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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kerala High Court orders arrest of Hong Kong-flagged vessel

The Kerala High Court last week ordered the arrest of a Hong Kong-flagged vessel berthed at Cochin Port, one of the rare occasions when a High Court has invoked admiralty jurisdiction. The Vessel was subsequently released after the shipping line reportedly presented a Letter of Undertaking by a P & I Club. It was also asked to furnish a nationalised bank quarantee of Rs.75 lakh.

The Court had used its powers in response to a petition filed by a company against a line for non-delivery of 1,246 cases of liquor imported from the UK. The consignment had been loaded on to the vessel, but was not delivered to the petitioner. The Shipping line clarified that the said consignment was unloaded at the port of Colombo, for transhipment to Cochin. However, due to an error made by the line's officers in Sri Lanka, the consignment was identified as local, instead of one meant for transshipment. Hence, it wasn't loaded on to the feeder vessel headed to Cochin.

The petitioner, on the other hand, alleged that it was not a mistake but done with the malafide intention of taking the liquor cases out of the terminal, under the guise of an error, for the associates of the line in Sri Lanka. The Customs Department at Colombo had charged the line under the provisions of its Customs Act, and though the line approached the High Court of Sri Lanka for redressal, it didn't get any favourable order, according to reports.

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