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Effect of Mooring or Docking On Jurisdiction

Mooring or docking a vessel means to fasten the vessel to a dock.  For the purpose of admiralty jurisdiction, a ship does not cease to be a vessel when it is engaged in unloading or is waiting to unload at a dock.  When a vessel is moored or docked and is safely fastened with a gangplank, or by another means, the admiralty courts have jurisdiction over the vessel.  Similarly, when a ship or vessel employed in navigation and commerce is placed in a dry dock for making necessary repairs, or when the ship is fastened to a wharf in a dry harbor, or when the ship is kept in the dry harbor due to natural recession of water by the ebbing of the tide, the vessel does not cease to be a subject within the admiralty jurisdiction.  This is because when the vessel is moored or docked, it is not becoming part of the land and still retains the status of a vessel.  Moreover, the status of a vessel is not altered when the water is confined within the dock when tide begins to ebb[i] or water is removed to prevent the inflow of water during the repair work.

Courts have held that repair of a ship in dry dock is a maritime activity.  So when water is pumped out of the dock for doing the repair work, the activity does not cause the vessel to lose its distinctive quality and thereby become an activity on the land.  The admiralty courts have continued jurisdiction over a vessel even when it is in a dry dock for the purpose of being repaired.

A vessel floated into a graven dock is distinguished from one in a floating dock.  For the purpose of admiralty jurisdiction, a vessel floated into graven dock is considered to be in navigable waters even though it is permanently attached to the land and water is temporarily withdrawn.

Courts have always confined admiralty jurisdiction to actions for wrongs that occur on navigable water and those which bear a sufficient relation to maritime activity.  Therefore, where a vessel involved in a lawsuit was at one time used in navigable waters but at the time of asserting the injury the ship was placed on blocks and in shed for a long period of time, admiralty courts will loose jurisdiction over the vessel.

Additionally, for establishing admiralty jurisdiction there should be maritime situs.  Maritime situs is also known as location test.  According to the maritime situs requirement, a plaintiff should show that the tort either occurred on navigable waters, or if the injury occurred on land, that it was caused by a vessel on navigable waters.

The factors which a court considers in determining the existence of a substantial maritime relationship are:

  • functions and roles of the parties;
  • types of vehicles and instrumentalities involved;
  • causation and type of injury; and
  • traditional concepts of the role of admiralty law.

 [i] Dailey v. New York, 128 F. 796 (D.N.Y. 1904)

Inside Effect of Mooring or Docking On Jurisdiction