England

It is important to bear in mind that arresting a ship is not without risks. The outstanding debt may be as a result of the shipowner simply running out of money.  This could leave only one option which would be for the ship to be appraised (valued) and sold; such a sale is frequently by public auction.  But this path is not straightforward because debts have priorities; the highest priority being the payment of the wages to the officers and crew. Also ranking near the top of the priorities is the mortgage and this is potentially the major stumbling block because it is by no means unusual for the outstanding money due to the mortgagor to exceed the amount realised when the ship is sold and the ship’s personnel paid off.  This then means that the party initiating the arrest achieves nothing and in fact could be significantly worse off.  The aggrieved creditor will have fees to pay to the lawyer acting for him plus the fees of the officer of the court who effected the arrest; in England this officer has the title of Admiralty Marshall.  The potential expenses can go even further because once the ship is arrested, the initiator of the arrest becomes responsible for such things as ensuring the crew are fed and kept warm in winter. Any charges levied by the operators of the port or terminal where the ship is lying, incurred after the arrest, will be the arresting party’s responsibility. Until relatively recently, the law relating to arresting ships was haphazard and depended heavily upon the local law of the jurisdiction concerned; in some countries arrest was impossible, in others an exorbitantly expensive undertaking.  Local law still has considerable influence but many of the imponderables have been eliminated through the arrest convention, the full title of which being the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to the Arrest of Seagoing Ships, Brussels, 10th May 1952.