Alpha Trading Monaco Sam v. Sarah Desgagnés (Ship)

In Admiralty Practice, Injunctions on (Updated )

This was an application by the defendant owner of the subject ship for an anti-suit injunction restraining the plaintiff from continuing proceedings commenced in Belgium. The plaintiff was a bunker supplier who had supplied the defendant ship with bunkers at various ports including ports in Canada. The ship was under time charter at the time of the supplies and the time charter contained a prohibition of lien clause and a clause that charterers were responsible for bunkers. The ship was arrested by the plaintiff in this action in Montreal and was later released on the undertaking of the owner to provide bail. Before bail was actually provided, the plaintiff advised that it would amend its statement of claim and proceed with only one supply claim. The plaintiff later commenced proceedings in Italy and Belgium and had the vessel seized in Belgium. The Court noted that the reason the plaintiff was “slicing and dicing” its recovery efforts was because Canadian law required personal liability on the part of the ship owner to support an action in rem whereas under Belgium law a ship may be arrested to secure a claim by a bunker supplier without personal liability of the owner. The Court further noted that the discretion to order an anti-suit injunction should be exercised most carefully. However, the Court did exercise its discretion and granted the injunction on the basis that the plaintiff had commenced these proceedings and accepted the defendant’s undertaking to post bail. Importantly, the Court said that if the plaintiff had not commenced this proceeding in the first instance the defendants would have no standing whatsoever to bring this motion. The Court noted that the plaintiffs could properly have made their claims in a number of jurisdictions but that having made its choice it would be held to it. Accordingly, the Court granted the anti-suit injunction and ordered the plaintiff to release the ship from arrest in Belgium. On appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal in brief reasons merely said that the re-arrest of the ship was, in the circumstances, an attempt to take unfair advantage by forcing the owners to provide security to guarantee a judgment against a third party.