Treasure Valley v. Saputra Teddy

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Treasure Valley Group Ltd v Saputra Teddy and Another (Ultramarine Holdings Ltd, intervener)
Singapore High Court: Belinda Ang Saw Ean J: [2005] 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 sale proceeds).

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 duly ordered.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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