Douglas Bateson, partner and head of the Piraeus office of Penningtons Manches Cooper, has tragically died in a car crash.

The accident occurred early on Saturday on a major avenue in downtown Athens. According to media footage, the vehicle Bateson was reportedly driving rammed a reinforced cement pillar carrying a camera across the street from the US embassy.

Popular and respected in the shipping community, he was 63 and is survived by his wife and son.

News of Bateson’s death was met with incredulity by people who knew him.

One person described it as “tragic” and a “total shocker”.

In September last year, Bateson marked his 40th anniversary in the business. Joining Thomas Cooper as an articled clerk in 1983, he rose to become a partner at the firm six years later.

Living in Greece since 2001, he was frequently entrusted by some of the world’s largest shipowners to handle highly complex problems spreading across several jurisdictions.

Bateson was “a huge part” of the firm, Penningtons Manches Cooper said in a statement on Monday.

“He will be greatly missed ... all our deepest sympathy goes to his family, friends and colleagues who were close to him,” the law firm said.

One of his Greek clients was the Navios Group, managers of which expressed their “deepest condolences” to Bateson’s family and team.

“It is very difficult to realise and accept that he is no longer with us,” the Angeliki Frangou-led company said in a statement to TradeWinds.

“He was an excellent lawyer, with a clear and distinct legal and commercial mind.”

Michael Kougellis, chief executive of SeaArctos — a Peter Georgiopoulos-backed emissions monitoring firm — said he was “devastated” by the news.

“I owe Douglas my start in maritime law,” he told TradeWinds. “Douglas gave great support to young people entering the industry ... A true gentleman.”

Distinctive sense of humour

Having read law at the University of Manchester in the UK, Bateson acquired a solid reputation in all aspects of wet and dry shipping, and was a key member of the firm’s emergency response team.

He was last quoted in TradeWinds in connection with a vital UK court ruling on a constructive total loss, which clarified the 1906 Marine Insurance Act.

Bateson had acted in the case on behalf of insurers of the 38,400-dwt Greek bulker Renos (built 1985), which was hit by a fire off Egypt in 2012.

Legal directories have been describing Bateson as an “extremely experienced” lawyer.

That title was earned in cases such as the collision of the tanker Platinum with super-yacht La Masquerade off Curacao, as well as a five-ship collision that involved the floating production, storage and offloading vessel Creda.

Bateson also advised on the 171,000-dwt Alexandros T (built 1989), which broke up and sank off South Africa, in a case that reached the UK Supreme Court.

Despite his senior position, he often liked to shed a strait-laced image and was praised for his distinctive sense of humour.

Participants still remember a 2006 Bateson seminar on South American and Spanish topics, in which the fluent Spanish and French speaker dreamed up a highly eventful series of voyages for the imaginary ship Manana.

Bateson’s scenario had the unlucky vessel suffering a string of mishaps over a period of just a few days, including a grounding in Brazil and a main engine breakdown in the Atlantic.

By the time the Manana reached its fictitious destination of Virgo, Spain, one of its seafarers was injured and the ship’s imaginary management faced allegations of cargo damage by charterers — the equally fictitious Penelope Cruise SA.