The "Permina 1017"

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChoor Singh J
Judgment Date13 August 1977
Neutral Citation[1977] SGHC 10
Citation[1977] SGHC 10
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselRichard Stone QC and S Selvadurai (Selvadurai & Emannuel),P Selvam (Drew & Napier),Michael Thomas QC and P Selvadurai (Rodyk & Davidson),S Rajkumar (Donaldson & Burkinshaw)
Docket NumberMotion in Admiralty in Rem No 377 of 1976
Date13 August 1977
Subject MatterOwnership of vessels,Whether defendants 'beneficially owned the ship' and therefore were liable,Admiralty jurisdiction and arrest,Admiralty and Shipping,ss 3(1)(h) & 4(4) High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act (Cap 6, 1970 Ed),Meaning of 'beneficially owned',Claim for non-payment of charter hire,Seizure of ship

The defendants moved this court to set aside the writ in these proceedings for want of jurisdiction. I allowed their application, set aside the writ and all subsequent proceedings and ordered the ship Permina 1017 to be released. In doing so I stated that I would give reasons for my judgment later and I now proceed to do so.

The plaintiffs` claim in this action was nonpayment of instalments under a time charter/hire purchase agreement dated 23 August 1973 in respect of the ship the Noga.

Documents filed in this case established that:

(a) Pertamina were the hirers of the Noga and the charter of 23 August 1973 was converted to a hire-purchase charter by rider dated 7 July 1975. The charter was not a demise charter since the plaintiffs retained possession.

(b) Pertamina were the demise charterers with an option to purchase the Permina 1017 and had the possession and control of the ship.

(c) Pertamina were not related to American Capital Transportation Fifth Ship Sales Incorporated, the owners of Permina 1017.

It was agreed by both parties that the plaintiffs` claim was a claim arising out of an agreement relating to the use or hire of a ship so as to come within s 3(1)(h) of the High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act (Cap 6, 1970 Ed).

It was further agreed, subject to the meaning of the word `charterer` that Pertamina was the person who would be liable in an action in personam being the charterers of the Noga when the cause of action arose within the meaning of s 4(4) of the said Act.

The words of s 4(4) of the Act that fell to be construed on this motion are:

(b) any other ship which, at the time when the action is brought, is beneficially owned as aforesaid.

In the context, and upon the facts of this case, `other` refers to a ship, other than the Noga.
`At the time when the action is brought` means when the writ was issued. `As aforesaid` is a reference to sub-para (a) so that the latter part of (b) should read in extenso.

`... beneficially owned as respects all the shares therein by that person.` `that person` in the context. and upon the facts of this case, is a reference to Pertamina who:

(a) are the persons who would be liable on the claim in an action in personam and

(b) were, when the cause of action arose, the charterers of the ship `Noga` in connection with which the claim arose.

It has been decided by the Court of Appeal in Civil Appeal No 31 of 1976, The Permina 108 [1977] 1 MLJ 49 that in order to invoke an action in rem against `a sister ship` under cl (b) of s 4(4) of the Act, the sister ship does not have to be owned by the same person who owns the ship in respect of which the cause of action arose.
The defendants admitted that this decision of the Court of Appeal was binding on this court as also was the definition given by the Court of Appeal to the word `charterer` but they claimed that `should the aforesaid decision of the Court of Appeal be set aside, Pertamina reserved the right to argue in any subsequent appeal in this case that there was no jurisdiction since the Noga and the Permina 1017 were not in the same ownership nor were Pertamina demise charterers of the Noga.`

The crux of the dispute before me was the meaning of the words `any ... ship which ... is beneficially owned as respects all the shares therein by that person (Pertamina)`.
This was a problem of statutory construction but it was not a new one. It had been considered in three High Court cases, two in England and one in Singapore.

In The Andrea Ursula

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