More than 100 matters have been heard by the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Commercial Court since the passage of Hurricane Irma, strong evidence of the Court’s ability to operate virtually unimpeded in the wake of one of the Atlantic’s strongest-ever storms.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which impacted the BVI on 6 September, the BVI Commercial Court was temporarily relocated to St. Lucia and by the time the fall Court term commenced formally on 18 September, the new Court was up and running.
Local BVI practitioners remained in the BVI following the storm and worked closely with BVI Finance, the Government and Court officials to facilitate the Court’s quick recovery.
Andrew Thorp, Head of Litigation at Harneys in the BVI commented: “The Court barely blinked in the aftermath of the storms. Within days it was dealing with the list as well as hearing urgent matters. The appointment of provisional liquidators in the global Pacific Andes bankruptcy was an especially clear message that there would be no interruption of Court business.”
Ben Mays, Head of Litigation at Carey Olsen, noted: “With three Judges sitting in St. Lucia dealing solely with commercial matters, cases are being heard and dealt with expeditiously.”
BVI Finance coordinated with industry to assist in the drafting of a new practice direction to provide for logistical and procedural issues related to the temporary relocation. Hearings have been held “live” as well as by phone and video-link, with almost no disruption of lists and responsive access to Judges for new, urgent matters. Mark McDonald of Grant Thornton stated that “As a court user, it is essential that we have continual access to the Commercial Division and we have been delighted with the responsiveness of the Court and registry.”
Lorna Smith, Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance, said: “Just days after the hurricane members of the BVI Bar were busy pooling ideas and resources to ensure continuity of the Court. Those efforts together with the rapid response by the Chief Justice and her Registry staff, and the support of the Government of St. Lucia, combined to ensure that our Commercial Court services continued with little to no interruption following Irma. The BVI is strongly committed to supporting the provision of world-class Court services.”
Smith added that the Commercial Court is expected to return to the BVI before the end of the year. The flagship Court building suffered mostly superficial damage during the storm.