Vessel Arrest

Vessel arrest represents an admiralty legal process handled by a maritime court that addresses American and international laws pertaining to torts, contracts, and personal injury cases occurring over open navigable seas and oceans. The original intent of ship litigation has expanded from covering seas and oceans to include lakes and rivers located within the United States. Craft seizures typically concern the interaction between two or more boats that affect the captain’s responsibility to ensure crew and passenger safety, as well as the legal rights granted to crew members. An admiralty court, which is under federal jurisdiction, oversees the proceedings of a maritime ship custody case.

What Does It Mean?

The federal maritime law includes provisions that prevent a government or commercial liner from moving or trading within the United States navigable waters until the resolution of the court action imposed on the vessel. Federal law enforcement agencies send personnel to detain the craft, but the warrant to bring in the vessel does not mean the operator of the boat admits to the execution of a legal judgment.

Law enforcement authorities have several reasons for taking control of a government or commercial ship. After presenting the warrant, investigators search for clues that help solve the reasons for a collision, personal injury, property theft, or loss of crew and/or passenger life. Violations of customs, regulations, safety standards, and health care statutes also contribute to the issuing of a craft arrest warrant.

The Procedure

United States law dictates that any ship of domestic or foreign origin can be confiscated for the investigation into civil or criminal charges. The proper legal authority for the case makes a formal request that federal maritime law enforcement officials seize a craft for the start of an investigation. The governmental claimant cannot issue more than one arrest warrant against the same craft. Claimants must file a valid and timely claim form that includes, the name of the ship, what is to be confiscated, the purpose of the claim, and proof the claim is outstanding,

How to Prevent Vessel Arrest

When the owner or operator is aware of an active claim, he or she can implement measures to prevent the warrant from turning into an asset seizure. How to prevent a craft arrest is especially important for owners and operators of commercial ships to know. Most cases involve the owner/operator learning about the filing or pending filing of a seizure request. The owner of the boat offers financial security standards to take care of the costs and interest accrued for violating maritime law. Although being proactive does not ensure the stopping of a legal order to confiscate a ship, many courts order the discharge of a ship because the owners of the vessels took care of the outstanding legal liability.


Only the law enforcement authority overseeing the case or the court adjudicating the case can issue a release order for a confiscated recreational or commercial liner. If the court determines the claimant does not have enough evidence or legal backing to proceed with a case, the court can order an immediate release of a ship arrested at sea. Courts can also require claimants to pay for the expenses required to bring in contested vessels, which can involve the creation of a binding contract of which the terms the claimant must follow. Some court decisions mandate claimants pay for the loss of revenue and/or physical damages caused by a vessel arrest.

Adjudicating maritime law requires the legal expertise of a licensed attorney. If you have experienced the confiscation of one or more craft, contact an accomplished maritime law attorney to schedule a free initial consultation.

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