UK: Court Of Appeal Decision In ‘Alexandra 1': It Takes Two To Cross

Last Updated: 8 October 2018
Article by Irvine Marr, David Owens and Martyn Haines

The Court of Appeal has today handed down its decision on appeal of the first collision case to be heard by that Court since 2004. The decision of the Admiralty Court in 'Alexandra 1' and 'Ever Smart' [2017] EWHC 453 had caused considerable interest given its findings concerning which of two rules in the Collison Regulations (Colregs), the narrow channel rule (rule 9) or the crossing rule (rule 15), applied in circumstances where one vessel was exiting a narrow channel and the other vessel was navigating towards that channel in preparation for entering it.

By a unanimous decision the Court of Appeal has upheld the finding of the Admiralty Judge that the narrow channel rule applied and the crossing rule did not apply. In dismissing each of the grounds of appeal raised on behalf of 'Ever Smart' interests, the Court of Appeal has confirmed the finding of the Admiralty Court that 'Ever Smart' should bear 80% of the liability for the collision. 'Alexandra 1' interests were represented by Clyde & Co (Irvine Marr, Partner, David Owens, Senior Associate, Martyn Haines, Master Mariner).


On 11 February 2015, a collision occurred between the laden VLCC 'Alexandra 1' owned by Nautical Challenge Ltd, and a laden container vessel, 'Ever Smart', owned by Evergreen Marine (UK) Ltd, just outside the dredged entrance and exit channel to the port of Jebel Ali in the UAE. 'Ever Smart' had been in the process of departing the port via the channel and shortly prior to the collision had disembarked the Pilot and was about to exit the channel. 'Alexandra 1' had been waiting to enter the port at anchorage when she was instructed by Port Control to wait "at buoy no.1" where the pilot (the same pilot due to disembark from 'Ever Smart') would board for inbound passage through the entrance channel. As 'Ever Smart' exited the channel her Master called to increase the engines to full sea speed so that at the time of the collision, just outside the channel, she had a speed over the ground of 12.4 knots. 'Alexandra 1' had her engines at slow ahead while awaiting the pilot in the vicinity of buoy no.1. The port bow of 'Ever Smart' struck the starboard bow of 'Alexandra 1' at an angle of about 40 degrees leading aft on 'Ever Smart'.

Application of the Narrow Channel Rule and the Crossing Rule

The parties were able to agree largely on the navigational facts, but a more substantial dispute remained regarding liability, and more particularly the relevance and applicability of the narrow channel rule and the crossing rule under rules 9 and 15 of the Colregs in this situation. Rule 9 of the Colregs, entitled Narrow Channels, provides at rule 9(a):

A vessel proceeding along the course of a narrow channel or fairway shall keep as near to the outer limit of the channel or fairway which lies on her starboard side as is safe and practicable."

Rule 15 of the Colregs, entitled 'Crossing Situation', provides:

When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel."

On behalf of 'Ever Smart' it was argued that at the time when she was proceeding along the dredged channel heading towards the exit (and entrance) point and 'Alexandra 1' was near to the channel entrance, 'Ever Smart' was positioned on the starboard side of 'Alexandra 1' so that, pursuant to rule 15, it fell on the latter to keep out of the way of the former.

'Alexandra 1' interests disagreed and submitted that the crossing rules had very limited application to questions of navigation in and around a narrow channel and, in particular, did not apply to a vessel in a narrow channel and a vessel navigating in preparation for entrance to the channel, as in the case at hand. Also, the 'Alexandra 1' was not on a suitably constant direction or heading to ever be on a course for rule 15 to apply.

There was no dispute that the dredged channel was a narrow channel for the purposes of rule 9 of the Colregs.

The Admiralty Court

The Admiralty Judge, Teare J, reviewed a number of English authorities dating back to 'The Leverington' (1886) in which the application of the crossing rules in the vicinity of a narrow channel had been considered and summarised matters as follows:

I have therefore concluded that rule 15 of the Collision Regulations, the crossing rule, did not bind 'Alexandra 1' when she approached the dredged channel leading to Jebel Ali and so she was not under a duty to keep out of the way of 'Ever Smart'. Her duty, as a matter of good seamanship, and as formulated by Lord Clarke [in Kulemesin v HKSAR (2013)], was to navigate in such a manner that, when she reached the channel, she would be on the starboard side of the channel in accordance with rule 9."

Having regard to the unsafe speed of 'Ever Smart', she contributed far more to the damage resulting from the collision than the very much lower (and safe) speed of 'Alexandra 1'. It followed that the causative potency of 'Ever Smart's' fault was greater than that of ALEXANDRA 1. On this basis Teare J concluded that 'Ever Smart' should bear 80% of the liability for the collision and 'Alexandra 1' should bear 20% of the liability for the collision.

The Court of Appeal

Permission to appeal was granted by Longmore LJ upon an application on behalf of 'Ever Smart', such permission having initially been refused by Teare J.

The leading judgment of the Court was delivered by Gross LJ, with whom Lewison LJ and Leggatt LG concurred.

On the key issue as to whether the crossing rules applied in the vicinity of a narrow channel, Gross LJ agreed in full with the approach adopted by the Admiralty Judge and shared his concern regarding the potential risks of conflicting requirements posed by the narrow channel rule and the crossing rule applying at the same time. He expressed the view that an overview of the situation as a whole suggested that the crossing rules are inapplicable, noting:

The navigation of 'Ever Smart' in the narrow channel was governed by the narrow channel rule; the approach of 'Alexandra 1' to the channel was governed by good seamanship, having regard to the requirements of the narrow channel rule as and when she entered the channel (which, of course, she never reached). There was neither need nor room for the application of the crossing rules."

A detailed review of the relevant authorities supported this overall conclusion and despite the efforts made on behalf of 'Ever Smart' to distinguish in particular the observations of Lord Clarke in Kulemesin v HKSAR (2013), Gross LJ held that the persuasive force of Lord Clarke's "carefully considered" observations, as relied upon by Teare J, stood undiminished.

The Court of Appeal then considered a new argument raised on appeal on behalf of 'Ever Smart' to the effect that the findings of the Admiralty Judge on the applicability of the crossing rule could not survive the "stress-test" of examining the position if 'Alexandra 1' had, hypothetically, been approaching the channel in an East-West direction rather than the West-East approach that she had actually taken. It was argued that adopting this hypothesis illustrated that the incoming vessel would have had to get over to the starboard side of the channel and, absent the application of the crossing rules, there would be no rule of priority.

The Court of Appeal considered that the issue raised a question of seamanship and consulted the Elder Brethren on appeal. Although the answers provided by the Elder Brethren were contested on behalf of 'Ever Smart', Gross LJ held that "it is plain from the Answer that the Elder Brethren did not consider the crossing rules to have any role to play in the hypothetical East-West situation." This further ground of appeal was therefore dismissed.

The final issue considered by the Court of Appeal in relation to the applicability of the crossing rule concerned the finding by Teare J that 'Alexandra 1' had not been proceeding on a sufficiently defined course for the crossing rule to apply. Although there was clear authority confirming that the stand-on vessel must be on a sufficiently defined course for the crossing rules to apply, the position in law regarding the give-way vessel was less clear. However, having reviewed the cases Gross LJ felt able to conclude as follows:

Though the position may not be as obvious as in the case of the stand-on vessel, I am nonetheless satisfied that both vessels, the give-way vessel included, must be on sufficiently defined courses for the crossing rules to apply. That is of the essence of the crossing rules."

With all arguments raised on behalf of 'Ever Smart' regarding the application of the crossing rule having failed, the only remaining issue on appeal was whether the Admiralty Judge had taken the correct approach towards the apportionment of liability for the collision.

'Ever Smart' interests argued that Teare J was wrong in principle in singling out and "double-counting" excessive speed in relation to causative potency – once in relation to the fact that the collision occurred and again with regard to the damage sustained. However, once again, Gross LJ was not persuaded by this submission and having helpfully recapped the correct approach to be gleaned from the authorities on this issue, noted as follows:

I reject [this] submission of "double-counting"; the short answer is that having regard to this fault both in relation to the fact of the collision occurring and the severity of the collision, amounts to the separate counting of two different (and cumulative) aspects of the same fault.

Having dismissed each of the various arguments raised on behalf of 'Ever Smart' on appeal, it followed that Gross LJ proceeded to dismiss the appeal as a whole.


The findings of the Court of Appeal in this case - on one of the relatively rare occasions in recent years that they have considered a collision action - will be of considerable interest to the maritime community. As noted by Gross LJ at the very outset of his judgment, the appeal "highlights the continuing international reach of the Admiralty Court" and, given this reach, will hopefully assist in avoiding confusion regarding the application of the Collision Regulations in similar cases in the future.

The findings on both the application of the crossing rule in the vicinity of a narrow channel and also the correct approach regarding causative potency in the context of apportionment of liability are of some significance given that previous case law has been persuasive but perhaps not necessarily conclusive. This important decision has provided welcome clarity in relation to both issues.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions