The "Andres Bonifacio"

CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeGoh Joon Seng J
Judgment Date22 September 1993
Neutral Citation[1993] SGCA 70
Citation[1993] SGCA 70
Subject MatterLifting the corporate veil,Invocation of admiralty jurisdiction,Conflict of Laws,Arrest of vessel,Admiralty and Shipping,Determination of the connecting factor by the lex fori,Lex fori being Singapore law,s 4(4) High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act (Cap 123),'Beneficial ownership',Admiralty jurisdiction of High Court,Words and Phrases,Beneficial ownership of vessel,In rem,Admiralty jurisdiction and arrest,Action in rem,Jurisdiction
Plaintiff CounselAnthony Clarke QC (as he then was) and Kuek Chong Yeow Richard (Gurbani & Co)
Date22 September 1993
Defendant CounselMichael Thomas QC, Pathmanaban Selvadurai and Govindarajalu Asokan (Rodyk & Davidson)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCivil Appeals Nos 66, 67 and

Cur Adv Vult

These appeals are from orders in each of the Admiralty in Rem Suit Nos 254, 255 and 256 of 1989 by which Karthigesu J set aside the writs and all subsequent proceedings including the warrant of arrest in Admiralty in Rem Suit No 254/89 and the bail bonds in each action.

The vessel `Andres Bonifacio` was arrested in Admiralty in Rem Suit No 254/89 on 17 October 1989 and released on 20 October 1989 upon the defendants providing bail bonds in all three actions. In each suit, the claim was for sums due under a charterparty and/or damages for breach of a charterparty. In the first two suits, Far East Oil Tanker SA, the owners of the `Feoso Ambassador 2`, sued the respondents as charterers of `Feoso Ambassador 2`. In the third suit, Feoso Ambassador SA, as owners of the `Feoso Ambassador`, sued the respondents as charterers of the `Feoso Ambassador`.

On 2 November 1989, the respondents filed a summons-in-chambers in each of the three in rem suits, claiming, inter alia, that the writ of summons issued in Admiralty in Rem Suit No 256/89 and all subsequent steps taken by the appellants be set aside on the basis that the respondents as the beneficial owners of the `Andres Bonifacio` were not the persons liable in personam to the appellants in respect of the appellants` claims either when the causes of action arose or on the dates the actions were brought by the appellants for the purposes of s 4(4) of the High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act (Cap 123) (`the Act`). These summonses-in-chambers were heard together with a motion in the Admiralty in Rem Suit No 254/1989 claiming wrongful arrest in view of a praecipe for caveat against arrest. The motion is not relevant to this appeal.

Throughout the proceedings, it was common ground that (i) the appellants` claims were within the High Court`s admiralty jurisdiction; (ii) the ships in connection with which the claims arose in the Admiralty in Rem Suit Nos 254 and 255 of 1989 were the `Feoso Ambassador 2`, and in the Admiralty in Rem Suit No 256/1989, the `Feoso Ambassador`; (iii) PNOC were the `charterers` under s 4(4) of the Act and (iv) the `action was brought` when the writ was issued, ie 3 June 1989. Hence, the only question that arose was whether PNOC was, on the date on which the writs were issued, the beneficial owner of all the shares in the `Andres Bonifacio`, thereby entitling the appellants to invoke the in rem jurisdiction of the court under s 4(4) of the Act. The learned judge held that it was not. [See [1991] 2 MLJ 371 .]

The initial question that arose before the learned judge concerned the burden and standard of proof. Counsel for the appellants suggested that, at this stage of the proceedings, all that was required was a good arguable case on a balance of probabilities that PNOC were the beneficial owners of the vessel. The learned judge decided otherwise, holding that the question of jurisdiction had to be decided now: see the dicta of Goff J in `The I Congreso del Partido` ; Playa Larga (Cargo Owners) v I Congreso del Partido (Owners) , at p 558. This part of his judgment is not called into question by the appellants in the present appeal. However, the learned judge went on to approve Slynn J`s dicta in `The Aventicum` , (as approved in `The Maritime Trader`; Unitramp v Maritime Trader , and `The Saudi Prince` ,):

I have come to the conclusion that on this motion the onus is upon the plaintiffs to show that the person against whom it is sought to invoke the admiralty jurisdiction is the person who beneficially owns all shares and that he is the same person who was the owner at the time the cause of action arose.

Applying the test of beneficial ownership as set out in `The Pangkalan Susu/Permina 3001` , at p 130 and `The I Congresso` , the learned judge found that the appellants had failed to prove that PNOC were the beneficial owners of the vessel. Indeed, he was satisfied on a balance of probabilities that POCI were the beneficial owners of the vessel from 1980 onwards. His conclusion was based on the following factors.

First, although it appeared from the port of registry`s certificate of ownership and certificate of Philippine Register issued on 29 March 1984 that the vessel was owned by PNOC as at the date of certification to 30 June 1989, Lloyd`s Register of Shipping showed that the vessel`s owners were PNOC for 1982 and 1983 and POCI from 1984 to 1989. Upon discovery, this discrepancy ought to have been investigated in order to ascertain the true beneficial ownership. Nevertheless, despite being told by the respondents of the discrepancy, the appellants chose to rely solely on the certificate of the Philippine Coast Guard without further investigation.

Secondly, the evidence showed that in 1980, PNOC, a Philippine government-owned corporation which had been responsible for the country`s shipping and oil exploration activities, set up a number of wholly-owned subsidiaries in accordance with its policy of diversification. On 23 October 1980, it resolved that all contracts, assets and liabilities pertaining to its shipping operations would be assigned to PNOC Petroleum Tanker Inc (`PPTI`) and POCI respectively, effective upon their incorporation and covering transactions as of April 1980 in the case of POCI.

Just before that, PNOC purchased the `Andres Bonifacio` which arrived in Philippine waters on 14 April 1980. From the time POCI`s incorporation formalities were completed on 9 September 1980, POCI operated the vessel, incurred its expenses and assumed the liabilities for her acquisition. This was evidenced by the financial statements ( whose authenticity could not be doubted in view of the fact that they were audited by independent auditors) of POCI for the years 1980 to 1989.

Thirdly, the financial statements suggested that consideration had been given for the vessel in the form of the paying off by POCI of that proportion of PNOC`s syndicated Japanese yen loan (`the loan`) which represented the liabilities which POCI accepted from PNOC in respect of the vessel. All these suggested that the vessel was transferred or assigned to POCI by PNOC for value upon POCI`s incorporation on 9 September 1980, pursuant to PNOC`s resolution passed on 23 October 1980.

The learned judge found unhelpful the appellants` argument that the `Gregario Del Pilar`, purchased by PNOC on 24 April 1981, was sold by PNOC, her registered owner, despite being shown on POCI`s balance sheet as one of its assets that had been sold. The only conclusion that could be drawn from the entry into POCI`s accounts of a `gain on sale of Gregario del Pilar` was that the vessel, although registered in PNOC`s name, was beneficially owned by POCI. The same conclusion was drawn about the attempted sale of the `Andres Bonifacio`. In September 1988, PNOC tried to sell the vessel through a sealed bid. Following the receipt of one such bid, PNOC entered into a memorandum of agreement with the buyer. However, the Philippine Commission on Audit nullified the sale on the ground that there was a failure of bidding since there was only one bidder. Both in its communications with the Commission and with the buyer, PNOC held itself out as the owner. All this, according to Mr Diaz, a Filipino lawyer, meant that PNOC were both the registered and beneficial owners of the vessel. He further argued that the concept of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
20 cases
  • Ho Soo Fong and Another v Standard Chartered Bank
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 29 January 2007
    ...evaluation from the primary facts: see President, District Council, Batu Pahat v Lo Hong Tan [1983] 1 MLJ 299 and The Andres Bonifacio [1993] 3 SLR 521, where this court held at 532, [46] that the same principles applied when it came to evaluating affidavit 21 The second preliminary point r......
  • Cavenagh Investment Pte Ltd v Kaushik Rajiv
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 21 February 2013 inherent in our corporate law. ... Slade LJ’s statement was approved by the Singapore Court of Appeal in The “Andres Bonifacio” [1993] 3 SLR(R) 71. Accordingly, one commentator has noted that legitimacy of setting up ‘one-ship’ companies in order to minimise the risk of sister-ship actio......
  • The "Skaw Prince"
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 30 July 1994
    ...The “Skaw Prince” Goh Kok Leong (Ang & Pnrs) for the plaintiff Muthu Arusu (Drew & Napier) for the defendant. Andres Bonifacio, The [1993] 3 SLR (R) 71; [1993] 3 SLR 521 (folld) Asean Promoter, The [1981-1982] SLR (R) 289; [1980-1981] SLR 607 (not folld) Aventicum, The [1978] 1 Lloyd's Rep ......
  • The "Makassar Caraka Jaya Niaga III-39"
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 19 October 2010
    ...of a vessel, the court may trace the history of ownership of the vessel from the time of its construction: see The Andres Bonifacio [1993] 3 SLR(R) 71. In the present case, it is relevant that in 1989, the Indonesian government launched a five-year plan called the “Caraka Jaya III Implement......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT