Professional practice

Neil Hart has a wide-ranging practice in the field of commercial litigation and arbitration.  In the maritime sector, his practice encompasses dry charter work, unsafe ports/berths, general average, shipbuilding (including superyacht construction, sale and charter), bareboat charter disputes, and the insurance of vessels and other equipment, including drilling and related systems.  He is frequently instructed directly by Clubs and War Risks Associations, latterly in relation to the detention and diversion of Vessels because of the conflicts in Ukraine or the Red Sea.  Neil is one of the editors of Arnould’s Law of Marine Insurance and Average.

In the non-marine sphere, Neil’s practice encompasses insurance work, including COVID related business interruption losses, commodities, energy trading, agency and shareholder / joint venture disputes, and internet gaming disputes (creator/investor). He has acted as an advocate in Court (including in arbitration applications) and in UNCITRAL, LCIA, LMAA, ICC, SIAC and ad hoc arbitrations in London, Singapore and Hong Kong.  He has considerable experience of advising clients in multijurisdictional disputes involving different systems of law, and related issues involving urgent injunctive relief. 

Neil has strong relationships with the commercial law sector in Beirut (where he is a frequent visitor).  He acted pro bono for the victims of the Beirut Port Explosion in the London proceedings, for which he was nominated Pro Bono Silk of the Year 2024.  He is instructed by Lebanese firms in disputes arising in the Gulf region and under Gulf state laws.

Neil was Counsel to the Gold Inquiry into allegations concerning donors and donations to the Conservative Party.


What others say

Legal 500 2024, Shipping:

‘Measured and composed.’

Legal 500 2022, Shipping:

‘Very easy and enjoyable to work with. Neil appreciates the commercial and costs issues facing clients and tailors the legal advice provided accordingly.’

Legal 500 2021, Shipping:

‘He is a very astute advocate.’

Who’s Who Legal 2017, International Trade & Commodities:

‘Supremely effective.’

‘Not one to be underestimated.’

Legal 500 2016, Shipping:

‘He is very forensic and thinks outside of the box’

Legal 500 2015, Shipping:

‘An effective advocate but above all a great tactician and team player.’

Legal 500 2014

‘Very thorough and precise.’

Legal 500 2013

Very thorough, intellectually bright, and easy to work with.’ 

Arbitration & related court applications

A substantial proportion of Neil’s work relates to arbitral proceedings: see under the separate practice areas, below.

Commercial dispute resolution

Instructed in LCIA arbitration concerning a JV dispute between Russian investors and American digital gaming company.

Instructed by Norwegian start-up manufacturing 3D printed titanium aerospace parts in dispute with American funding agency, in High Court proceedings and on appeal (settled) (led by Andreas Gledhill KC): Clark Street Associates LLC v Norsk Titanium AS [2020] EWHC 1038 (Comm).

Instructed by law firm in Beirut to advise in relation to dispute concerning differing interpretations of Shari’a and their effect upon the interpretation of local competition law, in a high value technology arbitration pertaining to the Gulf region.

Instructed on behalf of Isle of Man SPV in dispute with Swiss holding company, defending allegations of breach by former directors of fiduciary duties under Swiss law and claims for associated restitutionary remedies.

Instructed by law firm in Beirut to advise in relation to ICC arbitration in Paris in dispute under Qatari and Sharia law concerning construction of Hamad Airport (Doha).

Instructed by law firm in Beirut to act in ICC arbitration in London in dispute under UNIDROIT PICC concerning construction of petrochemical plant in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Acted for oil major in relation to dispute concerning pricing mechanism in SPA, and binding effect of expert determination of volumes of hydrocarbon assets in Papua New Guinea.

Acted for international courier company to obtain injunctions against former employees, restraining proceedings in Senegal brought in breach of exclusive jurisdiction agreement.  Also obtained damages for breach of the exclusive jurisdiction agreement, in the amount of the liability incurred in the foreign proceedings.

Acted for successful Respondent in UNCITRAL arbitration defending a claim arising from an alleged partnership agreement concerning rights in French château and associated wine business.  The substantive dispute was governed by UNIDROIT PICC.

Advised GAFTA award debtors responding to proceedings for contempt of court in London and associated prospect of imprisonment.

Acted for Chinese property development consortium in dispute with middle eastern lenders, in proceedings in Singapore relating to development of real estate in China.

Acted for French investment bank in Singapore arbitration relating to structured finance transaction with Indonesian conglomerate, and call on associated parent company guarantee.

Acted for manufacturer of toy dolls in multi-jurisdictional dispute relating to distribution of dolls in UK, involving claims before the English courts and arbitration in New York.

Acted for Indian coal trader in claim for non-delivery brought in arbitration with Australian coal supplier.

Acted for bond issuer protecting right to be heard and right to participate in proceedings brought by syndicate of bondholders against trustee. Dispute concerned whether trustee was obliged to give an acceleration notice to the bond issuer and guarantor rendering the bonds immediately due and payable under the terms of the bond issue, and whether bond issuer had right to be joined to proceedings between trustee and bondholders: Concord Trust et al v Law Debenture Trust LTL 28/7/2004 (CA)

Acted for participant in profit sharing agreement relating to issue of bonds in Eastern European public company, including disputes as to jurisdiction and forum conveniens.

Acted for Claimants in ICC Arbitration brought by companies and directors in internet-based bingo gaming venture against former participants in that venture.

Acted pro bono for contractor against financial publishing house in dispute relating to payment of commission for advertising space and sponsored articles.

Acted for Ghanaian public company defending arbitration by counterparty European investment bank relating to alleged mis-selling of energy derivatives.

Acted for international law firm defending proceedings brought by former client relating for negligence, in dispute relating to an alleged conflict of interest affecting one of the firm’s overseas offices.

Insurance & reinsurance

Acted for London underwriters in dispute with Greek insured and Greek lender, concerning ‘follow the settlements’ clause and joinder of parties (led by Stephen Kenny KC): Aegean Baltic Bank SA v Renzlor Shipping Ltd [2020] EWHC 2736 (Comm).

Acted in the Supreme Court (led by Steven Berry KC) for owners in claim relating to inclusion of pre-NOA and SCOPIC costs in CTL calculation: The Renos [2019] UKSC 29.

Currently instructed in London arbitration by shipowners in CTL claim against War Risk Underwriters, following unlawful seizure of vessel in international waters off Libya.

Acted as junior counsel for H&M underwriters in CTL claim upon marine policy following grounding of vessel after release from piratical seizure and prolonged detention: The Irene EM [2013] EWHC 3644 (Comm).

Acted for European energy trading company in dispute with Lloyd’s underwriters relating to credit insurance policy, in connection with loss of prepayments for petrochemical products from Eastern Europe. Dispute involved concepts of Azeri law.

Acted for manufacturer in claim for business interruption and property damage losses, after failure of forge press due to internal machinery breakdown.

Acted for Lloyds underwriters in LCIA arbitration defending claim on a political risk insurance policy relating to supply of gas condensate from Russia to Europe, and involving aspects of Russian, Finnish and English law.

Acted in English commercial court proceedings for Russian insurers in claim on H&M policy brought by Greek shipowners following total loss of vessel.

Acted for magazine distribution company in dispute with insurers following destruction by fire of warehouse containing magazines belonging to third parties.

Acted for US reinsureds in litigation against reinsurance brokers, alleging negligence in renewal process for 2002 year. Case turned chiefly on quantum of loss due to hardening of US insurance market in 2000 and 2001.

Acted as junior counsel for Lloyd’s insurers in LCIA arbitration defending US$100m Bermuda form product liability insurance claim arbitrated in London under New York law.

Acted as junior counsel for inwards retrocessionaires at first instance and in Court of Appeal in action relating to recovery of catastrophe excess of loss first party expenditure and third party liability for losses arising from Exxon Valdez disaster: David George King & Ors v Brandywine Reinsurance Co (UK) Ltd (2004) 2 All ER (Comm) 443.

Acted for reinsurers in dispute concerning application of excess in hull and machinery excess of loss policy following total loss of floating casino off the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Acted in high court proceedings in London for insurers of nightclub in Lancashire defending claim by owner following destruction of premises in arson attack.

Acted for claimant under critical illness policy in court proceedings brought against English insurer.

Acted Pro Bono for Claimant in claim under travel insurance policy relating to cancellation insurance following diagnosis of cancer.

Acted in dispute between director and D&O insurer in dispute concerning allegedly dishonest loans provided by Director to third parties and not repaid.

Shipping & admiralty

Acted for Italian ship owner in dispute concerning condition of two pax/ro-ro ferries following termination of 5 year bareboat charters.

Acted for Charterers in dispute concerning delays arising from COVID in context of charter on the Shelltime 4 form (off-hire and implied indemnity).

Instructed by buyer of LNG vessel in application for emergency relief under SIAC rules by way of interim injunction against Singaporean yard.

Instructed by Russian buyer of 63m yacht in LMAA arbitration against Italian yard, in a dispute concerning the right to terminate and quantum following resale of vessel.

Instructed by buyer of bulk carrier in LMAA arbitration against Chinese yard, in a dispute concerning the right to terminate and quantum following resale of vessel.

Acted for respondent shipowner, successfully defending challenge to award under s.68 Arbitration Act 1996: ASA v TL [2020] EWHC 2270 (Comm).

Acted for charterers in obtaining injunction from Commercial Court in London for delivery-up of cargo detained by owner en route to Machong, PRC.

Acted for Chinese insurer of tanker in general average proceedings in the Commercial Court following catastrophic engine failure, with suspected luboil contamination indicated by WPI readings, crankshaft bearing clearances and repeated sounding of water-in-oil alarms.

Acted for shipyard in London arbitration following termination of newbuilding contract for 160 passenger river cruiser.  Case involved concepts of anticipatory breach in context of express termination clause, and legal effect of termination notice founded upon inapplicable provision of the contract

Regularly instructed by London solicitors and directly by P&I Clubs, as well as by Chinese, Spanish and other overseas firms.

Acted for drilling operator in high court proceedings relating to poor maintenance by rig owner while drilling appraisal well.

Acted (with Christopher Smith KC) for European buyers in London proceedings relating to the enforcement of a refund guarantee, following the cancellation of newbuilding contracts at a Chinese yard and connected proceedings in China: Spliethoff’s Bevrachtingskantoor B.V. v Bank of China Ltd [2015] EWHC 999 (Comm), [2015] All ER (D) 123.

Acted for P&I Club in dispute concerning construction of Club LOU provided as GA security following grounding of vessel off Tema: St Maximus Shipping Co Ltd v AP Moller-Maersk A/S [2014] EWHC 1643 (Comm).

Acted for Caribbean government in dispute concerning underperformance of inter-island ferry.

Acted in English High Court proceedings for agents of megayacht owned by Russian interests and involving cross-claims brought in the Caribbean after arrest of yacht’s submarine following illegal excursion in Galapagos Islands.

Acted in arbitration for owners of hopper dredger against Mediterranean shipyard following fire sustained shortly after the vessel sailed from the yard following repairs.

Acted for Shanghai solicitors on behalf of shipowners in London arbitration relating to catastrophic engine damage sustained after stemming contaminated bunker supplies at Chittagong.

Acted for Nigerian law firm in ad hoc London arbitration relating to CFR sale of oil cargo and documentary credit, following disappearance of vessel off Nigeria.

Acted in arbitration for UAE insurers defending claim for alleged CTL by fire following casualty off Russian port in 2009.

Acted on behalf of European shipyard in arbitration relating to allegations of design defect causing pitting corrosion in propeller shaft assembly of a series of megayachts.

Advised claimant purchaser of hulls in dispute with broker relating to non-payment of commission under several MOAs, and enforcing English Jurisdiction clause in light of threatened proceedings in Italy.

Acted for owners of vessel in appeal against arbitral award: dispute concerned whether costs of sub-arbitration are recoverable as damages for breach of obligation of seaworthiness in the charter governing head arbitration: Vrinera Marine Co Ltd v Eastern Rich Operations Inc. (‘The Vakis T’) (2004) 2 Lloyd’s Rep 465

Acted in arbitration for owners of vessel detained by trip time charterers off West African disports; no charter period expressed in charterparty; dispute concerned whether term could be implied prohibiting charterers from using vessel as floating warehouse for extended period of time.

Acted in arbitration for owners of vessel in dispute concerning phenomenon of sub-surface ice freezing vessel to bottom and side of berth during discharge at St Petersburg, and involving allegation of contributory negligence by master and crew.

Acted in arbitration for disponent owners in dispute relating to off-hire during arrest of vessel by courts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Acted in arbitration for owners of trans-Mediterranean car ferry in dispute relating to speed and consumption and breach of warranty of seaworthiness.

Acted for Shipowners in LMAA Arbitration concerning overconsumption claim for reefer vessel engaged upon South African/European routes. The case involved the effect upon fuel consumption of hull fouling and variable pitch/RPM ratios in a controllable pitch propeller system.

Acted in Admiralty Court proceedings for cargo interests in a vessel which grounded in the River Parana, Argentina. Case concerned unseaworthiness due to absence of appropriate chart on board vessel and effect of inadequate passage planning.

Acted in LMAA Arbitration for owner of megayacht in dispute with charterers relating to cancellation of charterparty.

Acted in LMAA arbitration for disponent owners of vessel in claim for early redelivery causing damages exceeding USD 21m.

Acted for charterer in English High Court proceedings relating to GA claim following breakdown of main engine off South Korea, and subsequent claim for GA contribution.

Acted for tow owner against tug in English High Court proceedings, following dispute concerning delay in beaching tow at Chittagong breaker’s yard, raising issues of seamanship, tow handling and difficulties said to arise from tide and currents.

Acted for charterer in English High Court proceedings relating to multi-party dispute concerning delivery of cargo without Bill of Lading and unauthorised release from warehouse in Dalian Iron Ore Terminal.



1999 Essex Court Chambers

1998 Call: Gray’s Inn

1997 Freshfields, Shanghai, Summer Associate

1994 Armstrong International Limited


1998 Inns of Court School of Law

1997 Diploma in Law (Commendation), City University, London

1996 Diploma in Mandarin Chinese, Fudan University, Shanghai

1994 BA Modern Languages (Congratulatory First Class Honours), Magdalen College, Oxford University

1990 King William’s College, Isle of Man


1998 Prince of Wales Scholar, Gray’s Inn

1997 Karmel Scholar, Gray’s Inn

1997 City University Scholarship

1992 Oxford University Junior Heath Harrison Scholarship