In (1) Clearlake Shipping Pte Ltd and (2) Guvnor Singapore Pte Ltd v Xiang Da Marine Pte Ltd [2019] EWHC 2284 (Comm), the English High Court continued anti-suit injunctions (previously obtained "without notice") restraining the owner of a vessel from bringing/continuing (third party) claims in the Singaporean Courts:

  • against the charterer of the vessel which, like the owner, was party to a charterparty and letters of indemnity containing (differently-worded) jurisdiction clauses in favour of the English Courts; and
  • against a sub-charterer which had no contractual relationship, and thus no jurisdiction agreement, with the owner.  

As regards the claims against the charterer, this was because the English jurisdiction agreements between it and the owner should be interpreted consistently where possible - in this case as exclusive clauses – and, as such, they should be enforced by means of an anti-suit injunction on the "contractual basis" in the absence of any strong reasons to the contrary.

As regards the claims against the sub-charterer, the anti-suit injunction was continued on the basis that it would be "vexatious or oppressive" from the sub-charterer's perspective for such claims to be heard in Singapore, since:

  • England was the natural forum for the dispute between the owner and the charterer and sub-charterer (since, although all three entities were incorporated in Singapore, there were exclusive English jurisdiction clauses in the charterparty, the sub-charter and the bills of lading);
  • by bringing a tortious misrepresentation claim solely against the sub-charterer and not against the charterer, the owner had manipulated its Singaporean claims to try to avoid being caught by the exclusive jurisdiction clause in the charterparty;
  • the claims against the charterer would be heard in England and, so as to avoid forum fragmentation on the same issues, there was good reason to have all the claims between the owner and the charterer and sub-charterer in the same jurisdiction (i.e. England); and
  • consequently, it was necessary in the interests of justice to grant the anti-suit injunction taking in to account considerations of comity.

In view of those decisions, the Judge declined to decide whether the charterer was itself entitled to an anti-suit injunction in respect of the Singaporean claims against the sub-charterer:

  • on the "contractual basis" via an assertion that the jurisdiction clause extended to the Singaporean claims against the sub-charterer; and/or
  • on the basis that those claims against the sub-charterer were "vexatious or oppressive" from the charterer's perspective.

As the Judge himself noted, the owner's procedural manoeuvre – designed to evade the jurisdiction clause – may well be of a type that had not previously triggered an English anti-suit injunction.  Consequently, this Judgment may pave the way for the granting of anti-suit injunctions in other circumstances in which such tactics are employed – especially in view of the Court of Appeal's previous indication that "the categories of factors which indicate vexation or oppression are not closed".

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