Sorrel

The main issue between the parties was whether, as the charterers claimed, the Nema was bound to proceed from Spain to Sorrel and wait there either until the strike ended, allowing her to load, or the open water season ended and loading was made impossible, or whether, as the owners argued, their obligations to make the Nema available for the outstanding voyages had ended by frustration. The parties agreed on arbitration by a single arbitrator who decided that the whole charter party, as far as not performed, was not frustrated. On appeal to the court, leave was given for judicial review of the arbitration award and it was held that the charter party was frustrated. This decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal. The charterers then appealed to the House of Lords. It was held: That the High Court should not have granted leave to appeal on the decision of the arbitrator nor should leave have been given to appeal to the Court of Appeal; and, the arbitrator rightly decided that the whole charter party, as far as not performed, was not frustrated. In relation to ‘one off’ contracts Parker J. (as he was then) said that, in the absence of special circumstances, leave should not be given unless on the conclusion of argument on the application for leave, the court has formed the provisional view that the arbitrator was wrong and considers it would need a great deal of convincing that he was right, see The Kerman (1982). Lord Diplock stressed that if the matter was of general interest to the commercial community, an authoritative ruling from the court served a useful function in establishing certainty and predictability. He went on to say that, in a one-off contract,  it was far from self-evident that the decision of an experienced arbitrator, selected by the parties for his expertise in the trade, was not to be preferred to that of one of the House of Lords itself.