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The Crewmember Advocacy Center – What You Need to Know About Vessel Arrest

Maritime law is different from state and Federal law. Any proceedings involving a vessel should be taken to a Maritime/Admiralty court instead of a regular state court. Maritime law essentially trumps state law, especially where there are specific provisions regarding a certain situation. Vessel arrest is usually needed to bring a vessel, which is the subject of an investigation under the jurisdiction of a Maritime court. Without seizing the vessel through the procedure of a vessel arrest, the court does not have any jurisdiction on the vessel in question and cannot make any judgments on the same.


Below we will look at some of the main aspects of vessel arrest.


When can a Vessel Arrest be Carried Out?

A sea-going vessel is usually responsible for all maritime liens placed upon it. Since a vessel arrest is an action against the vessel itself and not the owner, except where the owner has officially applied to held personally responsible for the ship’s liens, this action is said to be “in rem” i.e. against a thing and not a person. Liens on a vessel can come about through a variety of instances including claims for unpaid wages, personal injury claims and claims by creditors supplying bunker supplies among others. Due to the complexities of Maritime law and the procedure of carrying out a vessel arrest, it is important to retain the services of a qualified Admiralty attorney when seeking this legal action.


Notice of Vessel Arrest

Once an action is introduced in a Maritime court involving a certain vessel, a vessel arrest must be carried out so as to take control and establish jurisdiction over it. This means that a US Marshall goes aboard the vessel and takes control of it physically. Once a vessel arrest has been carried out successfully, a notice must be placed on the ship to the effect that it is under vessel arrest. Copies of the notice should also be circulated to the person in charge of the ship, the owner and any other lien holder on the same subject matter.


Release via Payment of Bond or Security

Once a vessel arrest is carried out, the court takes control of the vessel from the owner. However, to ensure that there is no disruption of business while the court proceedings continue, the owner is free to apply for a bond to release the vessel from the court’s custody.



It is important to note that although the Marshall takes the vessel to storage, they are not charged with the responsibility of insuring it against damage during this period. It is up to the owner or plaintiff to place Port Risk Insurance on the ship while it remains under vessel arrest.


The sale of a vessel placed under vessel arrest can be classified as a judgment sale or an interlocutory sale. The latter refers to a sale before the judgment has been reached; this only occurs where the set conditions are satisfied.

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