Last time, our admiralty lawyers described a very odd situation involving the Independence of the Seas ship in Norway. So odd in fact, it could be considered somewhat criminal. The vessel was “arrested” this week after a pilot’s association petitioned a Norwegian court. Why did they petition the court, you ask? Simple, the Independence of the Seas failed to pay what was owed. When a ship fails to pay its obligations to any kind of association (ie provision of goods or services), the vessel gets detained, aka “arrested”, until the outstanding balance is paid. If the ship refuses to pay, then the vessel can be sold at auction. Kind of like a foreclosure.
Though a practice not often highlighted in the news, a maritime lien can be enforced at any point when a cruise ship fails to pay its obligations. Much like authorities would do if an individual failed to pay their taxes, mortgage or credit card bills, collectors, etc. In this case the courts, will go after the vessel in question and will use it as collateral until the lien is satisfied. This can happen with a cruise ship, cargo ship or any other type of vessel.
Maritime liens can be placed on ships due to any of the following factors:
- Failure to pay crew member wages
- Failure to pay general claims
- Breach of a charter party
- Failure to pay a ship’s “mortgage”
- Failure to pay costs associated with repairs, supplies, pilotage, and other “necessities”
- Following a personal injury, death, or collision claim
- Following the damage or loss of cargo
- As a result of pollution
But why does this happen to begin with? Well, it’s no secret that (in this case) cruise lines don’t always follow the rules. Our firm has blogged about several cases in which vessels were involved in accidents or became the site of violent crimes, all because onboard safety was not made a priority. Though all maritime vessels must abide by the reasonable safety standards to protect both passengers and crew members from harm, many vessel operators choose to cut corners and avoid paying for improved safety features or improvements to policies, despite the fact that these same cruise operators seem to have no qualms about spending millions of dollars on projects to improve onboard entertainment.