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“Dead Vessel” Doctrine

According to the dead vessel doctrine, a vessel that is permanently withdrawn from use for navigational purposes is not considered a vessel, in terms of admiralty jurisdiction. However, a vessel cannot be termed a dead vessel only because it is not actively engaged in trade or commerce.  Additionally, a ship can be a “live vessel” and not a dead vessel when it is in dry dock.[i]  A dead vessel is basically any vessel that is permanently retired from navigation.

In P.R. Ports Auth. v. Umpierre-Solares, 456 F.3d 220 (1st Cir. P.R. 2006), it was observed that under the dead ship doctrine, a ship loses its status as a vessel subject to admiralty jurisdiction when its function is so changed that it has no further navigation function.

In re Wepfer Marine, Inc., 344 F. Supp. 2d 1120 (W.D. Tenn. 2004), the court observed that a dead ship which is not defined by a statute is described as one withdrawn from navigation.  However, such withdrawal must be a permanent one.

[i] Meyers v. Pittsburgh S.S. Co., 165 F.2d 642 (6th Cir. Ohio 1948)

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