The "Seaway" CofA
DMC Rating Category: Developed
This Case Note was contributed by Ang & Partners, the Website’s International Contributors for Singapore
S.136 reads as follows:
"(1) The owner of a ship shall not, where all or any of the following occurrences take place without his actual fault or privity:…
(b) where any damage or loss is caused to any goods, merchandise or other things whatsoever on board the ship;…
(d) where any loss or damage is caused to any property (other than any property mentioned in paragraph (b)) or any right is infringed through the act or omission of any person (whether on board the ship or not) in the navigation or management of the ship, … or through any other act or omission of any person on board the ship,….
be liable to damages beyond the following amounts …."
The Court was asked to address a preliminary point of statutory interpretation, as to whether the claim fell within the ambit of s.136(1)(d) of the Act as a claim for (1) loss or damage caused to any property (other than goods, merchandise or other things on board the ship, which comes under (b)); or (2) infringement of Shell’s rights through the act or omission of any person in the navigation or management of the "Seaway".
This case was heard at three levels. At all three levels, the
Court decided that the claim was one for which liability may be limited under
section 136(1)(d) of the Act. At the first instance hearing, the Assistant
Registrar held that private harbour works were "property" under the
first limb of section 136(1)(d). On appeal to a
judge-in-chambers, the judge held that "property" under section
136(1)(d) did not include private harbour works, but concluded that the claim
was an infringement of right within the second limb. Finally, on further appeal
to the Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal decided in favour of the owners of
the "Seaway" on both limbs, namely that private harbour works were
"property" and there was also an infringement of right under that
2. The Court traced the legislative history of section 136(1)(d) and considered the history and text of the Convention Relating to the Limitation of Liability of Owners of Sea-Going Ships, 1957 (the "1957 Convention") on which that section was based. The Court concluded that "property" includes private harbour works. S.136(1)(d) excludes only statutory claims by the port authority for wreck removal and damage caused to a wharf, where the cause of the occurrence is not relevant and the liability is therefore not one for "damages", but for a statutory debt.
3. The Court of Appeal held in the alternative that when the wharf of a person is damaged by the operation of the vessel, the right of the owner is infringed under the second limb of section 136(1)(d).
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