The dictionary definition of lien states, ‘The right to take another’s property if an obligation is not discharged.’ In simple terms Lien means that if a person owes something to another person, then the latter can take custody of the former’s property till the debt due to him is cleared. Even in maritime law there exists a concept of maritime lien. Details about the same can be explained further in the article.
Maritime lien is a very important aspect of maritime law. The fundamental difference between maritime lien and the normally applicable lien is that in the case of the former, the liability of the contract falls on the ship and the other particulars (equipments and parts) of the ship rather than the ship’s owner, as it is in the case of the latter where the person responsible is liable to pay the lien.
A few of the other important features and characteristics of maritime lien can be explained as follows:
- Maritime lien can be terminated if the vessel is destroyed. However, if the ship has been demolished partially then the lien will be still applicable. Another way of terminating the lien against the person who holds the lien papers is if the marine admiralty finds that the enforcing of the lien has not been done on time
- The lateness in the enforcing of the maritime lien by the lien holder to judge whether the lien needs to be terminated or not, is decided on the basis of the causes and factors of the delay. There is a specified time period provided by which the lien holder has to file the claim for the lien
- The ship’s parts that come under the purview of maritime lien are the hull, engines, lighters, scows and tackles. The amount raised by the sale of these equipments is used to settle the maritime lien to the lien holder
- The causes for maritime lien arising are accidents to the vessel and thereby injuries to the ship’s personnel in the oceanic waters or because of mortgage transactions. This means that any sort of damage caused because of the ship and indirectly because of the ship’s equipments will invoke the application of maritime lien
- In order to claim the damages, the lien holder must take an action by applying in the courts. In case of multiple maritime liens and shortage of funds, the claims with the highest amount of priority get the compensation
Maritime lien is not without its controversies. One of the most popular ones is about the concept of the ownership of the liability. Since maritime lien invokes the liability on the ship and its equipments, it is sometimes said that this aspect of the marine law is opposition to ‘the entire world.’ However, controversies or no controversies, it cannot be denied that maritime lien as a marine law is a highly effective force.
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