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Friday, January 12, 2007

Court orders "arrest" of foreign ship berthed at the Tuticorin Port

Exercising its admiralty jurisdiction, the Madras High Court has ordered the "arrest" of a foreign ship, flying the Maldivian flag, berthed at the Tuticorin Port.

Justice K. Chandru granted the plea made by the Pakistan-based Garibsons (Private) Limited and directed the Registry to issue a warrant for the arrest of M.V. Asian Express, formerly known as M.V. Ocean Venture.

Counsel for the petitioner-company S. Vasudevan and Abdul Quddhose submitted that the vessel was transporting a cargo of 5,500 metric tonnes of bagged rice from Karachi in Pakistan to Illychevsk in Ukraine. It sailed out of Karachi on August 29, 2006. "The vessel, instead of prosecuting her voyage from Karachi to Ukraine, remained off Jeddah, and clandestinely travelled to Colombo," they submitted, adding that it had offloaded around 4,000 tonnes of rice at Colombo.

The petitioner-company said while it acted properly and in good faith, the vessel owners had acted fraudulently and in bad faith.

Even before an arrest order obtained in a Sri Lankan court could be executed, the ship sailed out of Galle with a view to "frustrate and defeat the execution of the order and thereby exhibited complete disrespect and disregard to the orders passed by the court."

Claiming that over $ 17 lakh was payable by the ship owners, the petition said unless the plea to arrest and detain the vessel was granted it would sail out of the court's jurisdiction.

As the 30-year-old vessel had already reached the end of its commercial life and it was likely to be beached, broken and sold as scrap, the court should order that the vessel to be condemned and sold, it said.

The vessel, together with her hull, tackle, engines, machinery, apparel, equipment, stores, articles, things and other paraphernalia, should be arrested and detained by a warrant of arrest, it said.

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