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Serena Cheng QC Barrister Atkin Chambers

Serena Cheng QC


Silk 2017

"Her preparation was immaculate and her presentation was brilliant."

"Technically excellent"


Chambers and Partners

Serena Cheng QC is a commercial litigation and arbitration specialist whose practice focuses on technically and legally complex energy, engineering and infrastructure disputes. She is an experienced trial advocate who has represented a wide range of employers and contractors both domestically and internationally, with a particular emphasis on the Far East and Middle East.  

She gets to grips with highly technical engineering issues quickly” (The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2020, Construction, Energy and Infrastructure).

A very bright barrister who’s very good at coming up with strategy.” “Very good on contractual and legal interpretation, she is commercially excellent….” (Chambers and Partners 2019).

“Bold decision maker, sticks to her guns, technically excellent, calm, confident and considered, and an excellent people person.” “A tenacious advocate, and very strong on the advisory side.” (The Legal 500 2019, Construction, Energy and also International Arbitration).

“Serena has a great ability to express complex legal arguments in a way that is clear and straightforward.” “Tactically very astute, down-to-earth.” (Chambers and Partners 2018).

“A tenacious cross-examiner whose pleadings are excellent.” “She is diligent, efficient and innovative in her approach to complex issues.” (Chambers and Partners 2017).

ENERGY AND UTILITIES

OIL AND GAS

  • Leading trial counsel to the operator. Defence of the rig-owner’s invoice claim for the hire of six drilling rigs deployed offshore Libya. One-week arbitration under the SIAC Rules. (US$210 million claimed).
  • Trial counsel to the EPC contractor. Defence of the operator’s counterclaim for the costs of remedying alleged defects in the contractor’s design, construction and commissioning of the first semi-submersible floating oil production system to be constructed in South East Asia, the largest of its kind ever to have been constructed on-shore. Three-week arbitration under the KLRCA/AIAC Rules, involving nine different engineering expert disciplines (Control Systems; Water Systems; Preservation; Electrical Engineering; Ex; Corrosion and Metallurgy; HVAC; Mechanical Engineering (including gas turbines and high pressure compressors) and Commissioning (US$573 million counterclaimed).
  • Leading counsel for the Operator in two ICC arbitrations concerning (a) the design, construction and commissioning of a new floating storage and offloading vessel for deployment offshore Libya and (b) the project management of those works (US$106 million and US$16 million claimed, respectively).
  • Counsel to the logistics company in its challenge under section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996 to a Tribunal’s decision that it had jurisdiction to determine an English-registered oil major’s claim in relation to the freight forwarding of and customs clearance of hydrocarbons shipped in bulk (THB 347 million claimed).
  • Counsel for the EPCM contractor in defence of a funder’s claim for damages for (a) breach of exclusivity undertakings; (b) breach of confidence; (c) conspiracy to injure by unlawful means; (d) licence fee damages and (e) equitable account of profits in relation to the design, construction and operation of a heavy fuel oil-fired thermoelectric power plant in Peru (US$29 million claimed).
  • Counsel for the operator in defence of a refinery owner’s claim for damages for an alleged failure to maintain a crude oil pipeline (£57 million claimed, no sums awarded).
  • Counsel for the market-leading provider of deep-water drilling services in a two-week LCIA arbitration concerning the operator’s wrongful termination of a contract for the provision of a semisubmersible drilling rig for exploration off Libya (US$87 million awarded to the rig-owner).
  • Counsel for the main contractor under an EPCC contract for the first commercial production facility to be brought on-stream in Iraq after the Gulf War. Document-heavy and detailed final account and delay dispute with the main sub-contractor under the LCIA Arbitration Rules.
  • Counsel for the main contractor in defence of a sub-contractor’s TCC claim for damages for breach of a cooperation agreement relating to a bid to provide geophysical services to BP on the Risha oil field, Jordan.

NATURAL ENERGY

  • Wind farm: counsel for the main contractor in three-party Commercial Court proceedings arising out of the exploration of the largest wind zone offshore the UK. Technically, legally and tactically complex case concerning the cause of, and liability for, the failure of a monopile and delay to the project.
  • Wind farm: counsel for the employer on its appeal from an Arbitrator’s award in relation to the design and construction of a wind-farm in Scotland. The contractor disputed the Courts’ jurisdiction to hear the claim and the applicability of the Arbitration Act 1996 to arbitration with a Scottish seat.

POWER AND UTILITIES

  • Power Station: counsel for the bond-provider in its application for an injunction to restrain calls on two performance bonds ($40 million) given in support of the manufacture and supply of two 360MW boilers for installation at Pecem Power Station, Brazil.
  • Power Station: counsel for the joint-venture purchaser in its highly technical claim for damages for breach of the asset warranties contained in a share purchase agreement concerning the largest combined cycle gas turbine power station in Europe. The JV claimed damages of £121 million. The case was listed for 11 weeks and was one of The Lawyer’s “Top 20 cases of 2013”.
  • Electricity: trial counsel for the Master Developer in two conjoined DIAC arbitrations concerning the incidence of liability to pay for electrical connections to sub-developments in a Dubai free zone.
  • Water: counsel for the statutory undertaker in arbitral proceedings and cross-proceedings concerning the contractor’s entitlement to a price adjustment and the value of the Employer’s Final Account under a framework agreement for the installation of new service connections throughout the Greater London area.

WASTE

  • Waste-water treatment plant: counsel to the utilities provider in proposed TCC proceedings against six defendants concerning the design and construction of the nitrifying trickling filters at nine wastewater treatment plants across the north of England, on NEC terms. (c. £21 million claimed).
  • Waste-water treatment plant: counsel for the joint venture design-and-build sub-contractor on claims for delay and disruption, extensions of time, entitlement to performance incentive payments and the valuation of additional work.
  • Effluent-treatment plant: counsel for the employer in court proceedings concerning the design and construction of an effluent treatment plant built to serve a cider mill under a limited letter of intent.

PFI / PPP

  • PFI Hospital: counsel for the service provider in defence of project co’s claim to £23 million in relation to service failures and quality failures allegedly arising out of the defective design of the fire-prevention element of an NHS hospital procured under a PFI contract.
  • PFI Hospital: counsel for the NHS Trust in relation to its claims to apply deductions and service failure points in relation to historic failures which project co had failed itself to record.
  • PFI Hospital: counsel for the NHS Trust in an adjudication concerning project co’s entitlement to a price adjustment of £46 million under the terms of a PFI contract.
  • PFI Hospital: acting for an NHS Trust in adjudications concerning the legal basis of the contractor’s entitlement to extensions of time and to payment for variations under a PFI contract.
  • Waste-management PFI Project: counsel for the bond-providers in relation to the main contractor’s purported call on bonds given in support of a technology provider’s design and construction of four in-vessel composting plants within the Greater Manchester Waste Management PFI Project.  
  • Waste-processing plant: counsel to the funder in name-borrowing adjudication proceedings arising out of a suite of nine contracts concerning the funding, design, construction and operation of a waste processing plant procured in a PFI context.

TRANSPORT

AIR

  • Counsel for the employer in a DIAC arbitration concerning the expansion of an international airport under the Dubai Aviation City Corporation’s Standard Conditions of Contract. The joint-venture contractor claimed payment of AED 3.8 billion in respect of remeasurement, variations, cost-escalation, mark-up on nominated sub-contract packages and prolongation, plus loss of revenue and damages for late payment.
  • Counsel for the structural steelworks sub-contractor in a two-week DIAC arbitration concerning the construction and connection design of the structural steel rack of the Cargo Mega Terminal at Dubai International Airport. The case involved detailed submissions on UAE law.

RAIL

  • Counsel for the rail network in an adjudication concerning the effect of inconsistent clauses in a complex, NEC-based, contract for the extension of the London Overground (underlying claim value £10 million).
  • Counsel for the main contractor in tri-partite TCC proceedings concerning the design of a rail maintenance depot. The case raised issues of geotechnical engineering, rail logistics, programming and the quantification of future losses.
  • Acting for a major rail network in an arbitration concerning the cause and consequences of differential settlement of land, and the incidence of liability for that settlement.

MARITIME

  • Advising the employer on a main contractor’s claim for additional payment for its installation of sheet piles at a new deep-water harbor, and its rectification of subsequent interlock failures in those piles. The dispute concerned the status and effect of the employer’s oral instruction about the contractor’s method of working.
  • Acting for the main contractor in defence of the employer’s claim for declarations as to the scope of its design and construction obligations in relation to a new terminal at what was then the largest ferry port in Ireland. The dispute concerned the need for scour protection and/or the deepening of piles and/or walls to account for propeller action.

ROAD

  • Acting in two large road-building arbitrations concerning the foreseeability of site conditions, the identification and valuation of variations and the Contractor’s entitlement to extensions of time and delay and disruption costs.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS

  • Leading counsel for the employer in defence of the design and build contractor’s LCIA arbitration in relation to the design and construction of an 18MW data centre for a market leading software house (€66 million claimed; €66 million counterclaimed).
  • Counsel for the contractor in an ICC arbitration concerning a national government’s wrongful termination of a contract for the design, procurement, installation, integration and commissioning of an airport IT system, network and security systems at an international airport in the Middle East (claim value £138.8 million).
  • Adjudication proceedings concerning the installation of a trans-European system of fiber-optic cables.

CONSTRUCTION, ENGINEERING AND INFRASTRUCTURE

  • Low density polyethylene plant: counsel to the EPC contractor on claims arising out of the termination of EPC contracts concerning two world-scale low density polyethylene plants and the employer’s call on bonds and guarantees given in relation thereto. The employer claimed £133.9 million pursuant to contract. The EPC contractor sought to recover £28.5 million paid by its bondsman and guarantor.
  • Mixed-use development: counsel for the employer in a DCCI arbitration concerning the basis of its entitlement to terminate a FIDIC contract for the construction of a mixed-use development in Dubai, and of the contractor’s entitlement to extensions of time and delay and disruption costs thereunder.
  • Mixed-use development: leading counsel for the contractor in a CRCICA arbitration concerning the contractor’s entitlement to extensions of time and loss and expense in relation to the concrete, architectural and electromechanical packages of a 750,000 m2 integrated urban development in Egypt.
  • Stadia: counsel for the control systems sub-contractor in TCC proceedings concerning the design, construction and commissioning of the control systems of Wembley Stadium.

 

  • Hotel complex: counsel for the main contractor in its final account claim against the employer in relation to the construction of a hotel complex in Thailand (Thai Arbitration Institute Arbitration c. £8.5 million claimed).
  • Hotel complex: counsel for the employer in arbitral proceedings concerning its entitlement to €32 million and US$10 million for the defective project management of a hotel, conference and commercial development at the junction of the White Nile and the Blue Nile in Sudan.
  • College: counsel for the main contractor in an UNCITRAL arbitration concerning the design and construction of a men’s higher education college in Dubai on FIDIC-based terms.
  • Supermarkets: counsel for the contractor from inception to appeal in TCC proceedings concerning its entitlement to payment for facilities management services at 372 supermarket outlets under letters of intent.
  • Historic structures: counsel for the employer in a six-week final account arbitration concerning the renovation of an historic conservatory, pavilions and park in Liverpool.
  • Private development: counsel for the employer in a three-week TCC trial concerning the contractor’s final account for the renovation of a high-value private residence in Kensington.

PROFESSIONAL NEGLIGENCE 

  • Counsel for the third-party designer in proceedings concerning the design and construction of a print-works in Sheffield.
  • Acting for the engineer in a claim arising out of its design of a methane gas extraction and processing plant.
  • Advising the employer on the liabilities of the contractor, engineer and architect involved in revetment works along the Medway River.
  • Counsel for the architect in a four-week trial concerning the adequacy of its design of a dye-works.

REPORTED CASES

Malcolm Charles Contracts Ltd v. Crispin & Zhang [2016] 1 All ER (Comm) 9, 159 Con LR 185

Eurocom Ltd v Siemens PLC [2015] BLR 1, 157 Con LR 120

University of Brighton v Dovehouse Interiors Ltd [2014] BLR 432, 153 Con LR 147

Hillcrest Homes Ltd v Beresford & Curbishley Ltd [2014] 153 Con LR 179

Doosan Babcock Ltd v Comercializadora de Equipos y Materiales MABE LDA [2014] BLR 33

Westshield Civil Engineering Ltd v. Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd [2013] 28 EG 85, 150 Con LR 225

Walter Lilley & Co v Mackay and DMW Developments Ltd [2012] BLR 503 and [2012] BLR 249, 143 Con LR 79 and 141 Con LR 102

Carillion Construction Ltd v Stephen Andrew Smith [2012] Bus LR D61, 141 Con LR 117

Straw Realisations (No1) v Shaftsbury House (Developments) Ltd [2011] BLR 47, 133 Con LR 82

Price v. Carter (t/a Ian Carter Building Contractors) [2010] EWHC 1451 (TCC), cited in Sutton, Gill and Gearing, Russell on Arbitration, 24th Edition (Sweet & Maxwell, 2015) and Merkin and Flannery, Arbitration Act 1996, 5th Edition (Informa Law, 2014)

Workspace Management v YJL London Limited [2009] BLR 497, [2009] 3 EGLR 11, [2009] 42 EG 178

Braes of Doune Wind Farm (Scotland) Ltd v Alfred McAlpine Business Services Ltd [2008] 2 All ER (Comm) 493, [2008] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 608, [2008] BLR 321, [2008] Bus LR D137

Taylor Woodrow and George Wimpey Southern Counties v Barnes & Elliott [2006] All ER (Comm) 735, [2006] BLR 377, 110 Con LR 169

Baker & Davies Plc v Leslie Wilkes Associates [2005] 3 All ER 603, [2005] BLR 425, 101 Con LR 82, [2006] PNLR 3    

QUALIFICATIONS AND AWARDS

1999-2000: Inns of Court School of Law (Outstanding in Advocacy)

1996-1999: LLB (Hons), King’s College London

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Serena is a member of COMBAR, LCLCBA and the SCL.  She served on TECBAR’s Management Committee between c. 2010 and 2017.

She tutors advocacy for Lincoln’s Inn and was, for 15 years, a governor of a Leathersellers’ school in South East London.

RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS

“She took control of the adjudication and impressed our clients with her ability to immediately home in on the key issues.” “Tenacious advocates and very good at advising clients.”

Construction, Chambers & Partners UK Bar and Global 2020

 

“Very tenacious and meticulous in cross examination.”

Construction, The Legal 500 2020

 

“She has a strong practice in high-value and complex disputes, both domestically and internationally”

Energy, The Legal 500 2020

 

“She gets to grips with highly technical engineering issues quickly.”

Construction, Energy & Infrastructure The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific 2020

 

“A very bright barrister who’s very good at coming up with strategy.” “Very good on contractual and legal interpretation, she is commercially excellent and someone who turns things round very quickly.”

Construction, Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2019

 

“A tenacious advocate, and very strong on the advisory side.”

Energy and International Arbitration, The Legal 500 2019

 

“Bold decision maker, sticks to her guns, technically excellent, calm, confident and considered, and an excellent people person.”

Construction, The Legal 500 2019

 

“Good at dealing with difficult lay clients, she is willing to put in the hard yards.”

Construction, The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific 2019

 

“Serena has a great ability to express complex legal arguments in a way that is clear and straightforward.” “Tactically very astute, down-to-earth and gives quick turnaround.”

Construction, Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2018

 

“Superbly organised, very intelligent and commercial.”

Construction, The Legal 500 2017

 

“A new silk, who is highly rated for arbitration.”

International Arbitration, The Legal 500 2017

 

The above are a selection of recent client endorsements from the leading legal directories, both UK and internationally. For a complete list of endorsements, please contact the practice management team at Atkin Chambers.