Johnny

It should be noted that the ship’s agents also have the right of in rem action against a vessel. They appear as one of the listed maritime claimants (Section 20 (2) (p) of the 1981 Act). A ship’s agent can, therefore, avail himself of the statutory right in respect of a claim he may have for disbursements outlaid on account of a vessel. The writ in rem is the legal document by which the ship is actually detained within the jurisdiction pursuant to the right in rem as described above. Like the writ in personam it is issued in the court and then is served upon not the defendant himself but the actual vessel in question. The writ names the ship and is served on the ship by an officer of the Admiralty Court, the Admiralty Marshall. Originally it was fixed to the mast. Now it is either served personally on the Master on board or left displayed prominently on board. Students are referred to the procedure laid down in The Johnny Two (1992) and the procedural requirements under 075. It enables the plaintiff to establish jurisdiction and to take action whereby it may be impossible to serve the writ in personam and bring the actual defendant himself into court. It may be, of course, that the cause of action in respect of which the writ in rem is served, is a contractual dispute. Often in contracts for the carriage of goods by sea there is an exclusive jurisdiction clause which indicates the parties’ joint wishes when entering into the contract as to which jurisdiction they want to handle any disputes arising. English judges tend to uphold such clauses unless to do so would be palpably unfair to one side or unreasonably inconvenient and expensive to both parties. Where the claim arises from a tort (e.g. a collision), the courts may again have to determine whether or not to exercise their jurisdiction. This would of course depend on the particular facts in question relating to the individual case and although the court will usually hold that they do have jurisdiction and apply English law, it is much harder in tort than in contract to find a judicial rule which establishes this.