The limitation period of six years under the Limitation Act 1980 s.7 was applicable to an application to enforce an arbitration award in the same manner as a judgment under the Arbitration Act 1996 s.66.
The appellant shipowner (N) appealed against a decision that the limitation period of six years under the Limitation Act 1980 s.7 was applicable to an application to enforce an arbitration award in the same manner as a judgment under the Arbitration Act 1950 s.26(1). N chartered its vessel to the respondent charterer (T) under a charterparty on the Gencon form for a voyage from Kandla to Novorossiysk. The charterparty provided for the resolution of disputes by arbitration in London under English law. Disputes arose and London arbitrators made awards in favour of N in 1998 and 1999. In 2008 N obtained an order ex parte giving it permission under the Arbitration Act 1950 s.26(1), which was the predecessor of the Arbitration Act 1966 s.66 and in materially the same terms, to enforce the awards as judgments against T and to enter judgment in terms of the awards. That order was set aside on the ground that the limitation period of six years under the Limitation Act 1980 s.7 was applicable to an application to enforce an arbitration award in the same manner as a judgment under s.26 of the 1950 Act or s.66 of the 1996 Act. N submitted that the procedure under s.26 of the 1950 Act had to be viewed in two parts: it was first an application to obtain a judgment and then an application to enforce the judgment obtained; viewed in that way there were no proceedings to enforce an award within s.7 of the 1980 Act, merely proceedings to obtain a judgment; the provisions of the Limitation Act 1980 s.24(1), relating to proceedings to enforce a judgment, had been construed as applicable only to an action and not to procedural machinery such as that under s.26 of the 1950 Act.
HELD: Since “action” in s.38(1) of the 1980 Act included any proceeding in a court of law and an application under s.26 of the 1950 Act was clearly such a proceeding, it would at first sight appear to follow, as a matter of ordinary English, that an application under s.26 was an “action to enforce an award” within the meaning of s.7 of the 1980 Act. That had certainly been assumed to be the case, Good Challenger Navegante SA v Metalexportimport SA (2003) EWCA Civ 1668, (2004) 1 Lloyd’s Rep 67 considered. The argument that there were no proceedings to enforce an award under s.26 of the 1950 Act merely proceedings to obtain a judgment was rejected. There was a clear distinction between an arbitration award and a judgment. The provisions of s.26 of the 1950 Act and s.66 of the 1996 Act were procedural provisions enabling the award made in consensual arbitration proceedings to be enforced. That was quite different to the pronouncement of a judgment by a court. As a challenge to the enforcement of an arbitration award could be made on the basis that there was no arbitration agreement, and on a number of other grounds, there was a much wider scope for challenge than there was to the enforcement of a judgment. The interpretation of s.24 of the 1980 Act as not applying to procedural machinery to enforce a judgment proceeded on a basis of statutory construction with its own history, Lowsley v Forbes (t/a LE Design Services) (1999) 1 AC 329 HL considered. It was not necessary to interpret the word “proceedings” in s.7 of the 1980 Act in the same way. There was good reason for giving the statutory language the ordinary and plain meaning which it had been understood to bear for many years.
NATIONAL ABILITY SA v TINNA OILS & CHEMICALS LTD (2009)
 EWCA Civ 1330
“Lawtel” December 2009
Arbitration claims solicitors: lawyers for London, Bristol, UK, international clients: arbitration & litigation proceedings: determined dispute resolution lawyers: Humphreys & Co. Solicitors.