In London Steam Ship Owners Mutual Insurance Association v. Kingdom of Spain (“London Steam Ship”), the High Court of England and Wales (the “English Court”) forced Spain and France to arbitrate civil and criminal claims against a maritime insurance company following the “Prestige” oil spill. In 2002, the Prestige oil tanker sank and spilled more than twenty-one million gallons of oil along the Spanish and French coastlines. Spain and France subsequently filed claims in a Spanish court against the ship owner’s insurance company, but the insurer refused to attend those court proceedings, claiming that the parties should submit the dispute to arbitration. The arbitral tribunal ultimately ordered that Spain and France refer their claims to arbitration and issued an award in favor of the insurance company, which the High Court of England and Wales confirmed in London Steam Ship. The English Court held that the claims were arbitrable because they were contract claims and that the insurance company had the right to make Spain and France arbitrate in England, even though Spain and France are sovereign nations. The English Court’s decision, therefore, limited the national sovereignty of two of the most powerful European nations.
Erika Dixon, When Sovereign Nations are Forced to Arbitrate: Spain and France and the Prestige Oil Spill, 6 Y.B. Arb. & Mediation 316 (2014).