Treasure Valley Group Ltd v Saputra Teddy and Another (Ultramarine Holdings Ltd,
Singapore High Court: Belinda Ang Saw Ean J:  SGHC 217: 21 November 2005
Rajah and Tann for Treasure Valley Group
Rodyk and Davidson for Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine Holdings
Admiralty: Whether VESSEL WAS WRONGFULLY
ARRESTED: Whether Warrant of Arrest can be set aside after the vessel has been
sold pendente lite : DOCTRINE OF APPROBATION AND REPROBATION
In this case the judge held that a party that had obtained permission to pay the
wages of the crew of a vessel under arrest and had subsequently consented to her
sale could not then apply to set aside the original arrest order on the grounds
of non-disclosure. To consider such an application would allow the applicant
both to approbate (approve) and reprobate (reject) the arrest
DMC Category Rating: Confirmed
This Case Note was contributed by Ang
& Partners, the Website’s International
Contributors for Singapore
The Plaintiff, Treasure Valley Group Pte Ltd ("Treasure Valley"),
made a claim against persons having possession of the "Seeker I", namely
the master of the "Seeker I" and/or Capt Michael Hatcher.
Capt Hatcher is a well-known and professional salvor of
acclaimed recoveries, including ancient wrecks. United Sub-Sea Services
International Limited ("USSIL") entered into principally two marine
salvage agreements with Capt Hatcher and an Indonesian company. Pursuant to
these agreements, Capt Hatcher was to lead expeditions to locate wrecks and
salvage their cargoes. The "Seeker I" is a specialized survey and salvage
support vessel, in which both both USSIL and Capt Hatcher claimed an interest.
It transpired that Ultramarine acquired a 40% interest in the
shareholdings of USSIL.
On 25 October 2004, Treasure Valley arrested the
vessel. Ultramarine Holdings Ltd ("Ultramarine") intervened in the
action and claimed an interest in the vessel. On 12 November 2004, Capt Hatcher
and the Interveners Ultramarine applied for and obtained leave to make payments
to all or some of the crew for wages and/or other emoluments earned by them
while serving on board the vessel, with such payments forming part of the
Sheriff’s expenses (and thereby acquiring priority in the distribution of any
Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine filed their challenge to the arrest
on 15 December 2004 on the ground of material non-disclosure. Capt Hatcher and
Ultramarine also asked for an inquiry as to the damages sustained by reason of
the wrongful arrest.
Treasure Valley filed an application for the sale of the vessel pendente
lite [while the case is pending] on 25 February 2005. The sale application
was adjourned pending the decision of the application to set aside the arrest
order. On the adjourned hearing for the sale of the vessel, Capt Hatcher and
Ultramarine did not object in principle to the sale. A sale of the vessel was
It was not disputed that the claim fell within Section 3(1)(a) of the High
Court Admiralty Jurisdiction (the Act), being a claim to the possession of a
ship. However, in the course of these proceedings Treasure Valley’s right
to possession of the vessel was disputed. The Judge said that this issue
should be determined at trial.
- The Judge, however, was of the view that it was too late for the court to
embark on the inquiry whether the Warrant of Arrest should be set aside.
Certain procedural steps had been taken after the arrest, all of which
depended for their viability upon the arrest and its effect.
- The vessel was ordered to be sold with the knowledge and concurrence of
Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine. It was too late for Capt Hatcher and
Ultramarine to apply subsequently to set aside the arrest.
- Furthermore, at the time when Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine obtained the
order of 12 November 2004 to pay the crew and for the payments to be
treated as part of the Sheriff’s expenses, there was no challenge to the
arrest. In seeking an order that crew wages be treated as part of the
Sheriff’s expenses, Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine were asking that
they should receive priority and be reimbursed the money expended to pay
crew wages over other claims while the ship was in custody.
- The doctrine of approbation and reprobation precludes a person who has
exercised a right from exercising another right which is alternative to and
inconsistent with the right he has exercised.
- The Judge found this doctrine to be applicable to the facts
of the case. Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine had consciously adopted
inconsistent attitudes. If the court were to allow Capt Hatcher and
Ultramarine to set aside the arrest, it would be seen to condone approbation
and reprobation of the arrest. Both of them supported the arrest by seeking
the order of 12 November 2004 and later on, by allowing the order for
sale of the vessel to be made before the determination whether the arrest
should be set aside. Conversely, by challenging the arrest of the vessel,
Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine sought to reprobate the arrest. There would
accordingly be no legal basis for an inquiry for damages for wrongful arrest.
Belinda Ang J. commented that a dismissal of the appeal did not
bar Capt Hatcher and Ultramarine from pleading and contending at the trial that
there was malice in bringing this action for possession. It was open to Capt
Hatcher and Ultramarine to reassert and take issue with what has been alleged to
be an ill-founded and vexatious claim for possession (and as a corollary, the
arrest) based on some false plea.
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