Antara Koh v. Eng Tou Offshore
Ang & Partners for Eng Tou
LIMITATION: SECTION 136 OF THE MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT: WHETHER LOSS OCCURRED WITHOUT ACTUAL FAULT OR PRIVITY OF OWNER
A crane that was on the barge "Antara Koh B8" collapsed and fell on the tug "Tambat". Six of the crew members and the crane operator perished in the casualty. The owners of the "Antara Koh B8", Antara Koh Pte Ltd ("Antara Koh") commenced a limitation action for a declaration that their liability was limited to a certain quantum pursuant to the Singapore Merchant Shipping Act. The only party contesting the limitation action was Eng Tou Offshore Pte Ltd ("Eng Tou"), the owners of the tug. The issue was whether the loss had occurred with or without the actual fault or privity of Antara Koh. A further issue was whether Antara Koh had proved its pleaded case that the cause of the loss was due to the negligence of the crane operator.
DMC Rating Category: Confirmed
This Case Note was contributed by Ang & Partners, the Websiteís International Contributors for Singapore
(2) The onus was on Antara Koh to establish that Eng Touís loss was not caused by Antara Kohís "actual fault or privity". The Court found that the crane operator was an experienced one. The Court also accepted Eng Touís expertís opinion that when the crane boom suddenly swung to port, it was indicative of the crane operator having lost control of the crane rather than inadvertence on his part.
(3) It was agreed that there was inadequate welding of the boom. Eng Touís expert opined that this was due to poor workmanship. Antara Kohís expert did not provide any satisfactory challenge of this opinion. Antara Koh however had not pleaded this as a cause of the casualty entitling them to invoke limit. The Court thus found that Antara Koh had not established its pleaded case on this point. The Court further found that, if so pleaded, the use of a defective crane was improper management of equipment necessary for the bargeís operational purpose as a crane barge and, therefore, was within the meaning of section 136(1)(d).
(4) Whilst the above finding would have been sufficient to
dispose of the limitation action, the Court also proceeded to rule that the
use of the defective crane and the consequent damage had occurred with
the actual fault or privity of Antara Koh. The Court examined the conduct of
Koh, as the director who carried out the functions of management and spoke and
acted as the company. There was no system of checks to ensure that managementís
directions relating to crane maintenance were carried out. Koh was found to be
at fault in failing to institute a proper system to ensure that the duties of
the plant manager delegated to the site engineer were performed. Kohís
omission contributed to the occurrence of the loss. Kohís fault was
attributable to the company. Antara Koh was therefore not entitled to a
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