Shipping & Maritime Law: Star Reefers Pool Inc v JFC Group Co Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 14

This was an appeal by JFC against the grant of anti-suit relief to Star Reefers restraining proceedings in Russia. In the Russian proceedings, JFC sought a declaration that guarantees which it was alleged to have provided in respect of time charters were ineffective. The time charters were governed by English law and contained English arbitration clauses. Anti-suit relief was granted on the basis that JFC had acted vexatiously and oppressively. The Judge held that the Russian proceedings were commenced to frustrate determination of the dispute in England when, under English conflicts rules, the guarantees were governed by English law. Furthermore, the points sought to be taken by JFC in Russia appeared weak under English law.

JFC’s appeal was allowed. The Court of Appeal held that the judge wrongly exercised his discretion by granting anti-suit relief. There was nothing vexatious or unconscionable about JFC’s conduct. No valid English proceedings had been afoot when the Russian proceedings were commenced, the guarantees did not contain English jurisdiction or arbitration clauses, and JFC had not submitted to the English Court. Moreover, the Judge had overlooked the fact that JFC had a legitimate juridical advantage in the Russian court, as Russian rather than English law would be applied to the substantive dispute. The Judge also erred by failing to take into account considerations of comity.