Plaintiff

The in rem procedure (on the thing) provides a useful alternative form of action to the in personam procedure in respect of maritime (and aviation) disputes. The procedure is available to anyone who may have suffered harm, loss or damage as a result of the action of a vessel (as designed by Section 742 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894). Basically the in rem procedure enables the plaintiff to issue and serve his writ on the ‘res’ or the vessel itself. Historically, legal proceedings were classed as either against land (in rem) or as against personalty (in personam). For the purposes of modern law we should realise that although the nature of property is still classed as such, the actions or legal proceedings in respect of land have long ceased to be in rem. Where a plaintiff is suing a defendant in respect of an interest over land (realty) that action today will be in personam. Thus, for the purposes of modern law, we can say that until around the mid 19th century, all actions in English law were by way of proceedings in personam. Since then an action in rem has been available in certain circumstances in maritime disputes. Admiralty Court Acts in the 19th century (1840 and 1861) introduced into English law the statutory right to arrest, originally conferring it upon claimants in respect of necessary materials supplied or services such as towage, rendered to foreign vessels. The in rem jurisdiction was expanded in 1873 – 1875 by the Supreme Court of Judicature Acts and the right was next consolidated by the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act 1925. This last mentioned statute was replaced by The Administration of Justice Act 1956, this itself being replaced by The Supreme Court Act 1981.