WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR JOB?
My name is Edward van Gruijthuijsen. I was born in Rotterdam and moved back there after my study in Leiden. Since 2012, I have been working as a lawyer, assisting clients on a wide range of legal issues related to insolvency law, employment law and commercial litigation (in court as well as arbitration proceedings). Dutch courts regularly appoint me as a liquidator in bankruptcies or suspension of payments in the district of Rotterdam.
Since July 2020 I joined Boonk Van Leeuwen Advocaten. Together with my colleagues we provide a range of legal services to clients in construction, maritime industry, insurance and (international) trade. Ranging from salvage (for instance by BIMCO contracts or LOF), construction (FIDIC), shareholder disputes, director’s liability and ship building contracts and acting in (international) arbitration proceedings (ICC, UNUM and NAI).
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU LOOK LIKE?
Much of my work is done behind my desk in our offices at Lichtenauerlaan 50 in Rotterdam. On average, I work in 30 to 50 different files.
The work varies from studying files, conducting research (case law, literature), drawing up advice, conducting procedures and everything that goes with it, such as having discussions and consulting with (lawyers of) opposing parties. In general, the work can be planned well, but in certain urgent matters (such as attachments and summary proceedings) a lot of work has to be done in short time. Especially in our maritime practice, the courts are regularly called upon, such as in the case ship or bunkers arrests, collisions, cargo damage and personal injury.
Bankruptcies are less predictable. A workday can be hectic, because a liquidator typically does not know in advance that he will be appointed.
The court usually pronounces bankruptcies on Tuesdays. As a liquidator you will be informed by e-mail, and you will start working immediately (the same day). After an introductory telephone conversation, an initial meeting normally follows the same day. Especially when the company is still operational, employs staff or has a stock of perishable goods, then urgency is required. Thus, the handling of a bankruptcy requires a lot of time and attention during the first weeks or months. Discussions and meetings often take place on location, where agreements are made about continuing work.
If a bank (or other financier) is involved in the bankruptcy, it must be investigated whether there are security rights and if they are legally established. If that is the case, agreements must be made with the financier regarding these rights.
For certain actions – such as the dismissal of staff, termination of lease agreements, the temporary continuation of activities and involvement of third parties – the liquidator requires permission from the supervising judge.
WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE (WORKWISE) SOMEONE GAVE YOU?
As a lawyer and liquidator, you are often involved in disputes between parties, each with their own interests. In that context, I have learned not to lose myself in (unnecessary) details, but to zoom out and keep an eye on the (underlying) interests of the parties and try to bring parties closer together from that position.
HOW COULD YOU BE OF HELP TO OTHERS IN THE INDUSTRY OR RMSC?
I can assist members of RMSC and other parties in the maritime industry when they are confronted with a (threatening) bankruptcy situation, for example of their own company, but also of suppliers or customers. The assistance and advice may relate to identifying rights and options and assistance in discussions with liquidators. But it can also be done preventively, by means of the timely preparation of sound agreements, general terms and conditions and the establishment of securities (pledge and mortgage rights).
Judicial statistics show that the number of bankruptcies has increased in 2023 (compared to 2022) and this trend is expected to continue. There is therefore a real chance that companies will face problems regarding bankruptcies.
AND LASTLY: WHAT’S IN THE NEWS WHICH RELATES DIRECTLY TO YOUR PROFESSION?
The increase in the number of bankruptcies in recent quarters has been frequently in the news (RTL, Telegraaf, Rechtspraak.nl and cbs.nl). The news also regularly reports on the decision of the Tax Authorities to collect tax debts from entrepreneurs that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic. Media recently wrote about bankruptcies of large companies, such as Van Moof, HES-Terminal and BCC.
The bankruptcies where I am appointed as liquidator are usually not so substantial that a mention on national news is justified, but a brief mention on a local news site happens from time to time.
For those (Dutch speaking) who are interested in the work of liquidators, I recommend listening to BNR’s podcast ‘Onder Curatoren’, which gives an insight into the handling of bankruptcies and (practical) difficulties that liquidators can face during a bankruptcy.
As far as it concerns commercial clients in the maritime industry, I am involved – with two of my colleagues at Boonk Van Leeuwen – in procedures regarding the collisions in January 2022 between the Julietta D and various objects at sea. This collision was the reason for the Dutch Safety Board to launch an investigation into the increasing crowds in the North Sea.