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What is a maritime lien?

On Behalf of | Mar 2, 2023 | Admiralty & Maritime Defense

As a boat owner, you do not want a maritime lien on your vessel. But what exactly does that mean in the first place?

Liens allow for claims against watercraft, which may cause their repossession or the seizure of these vessels as enforcement.

When do maritime liens apply?

Marlin discusses maritime liens. They apply to vessels temporarily withdrawn for repairs or those in navigation. Suppliers can extend their credit to shipowners through such liens.

Outside of the actual vessel, maritime liens may also cover any properties associated with the use of the vessel, or the vessel itself. This may include cargo, fishing gear, electronics, machinery and furniture.

Without consent or recording, most maritime liens come into being. They may come from a contract or a tort. This includes things like claims for a breach of charter and crew wages or unpaid freight.

Exception for liens without notice

There is one primary exception to this general rule of liens happening without advance notice. This comes in the form of preferred ship mortgages. The lender typically records liens in the event that the vessel gets financed through some sort of bank or financial institution.

In order to enforce a lien placed on a vessel, the holder of the lien must file a federal court complaint. The court could then issue an arrest warrant, leading the U.S. Marshals Service to make the related detainment.

This can thus affect the operation of the vessel in question, leading to further problems down the road that might require the necessity of a legal advisor.