In Rem Arrest

Federal statute provides that if the conditions for an in rem action appear to exist, the clerk of the court may issue a warrant for the arrest of the vessel or other property that is the subject of the action.[i] Further, if the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney certifies that exigent circumstances make courts review impracticable, the clerk of the court may issue a summons and a warrant for the arrest of the vessel or other property that is the subject of the action.[ii]

According to USCS Admiralty and Maritime Claims R C (b) (i), if the property that is the subject of the action is a vessel or tangible property on board a vessel, the warrant and any supplemental process should be delivered to the marshal for service.  Also, if the property that is the subject of the action is tangible or intangible property, the warrant and any supplemental process should be delivered to:

  • a marshal,
  • someone under contract with the United States,
  • someone specially appointed by the court for that purpose, or
  • in an action brought by the United States, any officer or employee of the United States.[iii]

As per USCS Admiralty and Maritime Claims R C (c), if the property that is the subject of the action consists in whole or in part of freight or the proceeds of property sold or other intangible property, the clerk of court issues a summons directing any person controlling the property to show cause why it should not be deposited in court to abide the judgment.  Further, the clerk of the court may issue supplemental process to enforce the court’s order without further court order.[iv]

In Caparelli v. Proceeds of Freight, etc., 390 F. Supp. 1345 (S.D.N.Y. 1974), the court held that a maritime lien may be enforced against freight, demurrage and laying up expenses.  The failure to arrest a vessel results in a failure to establish in rem jurisdiction over the vessel.  However, an unsupported allegation that a vessel would be present in a federal district is insufficient to warrant the retention of jurisdiction.[v] In Thypin Steel Co. v. Asoma Corp., 215 F.3d 273, 278 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2000) court held that a purchase agreement for the sale of a vessel is not a maritime contract and a breach of one does not give rise to admiralty jurisdiction.  Additionally, a warrant to arrest will not be issued, if the agreement of the parties is a sale agreement.[vi]

[i] USCS Admiralty and Maritime Claims R C 3 (a) (i)

[ii] USCS Admiralty and Maritime Claims R C 3 (a) (ii)

[iii] USCS Admiralty and Maritime Claims R C 3 (b) (ii)

[iv] USCS Admiralty and Maritime Claims R C (d)

[v] Lana Mora, Inc. v. S.S. Woermann Ulanga, 672 F. Supp. 125 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)

[vi] Cary Marine, Inc. v. Motorvessel Papillon, 872 F.2d 751 (6th Cir. Ohio 1989)


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