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Analysis of Admiralty Claim No 246 of 2015 in Singapore Strait Collision Case

Rule 10 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS)

1. On 8 August 2015, at 9:59 am, the capesize bulk carrier, Mount Apo (“Mt Apo”) collided with a liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) carrier, Hanjin Ras Laffan.1 The collision occurred within the westbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (“TSS”) in the Singapore Strait. Hanjin Ras Laffan was transiting the Singapore Strait from east to west. Mt Apo had just left the port of Singapore and was attempting to cross the westbound lane of the TSS in order to reach the eastbound lane to continue its journey eastwards.


2. This case raises issues concerning the obligations of a vessel crossing traffic lanes in a TSS under Rule 10 of the International Regulations for 
Preventing Collisions at Sea (as amended) (1972) incorporated as a Schedule to the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Collisions at Sea) Regulations (Cap 179, Section 208, Rg 10, 1990 Rev Ed) (the “COLREGS”). It also raises issues concerning crossing situations under Rules 15 and 17 of the COLREGS. In particular, it raises the interaction between a vessel’s duty under Rule 10(c) to cross a TSS at right angles to the general direction of the traffic flow and that same vessel’s duty under Rule 17 to keep her course and speed as a stand-on vessel in a crossing situation arising under Rule 15. Finally, it raises issues concerning the proper use of very high frequency (“VHF”) radio communications between passing vessels.

3 Admiralty in rem No 246 of 2015 (“ADM 246”) is an action brought by the owner of Mt Apo, Cisslow Shipping Inc. (“Cisslow”) against the owner and/or demise charterer of the Hanjin Ras Laffan in respect of the said collision. Admiralty in rem No 195 of 2015 (“ADM 195”) is an action brought by the owner of the Hanjin Ras Laffan, KSH International S.A. (“KSH”) and the demise charterer, H-Line Shipping Co. Ltd. (“H-Line”) against the owner and/or demise charterer of Mt Apo in respect of the same collision.

4 By an order of court dated 2 June 2016, ADM 246 and ADM 195 were consolidated as one action, with ADM 246 designated the lead action and with the plaintiffs in ADM 195 treated as counterclaiming defendants in the consolidated action. For convenience, this judgment will refer to the plaintiff in the consolidated action simply as “Mt Apo” (without italics) and the counterclaiming defendants collectively as “Hanjin Ras Laffan” (also without italics).

5. As both sides have prayed in their respective Preliminary Acts for a reference to the Registrar to assess the amount of damages, losses and/or
expenses, the trial before me was on apportionment of liability only.

6. Hanjin Ras Laffan alleged that Mt Apo bore the preponderance of the blame for the collision and that liability ought to be apportioned 70% to 30% in Hanjin Ras Laffan’s favour.2 Conversely, Mt Apo alleged that Hanjin Ras Laffan was “predominantly the vessel at fault for the collision”, and submitted that liability should be apportioned 80% to 20% in Mt Apo’s favour. 3 Preliminary Issue on H-Line’s Title to Sue

Rules 15 and 17 of the COLREGS


7. Mt Apo raised a preliminary issue on H-Line’s title to sue. It is common ground that, for H-Line to have title to sue, it has to show that it was the demise charterer of the Hanjin Ras Laffan at the time of collision. Mt Apo’s position is that, as H-Line has not proven that it was the demise charterer of Hanjin Ras Laffan,4 Mt Apo is only liable for the losses of KSH (if any, and subject to apportionment).5 8 In the recent case of NTUC Foodfare Co-operative Ltd v SIA Engineering Co Ltd and anor [2018] 2 SLR 588, the Court of Appeal decided that the law of negligence in Singapore does not require a claimant to own or have possessory title to the property to sue for loss flowing from damage to that
property (at [35]). It is therefore open to question whether H-Line had correctly conceded that it needed to show that it was the demise charterer in order to have title to sue. Nevertheless, since parties had conducted the case on this basis, I shall assume (without deciding the point) that H-Line needed to do so.

9. To prove that it was the demise charterer of Hanjin Ras Laffan, H-Line relied primarily on the testimony of its deputy manager, Ms Yoo Jin Joo.
(Although she had been erroneously referred to as “Ms Yoo” in submissions and some court documents, her surname is actually “Joo”.6) Ms Joo’s role at H Line concerns the management of vessels. Her responsibilities in respect of Hanjin Ras Laffan include regulatory filings with Korean government agencies,7 liaising with the Panama ship registry,8 and liaising with insurers.

10. Ms Joo testified generally, from her personal knowledge gained in the course of her duties, that H-Line and KSH are respectively the bareboat charterer and owner of Hanjin Ras Laffan. Her evidence is that Hanjin Ras Laffan was previously on demise charter to Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd (“Hanjin Shipping”) and the demise charterparty was novated to H-Line on 30 June2014.

Conclusion

215 For the above reasons, I conclude that responsibility for the collision is to be apportioned 60:40 in favour of Hanjin Ras Laffan. There will be judgment on the claim and counterclaim accordingly. As the issues in the claim and the counterclaim overlap, there ought to be one set of costs. The parties are to file written submissions on costs, bearing in mind that damages have to be assessed before the Registrar. The submissions on costs are due two weeks from this judgment.

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