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Sri Lanka files a lawsuit in Singapore over the X-Press Pearl disaster

By: Staff Writer

Colombo (LNW): A case has been filed in Singapore over the X-Press Pearl incident, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The Attorney General (AG) filed the claim in the High Court of Singapore over the X-Press Pearl incident involving six defendants.

A case conference hearing took place on 15th May and the next hearing is scheduled for June, PMD said.

The AG’s department is considering transferring the case to the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) based on SICC’s rules and litigation is being managed by a Singaporean law firm approved by the Cabinet to represent the Sri Lankan Government.

X-Press Pearl was a Singapore-registered container ship which caught fire off the coast of Colombo, in May 2021.

The vessel was engulfed in flames by 27 May 2021 and declared a total loss. It was still afloat, and the fire was thought to be under control by Sri Lankan firefighters by the late hours of 27 May 2021.

Following a lapse of four years, the Sri Lankan government filed the compensation claim for the X-press Pearl inferno at a Singapore Court on May 9and the proceedings commenced on May 15 The estimate has been calculated at USD 6.2 billion, but this amount has not yet been finalized.

However, several maritime legal experts raised concerns when the government planned to file the case in an international court as they believed that it would be an advantage to the company that owns the ship.

But international arbitration experts claim Sri Lanka has an advantage in filing the case in an international court.

Explaining the litigation process in an international court, Manthi Wickramasooriya, of Counsel at Quinn Emanuel Office, London and an international arbitration and commercial litigation specialist said that as he understands from the limited information available publicly, the claim that has been filed by the Government of Sri Lanka is a claim before the courts of Singapore.

“This would ordinarily mean the Singapore High Court (and could perhaps even be a claim before the Singapore International Commercial Court).”

“The litigation process in Singapore is well-established and is, in broad terms, no different to other international fora, such as the courts of England and Wales.

Ordinarily, once a party files its claim, there is a pleadings phase where both parties exchange their legal cases, followed by the production of relevant documents (typically known as ‘disclosure’ or ‘discovery’ in the US), the exchange of evidence of fact witnesses and the exchange of expert evidence (e.g. expert evidence in demonstrating the losses caused, and also quantifying the amount of the alleged loss).

This is followed by a public trial during which fact witnesses and experts will be cross-examined and submissions are made by the legal teams. In a case of this magnitude, a trial may well last a month or longer. Once the trial has been concluded, the court will issue its judgement, he explained.

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