Singapore Shipping Lawyers
As shipping lawyers in Singapore, we have experience in the full gamut of shipping disputes ranging from charter party disputes to demurrage claims to logistics and freight forwarder disputes. We regularly advice clients on GENCON, NYPE and ASBATANKVOY charters.
We are regularly instructed on ship arrests in Singapore, both by the arresting party as well as shipowners seeking to release their vessels from arrest. Our extensive knowledge of shipping law and practice enables us to provide fast and effective solutions when it comes to a Singapore ship arrest.
The carriage of goods from one port to another is but an aspect of the worldwide logistics chain. Apart from ship owners and charterers, other important stakeholders in the logistics chain includes NVOCCs, freight forwarders and warehouse operators. As logistics lawyers we have acted in a number of NVOCCs and freight forwarders disputes.
A ship arrest is one of the often-used tools found in a shipping lawyer’s toolbox. The requirements for the arrest of ships differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As Singapore shipping lawyers, we are well acquainted with the requirements of a ship arrest in Singapore and have acted for claimants in obtaining an arrest, or for the ship’s interests in securing a release of a vessel from arrest.
A ship arrest in Singapore may be set aside if the arresting party failed to provide full and frank disclosure. Ship arrests are commonly challenged on jurisdictional grounds, and on grounds challenging whether the subject matter of the claim falls within the ambit of the High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act in Singapore.
It is therefore important to engage a firm that is well acquainted with the legal requirements of a ship arrest in Singapore to reduce the risk of the arrest being set aside subsequently. We have been instructed on ship arrests arising from numerous types of charterparty disputes, cargo claims, mortgagee claims as well as claims by bunker and ship chandlers.
Logistics and Freight Forwarders
Problems faced by NVOCCs and freight forwarders are often due to the fact that NVOCCs and freight forwarders are the intermediaries of a chain of contracts. For instance, a NVOCC may contract with a cargo owner to ship the cargo from place to another, and in turn enters into a contract with the ocean carrier for the shipment of the cargo. The terms of the NVOCC’s contract are unlikely to be identical to that of the ocean carrier.
In the event of any claims arising from the cargo owner, issues of different limitation regimes being applicable to the NVOCC’s contract with the cargo owner and its contract with the ocean carrier may arise. The two contracts may be subject to different law and jurisdiction clauses which may cause further difficulties for the NVOCC.
A common problem that is faced by both NVOCCs and freight forwarders is the use of simple booking confirmation notes without properly incorporating the applicable standard terms and conditions such as the Singapore Logistics Association Standard Terms and Conditions. As logistics lawyers, we have acted for a number of NVOCCs and freight forwarders in the abovementioned types of disputes.
The types of charterparty disputes are legion. Different disputes that may arise depends on whether it is a voyage, time or bareboat charter. The more common disputes we see range from breaches of the expected readiness to load clause, claims for freight, breaches of the warranty of safe ports and other breaches of contract for voyage charters.
In relation to time charters, we are commonly asked to advice on off-hire claims, speed and consumption claims and disputes arising from the condition of the vessel on re-delivery. We have also dealt with disputes over the classification of charterparties and have experience with the substantive terms of various standard form charters.
With our wide experience as shipping lawyers in advising on different types of charterparties such as ASBATANKVOY, GENCON and NYPE charterparties, we provide fast and clear advice on legal issues arising from charterparty disputes.
Cargo may be shipped in bulk or in containers and it is not unusual for cargo to arrive damaged or for short delivery to occur during shipment. We have advised on claims ranging from damage to cargo, short delivery of cargo to mis-delivery of cargo.
The types of coal include dry bulk cargoes like coal and iron ore, liquid cargoes like gasoil and chemical products, as well as containerised cargo. Very often, we work hand-in-hand with cargo surveyors and other industry experts to assist our clients in obtaining and preserving evidence prior to the adversarial process.
In our experience, the early engagement of lawyers immediately after a cargo claim arises usually helps to reduce legal costs significantly. The proper collation and preservation of evidence at the onset fortifies the client’s legal position and greatly facilitates amicable settlements.
Demurrage claims are part of a charterparty disputes but deserve special mention as these are probably one of the most common disputes in connection with a charterparty. Charterparties typically contain different wordings as to when laytime will run and the instances when demurrage may be excluded.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, demurrage claims have increased dramatically in number due to quarantine requirements and detection of cases of infections amongst crew members. Shipowners and charterers relying on standard form charterparties written prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, find themselves in a situation where the terms of the charterparty are woefully inadequate to deal with the new normal.
Apart from handling demurrage claims as and when they arise, we are often instructed to assist our clients in reviewing the terms of their charterparties, and to recommend suitable amendments to properly reflect the parties’ intention on the allocation of risk of delay at the load or discharge port.
If you have any queries on laytime or demurrage, please feel free to reach out to us ATDNSHINC.
Singapore is a signatory to the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (“LLMC 1976”) as well as the Protocol of 1996 to amend the 1976 Convention (“1996 Protocol”). The purpose of the LLMC 1976, which is also sometimes referred to as tonnage limitation, is to set uniform rules relating to the limitation of liability for maritime claims, while the 1996 Protocol raises the limits of the shipowner’s liability.
The 1996 Protocol took effect in Singapore with effect from 29 December 2019. A shipowner may limit its liability following from a casualty by establishing a limitation fund based on the tonnage of the vessel. The other way tonnage limitation may be relied upon is for the shipowner to plead it in its defence to a claim.
Being a very specialised area of the law, you will need a lawyer with specialist knowledge.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions from our clients.
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The requirements for a ship arrest in Singapore are set out in the High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act (Cap 123). The admiralty jurisdiction of the General Division of the High Court may be invoked in relation to the types of claims set out at Section 3 of the Act. These include mortgagee claims, damage done by or received by a ship, claims arising from any agreement relating to the carriage of goods in a ship, claims in respect of goods and materials supplied to a ship for her operation or maintenance. For claims where there is a maritime lien on the vessel, the offending vessel may be arrested.
For other claims which are mentioned at Section 3(1)(d) to (q), a vessel that is beneficially owned by the person who would be liable on the claim can be arrested, if that person was the owner, charterer or in possession or in control of the offending ship at the time the cause of action arose. This is also commonly referred to as a sister ship arrest.
Q2. Can I commence legal proceedings in Singapore and arrest the vessel for a charterparty dispute even though the charterparty contains a London arbitration clause?
The presence of an arbitration clause in a charterparty providing for arbitration in another jurisdiction is not a bar to the commencement of an in rem action in Singapore and a ship arrest in Singapore. However, as Singapore is a signatory to the New York Convention, the International Arbitration Act (Cap 143A) provides that the Singapore court must stay any proceedings where the dispute is subject to an international arbitration clause.
Section 7 of the International Arbitration Act, however, provides that when the court orders a stay of proceedings, the court has the power to order that any security obtained following the arrest be retained as security for the satisfaction of any awards in the arbitration, or that the stay be conditional upon alternative security being provided.
Q3. I have a simple booking confirmation note with my customer to ship goods in a container from Singapore to Jakarta. The goods were found to be damaged on arrival. Am I liable to my customer?
It all depends on the terms of your contract with your customer. The first issue is to ascertain if you are contracting with your customer as principal or as agent only. If you were merely contracting as agent only, it would depend on whether you are contracting with the ocean carrier as agent for your customer, or whether you were contracting with your customer as agent for the ocean carrier.
If you contracted with your customer as principal, the next issue would be to ascertain the terms of your agreement and whether you incorporated any standard terms into your contract, and whether there are any terms excluding or limiting your liability.
Q4. I am the receiver of a cargo that I bought from my seller and I have received the original bill of lading from my seller. The carriage was arranged by my seller and I did not have any contact with the ship owner. The cargo was damaged during shipment. Do I have a right to claim against the ship owner for the damage to the cargo?
As the lawful holder of the original bill of lading, Section 2 of the Bills of Lading Act (Cap 384) provides that you shall, by virtue of becoming the holder of the bill of lading, have transferred to and vested in you all rights of suit under the contract of carriage as if you had been a party to that contract of carriage with the ship owner.
The bill of lading is the contract of carriage between you and the ship owner. You should however check and ascertain if the bill of lading was issued by the ship owner and one important aspect is to ascertain if the bill of lading was signed for and on behalf of the ship owner or the Master.
Q5. I bought a cargo and the ship has arrived at the discharge port, but I have yet to receive the original bills of lading. Can I demand that the shipowner release the cargo to me without the original bills of lading?
Strictly speaking, the shipowner is entitled to demand the production of the original bills of lading before delivering the cargo to the receivers. If a shipowner delivers without production of the original bills of lading, the shipowner does so at his own peril. A practice has developed, especially in the oil and gas industry, for delivery to be made against a letter of indemnity instead. The provision of a letter of indemnity does not absolve the shipowner from liability for delivery without the original bills of lading. It merely gives the shipowner a right of recourse against the person giving the indemnity if something goes wrong.
Q6. My goods were shipped in a container but they were packed in various packages. In the event of any damage, is the carrier entitled to limit its liability?
If the carriage is covered by a bill of lading, and assuming that the Hague-Visby Rules apply, the carrier is entitled to limit its liability to an amount not exceeding 10,000 francs per package or 30 francs per kilo of gross weight.
A franc refers to a unit consisting of 65.5 milligram of gold of millesimal fineness 900. If the bill of lading described the number of packages of the goods shipped, the number of packages for the purposes of ascertaining limitation shall be based on what was inserted on the bill of lading. If the bill of lading does not state the number of packages inside the container, the container itself will be regarded as one package for the purposes of calculating limitation.
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