A maritime lien is a substantive right in the property, derived from the general maritime law. Generally, a maritime lien is a lien that attaches to a ship and its cargo. Wherever a maritime lien arises, the injured party can seek remedy, whether for a breach of a maritime contract or for a marine tort, by a suit in rem, or by a suit in personam, at his/her choice.
Common law remedies are not applicable to enforce a maritime lien by a proceeding in rem, and the original jurisdiction to enforce a lien in rem will be exclusive in the federal district courts. State legislatures have no authority to create a maritime lien. Similarly, they do not confer any jurisdiction upon a state court to enforce such a lien by a suit or proceeding in rem. States may not only grant liens for causes of action that are not cognizable in admiralty, either in rem or in personam, but also provides remedies for their enforcement.[i]
However, if the lien is created by the lex loci contractus,[ii] it will generally be respected and enforced in all places where the property is found or where the right can be beneficially enforced by the lex fori.[iii]
[i] The Robert W. Parsons, 191 U.S. 17 (U.S. 1903)
[ii] Law of the place where the contract is made.
[iii] Law of the jurisdiction where an action is pending.