Knowledge Highlights 22 January 2021

Solicitors representing plaintiffs in admiralty proceedings in Singapore are now permitted to serve a warrant of arrest and/or a writ of summons in an admiralty in rem action (“writ”) on the agent of the ship. While the new procedures that take effect on 22 January 2021 may reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission, they require agents of ships to be on the alert and may pose risks for ship owners who may face delay in being notified of the service of court papers.

The new procedures are set out in the new Order 70 rule 10A of the Rules of Court, which was introduced by the Rules of Court (Amendment) Rules 2021. In conjunction with this, the Supreme Court Registrar has issued the Supreme Court Practice Directions Amendment No. 1 of 2021 (“Amendment Practice Directions”) on (a) notification requirements of the service of a warrant of arrest and/or a writ, and (b) filing requirements for entering judgment in default. The Sheriff of the Supreme Court has also dispensed with the need for a security guard to be deployed on board an arrested vessel for the duration of the arrest of the vessel with effect from 15 January 2021.

An overview of the new mode of service is set out below.

Effective date and duration

The new rules came into operation on 22 January 2021 and will continue to apply as long as the Covid-19 restrictions imposed on the maritime industry by either or both of the following regulations remain in force, namely:

a.  Regulations 61A, 61B and 61C of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (Port) Regulations (“MPA Regulations”); and

b.  Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020 (“Covid-19 Regulations”).

Service on the agent of the ship

Pursuant to Order 70 rule 10A(1) read with Order 70 rule 10A(5) of the Rules of Court, service of a warrant of arrest or writ against a ship, freight or cargo may be effected by:

a.  leaving a copy of the warrant of arrest or writ (as the case may be) with the agent of the ship or, in any case where the agent of the ship is a body corporate, at the registered or principal office of the agent of the ship; and

b.  transmitting the warrant of arrest or writ (as the case may be) in either of the following ways: (i) by FAX to the FAX number (if any) specified by the agent of the ship as the FAX number of that agent; or (ii) by electronic mail to the electronic mail address (if any) specified by the agent of the ship as the electronic mail address of that agent.

Deemed service

Pursuant to Order 70 rule 10A(2) of the Rules of Court, where the warrant of arrest or writ is served on the agent of the ship in accordance with Order 70 rule 10A(1) of the Rules of Court:

a.  the warrant of arrest or writ (as the case may be) will be deemed to have been served on the property against which it is issued; and

b.  the time of service of the warrant of arrest or writ will be the later of (i) the time that the warrant of arrest or writ (as the case may be) was left with the agent of the ship in accordance with the manner described above, or (ii) the time that the entire warrant of arrest or writ (as the case may be) was received by FAX or electronic mail transmitted in accordance with the manner of service on the agent of the ship as described above (whichever is applicable).

Notification of arrest to owner and Master of ship

Pursuant to Paragraph 124(5) of the Amendment Practice Directions, solicitors representing arresting parties must make reasonable efforts to notify the following persons and entities in writing of the service of the warrant of arrest or the writ as soon as practicable after the warrant of arrest or the writ (as the case may be) is served in accordance with Order 70, rule 10A(1) of the Rules of Court:

a.  the owner of the ship;

b.  the demise charterer (if any) of the ship;

c.  the Master of the ship;

d.  the manager of the ship; and

e.  if the ship is in a shipyard - the shipyard.

Report of arrest

Pursuant to Order 70 rule 10A(3) of the Rules of Court read with Paragraph 124(6) of the Amendment Practice Directions, where the warrant of arrest is served on the agent of the ship in accordance with Order 70 rule 10A(1), the report of arrest required under Order 70 rule 9(7) must:

a.  have annexed to it a copy of the results of a search on the ship conducted on the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (“MPA”) website digitalport.mpa.gov.sg showing: (i) the identity of the agent of the ship; and (ii) the location of the ship or, where the property is cargo, the ship in which the cargo was carried, within the limits of the port declared under section 3(1) of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore Act (“Port Limits”), on the date and at the time of the service of the warrant of arrest; and

b.  state the date and time on which the search mentioned in sub-paragraph a. was conducted.

Entering judgment in default

Pursuant to Order 70 rule 10A(4) of the Rules of Court read with Paragraph 124(6) of the Amendment Practice Directions, where the writ is served on the agent of the ship in accordance with Order 70 rule 10A(1) of the Rules of Court, the plaintiff will not be entitled to enter final or interlocutory judgment in default of appearance or in default of defence unless:

a.  within eight days after service, the plaintiff files a memorandum of service in a prescribed form:

i.  containing particulars of (A) the day of the week, date and time on which the writ was served; (B) where the writ was served; (C) how it was served; and (D) the person on whom the writ was served and the capacity in which that person was served;

ii.  to which is annexed a copy of the results of a search on the ship conducted on the MPA website showing (A) the identity of the agent of the ship; and (B) the location of the ship or, where the property is cargo, the ship in which the cargo was carried, within Port Limits, on the date and at the time of the service of the writ; and

iii.  stating the date and time on which the search mentioned in sub-paragraph ii. was conducted; or

b.  the court otherwise orders.

Dispensation of security guard

In line with the Covid-19 control measures imposed by the MPA Regulations and Covid-19 Regulations, the Sheriff of the Supreme Court has dispensed with the need for a security guard to be deployed on board an arrested vessel for the duration of the arrest of the vessel. This dispensation took effect from 15 January 2021 and will remain in place until further notice.

In lieu of a security guard, the arresting party’s solicitors will be required to engage shipwatch services and provide daily updates to the Sheriff’s Office on the location of the vessel, starting from the day the vessel is arrested until the vessel is released.

Impact on the maritime community

The introduction of these temporary rules should make it safer for ships to be arrested and/or served with a writ in the current Covid-19 environment as there will no longer be any requirement for anyone to physically attend on board a ship to effect service. However, it is anticipated that this new mode of service may impose an additional onus on agent of the ship in having to keep a constant look out for a writ or warrant of arrest and to convey them expeditiously to the Master or owner of the ship.

From the point of view of ship owners, there remains the risk of delay between the time the writ or warrant of arrest are deemed served on the agent of the ship and the time they are notified by the agent of the service but hopefully this risk will be minimised by the requirement under the Amendment Practice Directions for the arresting party’s solicitors to notify various persons and entities including in particular the Master and owner of the ship directly as soon as practicable after the writ or the warrant of arrest (as the case may be) has been served on the agent of the ship.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Singapore Statutes Online website sso.agc.gov.sg and Supreme Court website www.supremecourt.gov.sg:

Further information

Allen & Gledhill has a Covid-19 Resource Centre on our website www.allenandgledhill.com that contains knowhow and materials on legal and regulatory aspects of the Covid-19 crisis.

In addition, we have a cross-disciplinary Covid-19 Legal Task Force consisting of Partners across various practice areas to provide rapid assistance. Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at covid19taskforce@allenandgledhill.com.

More

Knowledge Highlights 4 March 2021

Singapore High Court rules for the first time that the “Single Liability Principle” does not apply in a collision claim ...

Read more