004)

    Bar Vocational Course (2005)

    Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers: Advanced Diploma (2009)

    Association of Average Adjusters: Distinctions in Module 1 (MIA 1906 & related principles) and Module 2 (Hull and Cargo Claims) (2012)

    University of Southampton, Maritime Law Short Course, Singapore (2012)

  • Associate of the Association of Average Adjusters

    Supporting Member of London Maritime Arbitrators Association

    Member of Admiralty Bar Group

Carver on Charterparties, First Edition (2017), Co-author.

Lowndes & Rudolf, General Average and York-Antwerp Rules, Fifteenth Edition (2018), Co-Editor

Submarine cables and Admiralty law: a guide to cable damage claims. Lloyd’s Shipping and Trade Law. L.S.T.L. 2018, 18(1), 1-5

York-Antwerp Rules 2016: a summary, Shipping and Trade Law Monthly,. S.T.L. 2016, Jul/Aug, 4-6

Spar Shipping, The Astra and the Status of the Obligation to Pay Hire Punctually: Watching a Falling Star.  Journal of International Maritime Law. (2016) 22 JIML 345. Please click here to view a copy of the article.

Portfolio