The "Antares v"

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date24 July 2001
Docket NumberAdmiralty in Rem No 414 of 1998
Date24 July 2001

[2001] SGHC 198

High Court

MPH Rubin J

Admiralty in Rem No 414 of 1998 (Registrar's Appeal No 600336 of 2000)

The “Antares V”

Trevor Ivan D'Cruz (Rajah & Tann) for the appellant

R Govintharash (Gurbani & Co) for the respondent.

Berny, The [1979] QB 80 (refd)

Big Beacher, The [1983-1984] SLR (R) 425; [1984-1985] SLR 131 (refd)

Jones v Jones [1970] 2 QB 576 (folld)

Kun Kay Hong v Tan Teo Huat [1983-1984] SLR (R) 762; [1984-1985] SLR 232 (refd)

Lircay, The [1997] 1 SLR (R) 699; [1997] 2 SLR 669 (folld)

Myrto (No 3), The [1987] AC 597 (folld)

Jason Textile Industries Pte Ltd v QBE Insurance (International) Ltd [1988] 2 SLR (R) 491; [1988] SLR 111 (refd)

Saris v Westminster Transports SA [1994] 1 Lloyd's Rep 115 (refd)

Union Hodeidah, The [1987] SLR (R) 1; [1987] SLR 194 (refd)

Waddon v Whitecroft Scovill Ltd [1988] 1 WLR 309; [1988] 1 All ER 996 (refd)

Admiralty and Shipping–Practice and procedure of action in rem–Writ in rem–Writ not served despite vessel calling at port–Parties in negotiation–Renewal of writ –Omission of material facts in application for renewal–Principles governing renewal of writ–Civil Procedure–Originating processes–Renewal of writ–Writ not served while parties in negotiation–Omission of material facts in application for renewal–Principles governing renewal of writ

The plaintiff's cargo sustained damage while it was shipped on board the defendant's vessel (“the vessel”). Under the Hague Rules, the limitation period was to have lapsed on 20 March 1998, but the parties agreed to extend the time for commencing action to 20 June 1998. On 19 June 1998, the plaintiff issued a writ but did not serve it. The writ was later further renewed till 18 June 2000.

Between June 1998 and June 2000, the plaintiff's and the defendant's P & I Clubs exchanged correspondence on, amongst others, arbitration and negotiated settlement.

The defendant successfully obtained an order setting aside the writ's renewal on the grounds that it was not served on the vessel during its initial validity period, even though the vessel had called at Singapore twice, and that the plaintiff did not disclose material information in its application for renewal. The plaintiff appealed.

Held, allowing the appeal:

(1) A plaintiff should serve the writ promptly and good reasons should exist before the court would exercise its discretion to renew it. In the exercise of its discretion, the court could consider the balance of hardship between the parties, and whether the renewal would cause prejudice to the defendant in the particular circumstances of the case. Although the plaintiff should have taken steps to serve the writ by keeping an active watch on the defendant's vessel during the initial validity period of the writ, the overriding consideration was the balance of justice between the parties, and circumstances peculiar to each case were to be considered as well: at [20] and [23].

(2) The plaintiff had sufficiently good reasons for not serving the writ during its initial validity period. First, the parties were engaged in negotiations during the material time, and the defendant through its P & I Club was not opposed to the plaintiff's suggestions of arbitration or negotiated settlement. Second, as the plaintiff renewed the writ before it expired, the defendant could not avail itself of the benefit of the limitation period and was not prejudiced by the renewal as such: at [24] and [26].

(3) Given the particular facts, the plaintiff's omission to state the background facts in its application for renewal was not fatal. Further, the omission to mention that the vessel had called at Singapore, and the contemplated arbitral steps were not serious enough to warrant the setting aside of the renewal order: at [26].

[Observation: The general rule of law, that negotiations between the parties were by itself not a good reason to extend the writ, and that the plaintiff should protect its positions by issuing and serving the writ, was not to be applied in a rigid and inflexible manner. The negotiations between the parties and the way in which the P & I Club conducted its correspondence with the plaintiff swung the balance of justice in the latter's favour: at [25] and [26].]

MPH Rubin J

1 The issue in this appeal before me was whether the renewal and service of an admiralty in rem writ should be allowed to stand when it is said that certain background facts were reportedly not placed before the learned assistant registrar when he granted the order to renew the said writ.

2 The material facts as could be gathered from the affidavits filed in this appeal and the chronology of events submitted by the parties' respective counsel can be summarised as follows.

3 The plaintiffs' cargo, made up of about 996.736 metric tons of RBD palm olein in bulk, shipped on board the defendants' vessel MV Antares V was reportedly damaged on 21 March 1997. Whatever claims the plaintiffs had against the defendants arose on the same day and the limitation period under the applicable Hague Rules being one year would have elapsed on 20 March 1998.

4 However, by agreement between parties the suit time was extended from 20 March 1998 to 20 June 1998. According to the defendants, the extension was granted on the understanding that the plaintiffs would furnish them with certain documents which they were then reportedly not in a position to provide.

5 The plaintiffs sought to obtain a further extension for the suit time beyond 21 June 1998. Noting that the request contained in the plaintiffs' letter dated 9 June 1998 did not seem to have stirred any response, the plaintiffs wrote to the P & I Club on 15 June 1998 in the following terms:

We refer to our fax dated 9 June 1998.

We have not received your response. Our clients are left with no alternative but to commence proceedings against the carriers. This will include the arrest of the vessel to obtain security.

6 Following the foregoing letter, on 19 June 1998 the plaintiffs' solicitors wrote to the defendants advising them that they had appointed Mr Ajaib Haridass of M/s Haridass Ho & Partners to be the arbitrator...

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1 cases
  • The "Orinoco Star"
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 6 August 2014
    ...amount to good reason to extend time, this is not an inflexible rule. In this connection, Justice MPH Rubin observed in The Antares V [2001] 2 SLR(R) 616 at [25]: “Although it has been said that negotiations between the parties alone do not amount to good reason to extend the period of vali......

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