maritime lien

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A maritime lien is a type of lien originating from admiralty law. The lien provides security to a creditor, usually for providing services to the ship or due to injury caused by the ship. Maritime liens arise by operation of law at the moment that the services are rendered or the injury is caused. Maritime liens travel with the property and can be enforced by an in rem action, so the sale of the vessel to a bona fide purchaser without knowledge of the lien will not prevent enforcement. 

The Federal Maritime Lien Act governs the attachment of maritime liens. 46 USC §31342 sets the rules for establishing maritime liens:

(a) "Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a person providing necessaries to a vessel on the order of the owner or a person authorized by the owner--

  1. has a maritime lien on the vessel;
  2. may bring a civil action in rem to enforce the lien; and
  3. is not required to allege or prove in the action that credit was given to the vessel.

(b) This section does not apply to a public vessel.”

[Last updated in June of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]