The case involved disputes between a London P&I Club and the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of France, arising out of the loss of the M/T PRESTIGE in 2002, one of the largest oil spills in recent years. Spain and France commenced “direct action” proceedings against the Club in Spain pursuant to a Spanish statute. The Club obtained an arbitration award in London declaring that it was not liable for the Spanish and French claims. The Club applied under s.66 of the Arbitration Act 1996 for judgment to be entered in terms of the award. Spain and France resisted that application and challenged the Tribunal’s jurisdiction under s.67/72 of the 1996 Act.
In a judgment handed down on 22 October 2013 the High Court granted the Club’s application and dismissed Spain and France’s challenge to the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The case concerned the correct approach to characterisation of a claim in accordance with English conflicts of laws principles and in light of the decision in Through Transport Mutual Insurance Association (Eurasia) Ltd v New India Insurance Co (The Hari Bhum) (No 1)  1 Lloyd’s Rep. 206 and  1 Lloyd’s Rep. 67; questions of whether France and Spain had lost their sovereign immunity under ss.2, 3 and 9 of the State Immunity Act 1978; and the court’s discretion under s.66 of the 1996 Act.