The "August Eighth"

JudgeLord Brandon of Oakbrook
Judgment Date11 January 1983
Neutral Citation[1983] SGPC 1
Docket NumberPrivy Council Appeal No 17 of 1981
Date11 January 1983
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselMichael Thomas QC and Jeremy Russell (Ince & Co)
Citation[1983] SGPC 1
Defendant CounselHaridass Ajaib and Anwarul Haque (Lloyd Denby Neal)
CourtPrivy Council
Subject MatterWhether O 14 procedure available,Procedure,Applicability to admiralty proceedings,Action in rem,Civil Procedure,Admiralty and Shipping,Summary judgment,O 14 r 1 Rules of the Supreme Court 1970,Admiralty jurisdiction and arrest,Whether O 14 procedure available to plaintiff

This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Appeal in Singapore (Wee Chong Jin CJ, T Kulasekaram and AP Rajah JJ) dated 3 November 1980 [reported at [1981] 1 MLJ 132 ].

The appellants were in January 1978 the owners of a ship then named August Eighth.
Their Lordships will call her `the ship` and her owners `the shipowners`. The respondent is Costas Bachas, formerly master of the ship (the master).

On 28 January 1978, the master, acting through solicitors, served on the ship in Singapore harbour an amended writ in an admiralty action in rem which had been begun by them shortly before on his behalf in the High Court of Singapore.
On the front of the writ the property proceeded against was described as the ship August Eighth; the plaintiff was named as Costas Bachas; and the defendants were described as the owners of the ship August Eighth. On the back of the writ there was endorsed an amended statement of claim, in which there were pleaded claims by the master for S$22,577.48 for cash advances to crew, S$36,804.90 for disbursements, and S$2,273.63 for port expenses, making a total of S$61,656.01. When the ship was so served, she was already under arrest in another admiralty action in rem brought against her by her crew for wages. On 2 February 1978 the shipowners, acting through solicitors, entered an unconditional appearance in the master`s action.

On 15 March 1978 the master issued a summons for summary judgment under O 14 of the Rules of the Supreme Court 1970.
By that summons the master applied for liberty to sign judgment against the shipowners in respect of revised and enlarged claims consisting of S$22,577.48 for cash advances to crew, S$39,078.53 for disbursements, S$31,727.50 for his own wages, and S$2,525.67 for moneys paid to the Comptroller of Customs and Excise for offences committed by the crew, making an increased total of S$95,909.18. On 16 March 1978 the master re-amended his statement of claim so as to plead the revised and enlarged claims referred to above. Then or later the re-amended writ and the O 14 summons were served on the shipowners` solicitors.

On 10 May 1978 the master`s O 14 summons, after an earlier adjournment, was heard in chambers by Mr Registrar Michael Khoo Kah Lip (the registrar).
The registrar, having read affidavits put in evidence on either side, made an order to the following effect:

(1) that the shipowners should be at liberty to defend the master`s action on condition that they provided within 14 days of the date of the order security for the total sum of S$95,909.18 claimed;

(2) that, in default of such security being provided, the master should be at liberty to enter final judgment against the shipowners for that sum; and

(3) that the costs of the application should be costs in the cause.

The shipowners did not satisfy the condition with regard to the provision of security imposed by the registrar, and accordingly on 31 July 1978 the master entered judgment against them for S$95,909.18 in respect of his claims and S$350 in respect of his costs.

On 8 August 1978 the shipowners issued a notice of motion in which they applied for an order setting aside the judgment entered against them by the master on two grounds:

(1) that the registrar had had no jurisdiction to hear an application for summary judgment under O 14 in an admiralty action in rem; and

(2) that the master had entered judgment for a sum greater than that due to him.

The shipowners` motion was heard by Choor Singh J in open court on 25 January 1980 when the judge heard argument from counsel on both sides.
Subsequently, by an order dated 4 February 1980 he dismissed the motion with costs. No explanation was given to their Lordships of the extraordinary long delay between the issue and the hearing of the shipowners` application to set aside.

By notice of appeal dated 9 February 1980 followed by a petition of appeal dated 20 March 1980 the shipowners appealed to the Court of Appeal in Singapore against the order of Choor Singh J dated 4 February 1980.
The Court of Appeal, after hearing argument from counsel on both sides, gave on 16 October 1980 a single judgment dismissing the appeal, to which all three members of the court were parties. Later on 3 November 1980 a formal order of the Court of Appeal, dismissing the shipowners` appeal with costs, was drawn up.

On 12 January 1981 on the application of the shipowners, the Court of Appeal made an order to the following effect:

(1) that the shipowners should be at liberty to appeal to this Board against the whole of the decision of the Court of Appeal given on 16 October 1980;

(2) that execution of the judgment entered by the master against the shipowners should be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal; and

(3) that the costs of and incidental to the application should be costs in the appeal.

Their Lordships are not concerned in this appeal with certain matters which either were raised, or else might properly have been raised, at earlier stages of the proceedings.
In particular, subject to the question of jurisdiction to be referred to shortly,...

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