Comprehensive expert witness services from experts in naval architecture & ship design

Part one of this article outlines the value of having access to a network of independent, objective expert witnesses with diverse expertise, who are active and therefore up-to-date in their sectors. Houlder’s forensic expert witness services tick all of those boxes. This article explores Houlder’s approach in more detail, within the confines of confidentiality.

Houlder recently provided expert witness services on a yard dispute where a build project went overbudget, overschedule and off-specification. The case evaluated whether the shipyard, designers, technical support teams, subcontractors or suppliers were liable for these issues.

Multiple Houlder experts were deployed to this case. An expert naval architect examined whether correct design processes were followed. They also checked whether valid changes had been made to the vessel designs by the various parties.

Meanwhile, a shipyard expert was used to analyse how the project had been managed. They checked if actions were justified from a managerial point of view and were conducted to industry standards. A quantum and delay expert was also deployed to examine, in detail, the costs and timeframes of the project.

Finally, the team brought in a consultant statistician. The number of individual issues identified within the project was substantial. Therefore, each of these could not realistically be explored in detail within the time available. The statistician’s role was to make a sample that was representative and justifiable in court. Having set the precedent for sampling methods in international cases, this statistician is an example of the external industry leaders that Houlder can bring onboard through its global network, which also includes numerous leading legal firms.

Throughout the case, Houlder was also supported by its in-house design and engineering departments. This provided experts with tangible data, drawings, calculations, and models to underpin their insights and recommendations. These capabilities also make Houlder’s offering good value because a team of marine engineers can efficiently do technical legwork, reducing the time required by expert witnesses.

Ultimately, this provides a comprehensive, efficient and seamless service for legal teams and clients. But these benefits can only be leveraged if each aspect is managed and organised effectively. That is why Houlder also designates a project manager for each case.

Erik ter Brake, principal consultant at Houlder and project manager for this case explains more: “Much of the project manager role was administrative, but this was essential with so many moving parts. I had access to all of the relevant data, drawings and regulations from the engineering team, assisting in both the technical review and provision of relevant data to the experts. I was then able to dissect, summarise and check the readability of documents to support our client. I also carried out general management, ensured papers were signed, experts were aligned, travel was arranged, deadlines were met and so on.

“Taking the corporate side away from experts allows them to focus on their remit. This saves experts’ time and therefore reduces costs. I also prepared witnesses for cross-examination and ensured they stuck to their role. If an expert witness deviates from their area of expertise, a barrister will eat them alive.”

Houlder was particularly recognised by a recent client for ensuring the case ran smoothly, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic. The team has also been praised for its diverse yet specialist expertise and wide range of support services, which have recently expanded with the addition of more advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD), physical and computer simulation, and technical data analysis capabilities. Find out more here:


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