The Essex Law School represents the UK at the 2022 IACL General Congress

Photo by Mikel Parera

Dr Anna – Mari Antoniou, Lecturer in Maritime and Commercial Law, has been appointed as the UK’s special national rapporteur at the International Academy of Comparative Law’s (IACL) General Congress, which will take take place in Asunción, Paraguay in 2022.

Dr Antoniou will be representing the United Kingdom for Trade Finance and her report deals with Topic IV of the Congress: ‘The Effectiveness of International Legal Harmonisation through Soft Law – UCP600’. It discusses the UK’s approach to several trade finance issues, including how courts, arbitral tribunals and financial institutions solve recurring problems in documentary credit contracts.

The report’s most significant contribution is an investigation and analysis of two current problems: first, how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the industry and supply chains; and second, the way the pandemic has forced the issue of digitisation of trade finance.

It discusses the Law Commission’s Electronic Trade Documents project, which is in the consultation phase, and if the proposed draft Bill is adopted by Parliament, electronic transport documents will become a reality.

Dr Antoniou’s report looks at the issue both from a practical perspective and a legal perspective; international trade is worth £1.153 trillion to the UK so an incredibly significant amount is reflected in this report.

Moreover, the legal issues discussed are an excellent example of how the law needs to be updated to reflect the commercial reality. COVID-19 has highlighted other failings in the trade system, but has also emphasised the need for electronic alternatives for an industry deeply rooted in paper-only transactions.

Dr Antoniou’s preliminary report was submitted on 31 August 2021 with final reports due November 2021.

Secure Financing in International Trade

Photo by John Simmons

In August 2021, Dr Anna Mari Antoniou, Lecturer in Maritime and Commercial Law at the University of Essex, published an article on Trade Finance in the Journal of International Banking Law and Regulation.

The article, Bank Security in Letters of Credit: Mere pledgee or something more?, looks at security measures for financial institutions when financing international trade transactions via letters of credit. It examines banks’ security rights as pledgees of shipping documents and potential security rights under The Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992.

The article argues that the traditional approach, a bank as pledgee, has limits, and is now superseded by the bank’s position as bill of lading holder under the Act. Though the Act is almost 20 years old, cases concerning the position of banks under it and related issues are still common, for example, The Erin Schulte [2014] EWCA Civ 1382 and Sea Master Shipping Inc v. Arab Bank (Switzerland) Ltd [2018] EWHC 1902 (Comm).

Dr Antoniou argues that pledgee rights are none the less necessary in some circumstances and clarifies how the two positions can work together by proposing a tiered system of rights. The shipping market has been particularly volatile since the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated the situation.

Secure financing is considered a backbone of international trade and the particular financing method, the letter of credit, has often been described as the ‘lifeblood of international commerce’. The combination of this volatility in the market and the importance of the credit in commerce, makes bank security rights a crucial issue to examine.

The proposals in the article provide solutions in practice, enhancing bank efficiency, giving certainty to the parties involved in high value transactions. The proposals also provide a more transparent view of the law, a troublesome area for years, as evidenced by the cases.

Dr Antoniou’s article is available via Westlaw and in print with the full citation: Antoniou, A-M., (2021). Bank Security in Letters of Credit: Mere pledgee or something more?. Journal of International Banking Law and Regulation. 36(9), 367-378.

Workshop on ‘Brexit: Regulatory Challenges for Business Law’

10 May 2019 10.00am – 5.00pm University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will result in far-reaching, significant consequences for the regulatory spheres of both the UK and the remaining Member States. Even after the completion of the withdrawal process, EU laws will still impact businesses operating in the UK, both directly and indirectly. Fields which are most likely to be affected include product specifications, competition, employment, health and safety, banking and financial services, company law, insolvency, consumer protection and insurance. Despite this, there continues to be gaps in the research which has been carried out to explore the ultimate consequences of Brexit on the business regulatory environment.

This workshop, organised by the Commercial Law Cluster at the University of Essex, aimed to cover this research gap by exploring the opportunities and risks faced by UK business in this time of legislative change. In particular, this workshop focused on three key legal fields: (i) finance and banking law; (ii) corporate law; and (iii) maritime and insurance law.

The purpose of this workshop was to raise awareness and foster debate on the rules that will govern the UK after Brexit. The regulatory changes for each of these three economic sectors were discussed in separate panels. In each panel, invited speakers provided an overview of the opportunities and challenges faced by businesses. Invited discussants then complemented these presentations with views from both academia and legal practice.

The programme and speakers included:

Welcome: Professor Theodore Konstadinides (University of Essex)

Keynote Presentation: Professor Takis Tridimas (King’s College London; Matrix Chambers)

Session One: Finance and Banking

Financial Markets: Professor Stuart Weinstein (Aston University) and Dr Flora Huang (University of Essex)

Banking Supervision: Dr Menelaos Markakis (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Dr Anastasia Karatzia (University of Essex)

Session Two: Corporate Law

Chair: Dr Eugenio Vaccari

Company Law: Professor Janet Dine (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr Marios Koutsias (University of Essex)

Insolvency Law: Hamish Anderson (Norton Rose Fulbright) and José Carles (Carles Cuesta Abogados y Asesores Financieros, Madrid)

Employment Law: Dr Jennifer Gant (University College Cork) and Dr Niall O’Connor (University of Essex)

Session Three: Maritime, Shipping and Insurance

Chair: Dr Lijie Song

Shipping: Zoumpoulia (Lia) Amaxilati (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr Durand Cupido (University of Essex)

Insurance: Dr Keren Wu (University of East Anglia) and Dr Anna Antoniou (University of Essex)

Closing Presentation: Professor Steve Peers (University of Essex)