The diverse nationalities and geographical locations of shipowners, their customers, and their suppliers increase the importance of the ability of each to assert a lien upon the property of the other wherever such property is found. Thus it is not surprising that substantive maritime law is devoted to determining when a lien may be asserted against vessels and cargo.
LIENS ON CARGO
A vessel and its operator have a lien upon the charterer’s or shipper’s cargo for the freight due for carriage of the cargo. The lien often is described as “possessory,” i.e., existing only while the goods are aboard the vessel. Courts, however, have held that the lien arises before the goods are loaded and while the goods are still on the dock, if they have been delivered into the control of the master of the vessel.
LIENS ON VESSELS
Maritime liens on vessels may be either express (by mortgage) or implied by the occurrence of a maritime tort or the performance of a maritime service. State law also may create maritime liens on vessels in limited instances.