Wharfage and Dockage

A wharf is a structure on the harbor shore where ships are docked to load and unload cargo or passengers.  The duty paid for the privilege of using a wharf is called the “wharfage”.  A dock is an area of water for building or repairing or loading and unloading of ships and ferries.  Dockage is the fee charged for a vessel to use a dock.

Generally, wharfage and dockage claims are within the jurisdiction of admiralty courts.  This is because a wharf is a necessary terminus of every voyage.  Wharf accommodation is necessity for navigation and is indispensable for ships, vessels and water-craft of every name and description, whether employed in carrying freight or passengers, or engaged in the fisheries.  Thus wharfage is inseparable from the ship, and incurred for the benefit of all interested therein[i].

However, admiralty jurisdiction depends on whether the ship was taken out of navigation by the use of the wharf.  If it is not taken out of navigation, wharfage claim come within admiralty jurisdiction.  A ship is not taken out of navigation when the wharf is used only for restoration of the ship between two voyages.  That is, restoring the ship after one voyage preparatory to another.

[i] The Kate Tremaine, 1871 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 205 (E.D.N.Y. 1871).

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