DSA Consultancy (FZC) v The "Eurohope"

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChua Lee Ming J
Judgment Date31 August 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] SGHC 218
Citation[2017] SGHC 218
Subject MatterAdmiralty and shipping,Admiralty jurisdiction and arrest,Action in rem
Date31 August 2017
Defendant CounselLeong Kah Wah and Lim Ruo Lin (Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP)
Published date12 September 2017
Hearing Date17 November 2016,15 November 2016
Docket NumberAdmiralty in Rem No 63 of 2016 (Registrar’s Appeal Nos 386 and 387 of 2016)
Plaintiff CounselLiew Teck Huat, Dafril Phua and Christopher Yee (Niru & Co LLC)
Chua Lee Ming J: Introduction

The main issue in this case was whether the High Court’s admiralty jurisdiction under the High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act (Cap 123, 2001 Rev Ed) (“the Act”) could be invoked by an action in rem for the sole purpose of obtaining security in aid of pending court proceedings in London. I concluded that it could not.

Undisputed facts

The plaintiff, DSA Consultancy (FZC), chartered the vessel Eurohope (“the Vessel”) from the defendant. The charterparty was governed by English law and contained an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of the High Court of London (except for claims not exceeding US$100,000).

On 29 February 2016, soon after entering into the charterparty, the defendant purported to terminate the charterparty. On 30 March 2016, the plaintiff commenced an admiralty action in the High Court of London for wrongful termination of the charterparty (“the London proceedings”).

On 25 April 2016, the plaintiff issued the writ in rem in the present action and arrested the Vessel. The affidavit filed in support of the application for the warrant of arrest stated that the application for the warrant of arrest was “to obtain security in aid of [the London proceedings]”; and “once the security is obtained, the Plaintiffs intend to apply for a stay of this action with the security in place, pending the determination of the [London proceedings]”.

The defendant furnished security by way of a letter of undertaking issued by the American Steamship Owners Neutral Protection and Indemnity Association Inc (“the American P&I Association”) and the Vessel was released on 29 April 2016.

On 5 May 2016, the plaintiff filed Summons 2153 of 2016 for an order to stay all proceedings in the present action, and for the security furnished by the defendant to remain in force, pending final determination of the London proceedings.

On 17 May 2016, the defendant filed Summons 2377 of 2016 for, among other things, the writ and/or warrant of arrest to be struck out and/or set aside, damages for wrongful arrest and in the alternative, for moderation of the security amount.

The assistant registrar (“AR”) dismissed the defendant’s application and granted the plaintiff’s application. The defendant appealed against the AR’s decisions in both applications. These were Registrar’s Appeal Nos 386 and 387 respectively. I allowed both appeals and struck out the writ and set aside the warrant of arrest. However, I refused the defendant’s application for damages to be assessed for wrongful arrest or wrongful continuation of the arrest of the Vessel.

Whether the writ in rem and/or warrant of arrest should be struck out and/or set aside

Section 3 of the Act confers admiralty jurisdiction on the High Court. The types of admiralty claims that the High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine are set out in s 3(1)(a) to (r) of the Act.

Section 4 of the Act deals with the mode of exercise of the admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court. Broadly speaking, the admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court may be invoked by an action in personam in all cases (s 4(1) of the Act); or by an action in rem where the claim falls within s 4(2)–4(5) of the Act. An action in rem is against the res and allows the plaintiff to obtain security (in the form of the res) for its claim in the action.

In the present case, it was not disputed that the plaintiff’s claim for wrongful termination of the charterparty fell within the scope of s 3(1)(h) of the Act which provides as follows:

3.—(1) The admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court shall be as follows, that is to say, jurisdiction to hear and determine any of the following questions or claims: any claim arising out of any agreement relating to carriage of goods in a ship or to the use or hire of a ship; …

It was also not disputed that by virtue of s 4(4) of the Act, the plaintiff was entitled to invoke the admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court by commencing the present action in rem. Section 4(4) of the Act provides as follows: In the case of any such claim as is mentioned in section 3(1)(d) to (q), where — the claim arises in connection with a ship; and the person who would be liable on the claim in an action in personam (referred to in this subsection as the relevant person) was, when the cause of action arose, the owner or charterer of, or in possession or in control of, the ship,

an action in rem may (whether or not the claim gives rise to a maritime lien on that ship) be brought in the High Court against — that ship, if at the time when the action is brought the relevant person is either the beneficial owner of that ship as respects all the shares in it or the charter of that ship under a charter by demise; or any other ship of which, at the time when the action is brought, the relevant person is the beneficial owner as respects all the shares in it.

However, the plaintiff admitted that it had no intention of proceeding with the present action in Singapore and that the sole purpose of commencing the action was to obtain security in aid of the London proceedings.

The issue before me was whether it was an abuse of process to commence an action in rem for the sole purpose of arresting a vessel in order to obtain security in aid of legal proceedings in a foreign court.

In The “Cap Bon” [1967] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 543, the plaintiff invoked the court’s admiralty jurisdiction for the purpose of providing security for the payment of an arbitration award. The court held that it had no jurisdiction under the Administration of Justice Act 1956 (c 46) (UK) (“AJA 1956”) to arrest ships for this purpose. Brandon J reasoned as follows (at 547):

[Section 3(4) of the AJA...

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1 firm's commentaries
  • Arrest And Security For Foreign Court Proceedings – Clearing The Air On The Eurohope
    • United Kingdom
    • Mondaq UK
    • 21 November 2017
    ...High Court of Singapore in the case of The Eurohope [2017] SGHC 218 (Eurohope) has held that a court in Singapore would not allow a ship arrest if the sole purpose of the arrest is to obtain security for foreign court proceedings as this amounts to an "abuse of In The Eurohope there was a c......

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