Frequently Asked Questions:
Question: What is a Maritime Lien?
Answer: Under the Federal Maritime Lien Act, if you have provided a service, made repairs, provided supplies, or other "necessaries" to a non-public marine vessel, then you have a maritime lien on the vessel and may bring a civil action in rem to enforce the lien.
This is not like other liens on land. A maritime lien is not a mechanic's lien, and does not require a court order to be called a lien. A maritime lien exists automatically by operation of law, and can, therefore, be considered an "invisible" lien on the vessel's title. Moreover, the vessel itself is responsible for the lien. Accordingly, if one wishes to enforce a maritime lien in federal district court, he or she can seek to have the vessel arrested and foreclosed upon by the U.S. Marshall to satisfy the maritime lien.
Question: Do I have a Maritime Lien?
Answer: If you have provided necessaries to a marine vessel, under the order of the owner or an agent of the owner, and you have not been paid for your work, you have a maritime lien and you may enforce it against the vessel, to seek payment for your services.
Question: Is it worth the trouble to enforce a maritime lien?
Answer: The process to enforce a maritime lien is quite complex, but it is not impossible. Can you sue the owner in small claims court? Yes, you can. But a judgment in small claims court does not guarantee that you will be compensated for your hard work, because you are left with the burden of enforcing that judgment against the parties who didn't want to pay for your services to begin with. Thus, by enforcing the maritime lien in federal district court, the vessel is held accountable for the services provided to it, preventing it from sailing off into the horizon.
If you think you are entitled to payment for services or other necessaries that you have provided to a marine vessel, send me a message through the CONTACT page, or give me a call to schedule a case evaluation.