Ship arrest in Singapore

Cases of liability for wrongful arrest in Admiralty are rare: successful claims, which require a showing of malice or gross negligence, even more so. We now have an account of one at the end of last year in Singapore. Bunker suppliers sold bunkers to the (now-very-bankrupt) OW Group; they were passed on paper through other OW companies, one of which fuelled the vessel. It’s elementary law that if A sells to B and B to C, then A has no claim against C: it was also plain to any third-year law student that the suppliers hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of showing agency in any of the OW companies. Nevertheless, having voluntarily given credit to the uncreditworthy, the suppliers blithely went and arrested the ship in Singapore. Not surprisingly they were held liable in damages. The case is The Xin Chang Shu [2015] SGHC 308. The judgment, worth a look, is here; a useful note on it can be found here.

With thanks to Prof E Macdonald for the tip-off.

AT

Keep right on to the end (of the charter). No constructive redelivery under bareboat charter.

The termination of a demise charter pursuant to the shipowner’s right of withdrawal is a more complex process than with an ordinary time charter. The charterer still has its crew on board the vessel and some time may elapse before the shipowner is able to retake physical possession of the vessel. In the interim charterers may have entered into commitments with bunker suppliers and with cargo owners, pursuant to bills of lading.

In The Chem Orchid Lloyd’s Law Reports , [2014] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 520, the High Court of Singapore had to decide whether the bareboat charterer, the “relevant person” who would be liable in personam, was the demise charterer when the cause of action arose, so as to found jurisdiction under s.4(4) of the Singapore High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act, which is in identical terms to s.21(4) of the UK Senior Courts Act 1981. The Assistant Registrar struck out the writs in rem on the grounds that the charter had been terminated prior to the issue of the writs. Accordingly, the vessel could not be arrested in relation to claims arising in the interim between the notice of termination being given and physical redelivery of the vessel to the shipowners.

The decision has now been reversed by Steven Chong J, [2015] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 666, who held that the charter had not been validly terminated, but even it had, there was no concept of constructive delivery applicable to the termination of bareboat charters which continue until physical redelivery. Therefore, at the time the in rem writs were issued by the bunker suppliers and the cargo claimants, the vessel was still in the possession of the charterers.

On 20 January 2016 the Singapore Court of Appeal held that it had no jurisdiction to hear an appeal from this decision. [2016] SCGA 04.

 

Arrest of Ships

An interesting decision of the Federal Court of Australia in The Sam Hawk [2015] FCA 1005. For the purpose of determining if a claimant has a maritime lien for a contractual claim (here the supply of bunkers), the law of the contract under which the bunkers were supplied controls. The court refused to follow the Privy Council in The Halcyon Isle [1981] AC 221 .

More details at http://www.hfw.com/Arrest-of-the-SAM-HAWK-October-2015

Andrew Tettenborn