In a recent case(1) the plaintiff, a marine bunker supplier, commenced admiralty proceedings against two of the defendant's vessels for unpaid bunkers supplied to those vessels. Having commenced two in rem actions, the plaintiff successfully arrested the two vessels as security for its claims.

The defendant filed an array of applications in defence of and to resist the claims, all of which were eventually refused by the court; but not before the court remarked that the defendant had "filed every conceivable application and forwarded every thinkable argument to resist" the plaintiff's claims.

One of the defendant's arguments centred on plural writs. A plural writ is one where a plaintiff names more than one vessel in the body of the writ, usually a sister vessel. However, a plaintiff can apply for the arrest of only one of the vessels named in a plural writ and invariably will arrest the first vessel that sails into the court's jurisdiction. In practice, plural writs are amended on arrest of the first vessel by striking out the names of all other vessels, save that on which the writ has been served or the arrest warrant has been issued. The defendant contended that the arrests were flawed, as the plaintiff had not applied to strike out the other vessel from the plural writ after the first vessel was arrested.

After considering the English Court of Appeal judgment in Owners of the motor vessel Monte Ulia v Owners of the ships Banco(2) – a case cited by the defendant – the court ruled that the defendant's argument was not supported by the rules of the court. Further, the rationale in Banco was that after a claimant arrests one vessel, it cannot execute an arrest warrant against the other named vessels. The court opined that the English Court of Appeal judgment did not oblige the plaintiff to strike out the name of the other vessel named in the plural writ after the arrest. As such, the defendant failed to set aside the arrest of its vessels.

For further information on this topic please contact Rajasingam Gothandapani at Shearn Delamore & Co by telephone (+60 3 2070 0644) or email (rajasingam@shearndelamore.com). The Shearn Delamore & Co website can be accessed at www.shearndelamore.com.

Endnotes

(1) Pacific Bunkers Pte Ltd v Owners of the vessel Geniki Johor.

(2) 1971, 1 ALL ER 524.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.