A summary of ship arrest in the UK and in English law based jurisdictions

A party contemplating an arrest of a ship in the UK, or in an English law based jurisdiction, can often be confused by the differences between a Maritime Lien and a Maritime Claim, in rem and in personam claims and the precise circumstances necessary to achieve an arrest.  In summary, the English law position is as follows:    

In the UK (and in jurisdictions with largely English law based systems, such as Singapore, HK, Australia, NZ etc) ship arrest is only possible in rem (ie against the ship) as opposed to in personam (against a person/party).

There are 2 forms of in rem proceedings in the UK: (i) a Maritime Lien giving a right in rem, or (ii) a Statutory right to proceed in rem.

Under English law there are only 3 types of claims that give Maritime Liens: Salvage; Crew Wages; Damage done by a ship (contrast that with the USA where all maritime claims give rise to a maritime lien).

A Maritime Lien automatically gives the claimant a right to proceed in rem against the ship regardless of the ownership of the vessel at the time of the arrest.

The Statutory right to proceed in rem is based upon the Arrest Convention 1952 and is divided into 2 parts: the first part covers a ‘proprietary maritime claim’ which is a claim that concerns possession, ownership or mortgage of the ship and the second part concerns: loss of life or personal injury; loss or damage to goods carried onboard; contracts of carriage/hire, etc…. (this is not the complete list).

Under the first part a claimant can arrest the ship.

Under the second part, to proceed in rem against the ship (ie to be able to arrest the ship), the relevant in personam defendant must:

(i) be the owner or charter, or be in possession or control, of the ship when the claim arose; and
(ii) be the beneficial owner or demise charterer when the arrest is made.

For more information about ship arrests, or about IY LEGAL and the legal services we can provide, please visit www.iylegal.com or call us on +44 (0)207 1007714.

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