Singapore Court Says No to OW Bunker Interpleaders

A Singapore court rejected consolidated applications for interpleader relief from 13 shipowners and charterers in OW Bunker dispute.

Owners, who were seeking court protection, had purchased bunker stems directly or indirectly from Dynamic Oil Trading, Singapore-based subsidiary of Danish bankrupt marine fuel supplier OW Bunker.

However, the judge Steven Chong ruled that the plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie- a genuine threat of multiple proceeding- case against the purchasers.

“In the result, the consolidated applications are dismissed because the conditions precedent for interpleader relief have not been satisfied and I decline to make any order in relation to the sellers’ substantive claims for the purchase price of the bunkers,” said Chong.

“This court cannot recognise the existence of a prima facie competing (foreign) claim founded upon the speculative existence of a maritime lien in respect of the unpaid bunkers. The interpleader jurisdiction of this court can only be invoked against real and actual claims and not hypothetical and speculative claims,” the ruling reads.

As a result, the physical suppliers who supported the unsuccessful applications will bear their own costs save for the physical supplier, the judge added.

In addition, the ruling further read that there was no evidence that any of the physical suppliers intend to or have any basis to assert a claim in a jurisdiction which recognises a maritime lien in respect of unpaid bunkers.

“Indeed, none of the parties has adduced any evidence that its vessels face any real threat of arrest,” the judge said.

“In summary, I find that interpleader relief cannot be granted because the competing claims raised do not disclose any prima facie case for relief. This finding is sufficient to dispose of the consolidated applications,” he concluded.

The ruling comes in the wake of the English High Court’s decision to uphold the arbitration ruling according to which the fuel supply contract between Greek shipowner Product Shipping & Trading with bankrupt fuel supplier OW Bunker was determined valid.

World Maritime News Staff

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