There are mainly two parties in admiralty actions, Claimant and Defendant. Generally, a claimant is the person who makes a claim. In the context of an admiralty suit in rem the cause is entitled in the name of the libellant against the thing libelled. And therefore “claimant” in admiralty suits in rem is similar to libellant, who claims for the concerned res in issue or the interest involved. Claimant can either be the person whose property is proceeded against or the person under whose care the property is and has duty to represent the actual owner.[i] Therefore, “the claimant is a party, whether he asserts his claim or abandons it.”[ii]
Further, in The Sebastopol, 47 F.2d 336, 342 (D.N.Y. 1931), the court held that if the owners of the vessels come to court as claimants, when actions in rem against their vessels are involved, then they will be considered as petitioners asking for the favor that their vessels be returned to them.
The second party in admiralty actions is a defendant. A defendant can either be the respondent or one who raises a claim to the property in issue whereby opposing libellant’s claim. Defendants can be anyone including claimants who defend an admiralty suit. If a defendant enters an action in rem proceeding, then it becomes an action in personam proceeding.
In admiralty actions parties’ true names must be used. The fictitious names of the parties applicable to no one cannot be used if the original name is known. In Hancock v. First Nat’l Bank, 93 N.Y. 82, 85 (N.Y. 1883), the New York court of appeals held that, the parties can be identified by circumstances or description instead of real name if the real name is unknown to the other party using the fictitious name.
[i] Wight v. Maxwell, 4 Mich. 45, 59 (Mich. 1855)