What can be a Maritime Lien?
Though not an exhaustive list, typical maritime liens arise from the failure to pay:
- Ship’s mortgage
- Dockage fees
- Fuel charges
- Mechanic’s invoices
- Towage charges
- Refurbishment and Painting invoices
Maritime liens are unique claims wherein certain creditors can bring a lawsuit directly against a vessel for non-payment of goods or services supplied to that vessel. The lien arises the moment the goods are supplied or the work is completed. A lien becomes delinquent when the request for payment is delayed or denied. Without the help of an experienced maritime practitioner, vendors supplying necessaries and work to a mega-yacht owner often times find themselves at the mercy of the super-wealthy. Countless times vendors supply services and nearing the completion of a job are told by a mega yacht owner the last several invoices, “will be discounted by a substantial percentage and given the amount previously paid you should be happy the owner paid you what he did.”
The strongest weapon a creditor has is the right to arrest the vessel to secure the lien. This is achieved by requesting a federal court to issue warrant of arrest and having the U.S. Marshal seize the vessel. This places the creditor at an advantage as the shipowner cannot use its vessel while under arrest. Moreover, the shipowner must deposit security for the lien into the court’s registry to release the vessel or have the vessel sold on the court house steps. The security deposited or realized as a judicial sale will stay in the court’s registry until the litigation is completed and the disbursed directly to the creditor to satisfy the claim. Such a mechanism alleviates the potential problem of collecting the judgment directly against the shipowner who is likely nothing more than an offshore shell company.
Another option a creditor has to protect its rights is by filing a notice of the lien with the U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center. Though a simple notice of lien claim will not achieve a vessel arrest or a judgment to pay the claim, a filing may violate the shipowner’s mortgage and will deter potential buyers from purchasing the vessel. This places a cloud on the vessel’s title which may cause the shipowner to pay the outstanding debt.
The attorneys at the law firm of Brais Law Firm have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve. To reach our lawyers, you may email the firm, call 800-499-0551 from within the U.S., Skype BraisLaw worldwide, or click Contact Us to select and complete a form for a free evaluation of your case.
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