In Rem Claims Against Vessels Under Rule C

Supplemental Admiralty Rule C of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs vessel arrests arising from maritime liens. A maritime lien is a non-possessory right in a vessel that gives the lien holder a right to proceed in rem against the vessel and have it arrested (seized) to secure their claim.

Under Rule C, if an individual has a claim against a vessel, they may have it arrested by the United States government, usually by the U.S. Marshals. Once the Marshals seize the ship, it will typically be turned over to a substitute custodian who is charged with keeping the ship until it is sold at a Marshal’s sale or released back to its owner.

In Rem Claims Against Vessels | Washington, Alaska, California and Oregon Lawyers

If you have an admiralty or maritime law question regarding in rem claims against vessels, contact Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP. Our maritime and admiralty lawyers have four decades of combined experience representing clients in the courts of Washington, California, Oregon, and Alaska. We can help you seek the justice you deserve.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule an initial consultation with Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP. Our lawyers are prepared to counsel you on the nuances of general maritime law..

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Information Center

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Maritime Liens

Maritime liens are governed by the Commercial Instruments and Maritime Liens Act (“CILMA”) and general maritime law. Liens arising by operation of law may be waived in an employment contract. Maritime liens may arise from torts, contracts, or other services like salvage or towage, including but not limited to the following claims:

  • Seamen’s wages
  • Salvage operations
  • Suppliers, repairs, and other necessaries provided to a vessel
  • Claims for damages or loss of cargo
  • Claims by carriers for unpaid cargo

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Rule C Complaint

Rule C provides that a complaint alleging a maritime lien against a vessel for a maritime injury that occurred aboard the ship must, among other things:

  • Be verified;
  • Described with reasonable particularity the property that is the subject of the act; and
  • State that the property is within the district or will be within the district while the action is pending.

If a seaman files a proper complaint meeting the above requirements, an order and warrant for arrest may be sought, allowing for an arrest of the vessel on which the injuries occurred. For a motion for a warrant to be granted, the claimant will generally be required to file, in addition to the complaint, a written verification attesting to the truth of the statements and a memorandum of law that sets forth the reasons why the warrant should be issued.

If the motion is granted, U.S. Marshals will seize the vessel. The seaman must pay daily custodial costs, such as insurance coverage and fees, to store the vessel. While it may be expensive to arrest a vessel, a major benefit is that the vessel’s arrest allows the seaman to secure any judgment issued following a trial.  This is particularly beneficial where the vessel owner fails to obtain protection and indemnity insurance for the vessel’s crew.


Upon arrest by U.S. Marshals, a clock starts ticking. If the vessel is not released within 14 days after its arrest, the plaintiff is required to give public notice. Additionally, if the arresting party is a mortgagee, they must provide notice to all known lienholders.

Security And Release

After an arrest, a vessel can be released if adequate security is posted by its owner. For security to be considered adequate, the parties will usually agree upon the amount and type of security that will be adequate for the vessel’s release. However, if the parties cannot agree, the court can order security to be posted in certain circumstances.

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Types Of Security

Several types of security may be accepted, including but not limited to:

  • Bank guarantees
  • Bail bonds
  • Insurance company bonds
  • Cash bonds
  • P&I Club Letter of Undertaking (“LOU”)

An LOU is issued instead of a bond and generally must include some key terms such as:

  • Description of the incident
  • Law and jurisdiction clause
  • A definite and reasonable amount of security
  • Consideration to not arrest or rearrest as broad as possible

In a situation in which the owner of the vessel does not post its security promptly, the arresting party can move for an order directing the sale of the vessel. To allow for a sale, the party will often need to show that (1) a vessel is subject to deterioration; (2) the expense of keeping the vessel is excessive; or (3) the owner’s delay in posting security is unreasonable.

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Additional Resources

Arrested and Detained Vessels and Abandoned Seafarers – This pdf is meant to be a guide to assist port welfare committee members and welfare agencies when a vessel is abandoned or arrested.

U.S. Marshal Service – This website provides an overview of the U.S. Marshal’s jurisdiction and authority under admiralty and maritime law.

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Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California Maritime Lawyers | In Rem Claims Against Vessels

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a maritime accident, the experienced maritime attorneys at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP can help you understand your rights. It is important that you retain a skilled attorney that can help you determine if its worthwhile to bring  an in rem claim against the vessel that caused your injuries.

With decades of combined experience, Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP can help you secure optimal compensation for your case. If you work aboard a vessel hailing from Washington, Oregon, California, or Alaska, call 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule an initial consultation with our legal team.

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