Background: The owners of EVERRICH 8 (the Vessel), through their subsidiary Yuanland Ltd, entered into voyage charterparty with Rakha Al Khaleej International LLC (Charterers) for carriage of LPG on board the Vessel. The Charterers sub-chartered the Vessel to Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), a government of India undertaking for carriage of LPG from the Port of Ras-Laffan to the Ports of Sikka, Ennore and Haldia. The owners discharged partial cargo at Port of Ennore (Ennore). The balance cargo of 20,998MT LPG was due to IOCL, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) at the Port of Haldia (Haldia). Mare Maritime Singapore Pte Ltd (Plaintiff) obtained an order of arrest of the Vessel claiming payments due under Ship Management Agreement dated October 24, 2014. The Vessel was arrested at Ennore, on August 20, 2015. The owners of the Vessel moved the court for transfer of the Vessel under arrest, from Ennore to Haldia, to discharge balance Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG).
The issue: The primary issue was whether the vessel be allowed to sail under arrest from Ennore to Haldia, to discharge balance cargo of LPG.
The Owner’s arguments: The owners contended that the vessel be allowed to sail for the following reasons:
The owners offered to be subject to certain conditions i.e. allowing the vessel to sail with Bailiff and police personnel onboard and to bear their expenses.
The plaintiff’s argument: The plaintiff’s submitted that:
Decision: The court held that the application cannot be decided on prejudice created by the plaintiff and needs consideration on its own merit. Further, the court considered that value of the Vessel exceeded the plaintiff’s claim, and the argument regarding possible creation of maritime liens, rendered as baseless. The proposed cargo trans-shipment seemed unrealistic. Conclusively, the court relied on receivers confirmation that failure to deliver the cargo at Haldia could lead to depletion of stock. Further, the Indian Coast Guard confirmed possibility of the Vessel to sail from Ennore to Haldia under surveillance and if the Vessel violates any orders of the court, the Coast Guard may pursue the Vessel and direct it back into Indian Territorial waters. The court relied on a Division Bench order of Bombay High Court, in Lufeng Shipping Co. Ltd. Vs. MV Rainbow Ace wherein the court directed the Vessel ‘RAINBOW ACE’ under arrest be moved from the Pipava Port to Mumbai Port. Therefore, the court allowed the Vessel to sail from Ennore to Haldia, subject to certain conditions:
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