|The Law Office of|
|MARK C. MANNING, P.C.|
|ARRESTING A VESSEL IN ALASKA
Ship mortgages and certain types of marine casualty, boating accident and commercial transaction give rise to maritime liens against vessels that secure payment of an underlying obligation. Maritime liens may only be foreclosed upon by means of an admiralty action in the appropriate United States District Court. This page is intended to provide general information on maritime lien foreclosure actions in the District of Alaska. These materials are not intended as legal advice, which should be sought from a qualified attorney.
INITIATING THE ACTION
Foreclosure actions in the District of Alaska are governed by the District Court's Local Admiralty Rules. An action to foreclose a maritime lien is commenced by the filing of a verified in rem complaint, civil cover sheet and $350.00 filing fee, which may be accompanied by the following papers:
If Plaintiff's representative has all appropriate documentation at hand, a lawyer could prepare and file a straightforward case in less than two hours. If the papers appear to the court to be in order, an order and warrant for the arrest of the defendant vessel will probably be issued within no more than one business day. A filing early in a business day may well produce an order and warrant before the court closes that day.
THE MARSHALS' ROLE
The District of Alaska's Marshals Service's Admiralty
Information Packet contains much useful information concerning arrest
and custody. Except in extraordinary cases, arrest and
service are accomplished by the U. S. Marshals Service. The Marshals Service's
Anchorage office telephone number is (907) 271-5154. It is usually best to begin to
communicate with the Marshals' office prior to commencement of the action, or as soon
thereafter as possible. The Marshals' office may have to coordinate the scheduling
of a trip to arrest the defendant vessel with the office's other responsibilities.
Therefore, the sooner Plaintiff gets in line, the better. In addition, a Marshal
will probably not be dispatched until the requisite cost deposit is made. The
quantum of such deposits varies, and will need to be derived for the particular case.
COSTS OF ARREST AND CUSTODY
Costs of arrest may include those expenses incurred by the Marshals Service in wages to a deputy marshal and for travel, lodging, and meal expenses in the round-trip to and from the vessel's location. The deposit the Marshal will require before proceeding with arrest usually ranges between $3,000 and $6,000. Total expenditures by the Marshall may be substantially less than this.
Following arrest, it may be necessary to keep the vessel in custody for several months. Economic considerations almost always compel plaintiffs to engage "substitute custodians." It is almost always best to obtain an order appointing a substitute custodian prior to arrest. The costs of custody will typically include the custodian's daily, weekly, or monthly fee, moorage or storage ashore, electricity, the custodian's liability insurance, and the government's liability insurance. Custodial liability insurance may be obtainable through Plaintiff's broker, but can be obtained through the Marshals' office. It should be noted that the insurance only insures the government and the custodian against fault-based liability for damage to or loss of the vessel and/or its equipment and appurtenances. It does not otherwise insure against loss or damage. Arrest of a vessel may void it's hull and machinery insurance.
SECURITY IN LIEU OF ARREST OR CUSTODY
Arrest may be avoided, or a vessel released from custody following arrest, upon the posting of a bond or by the stipulation to other security by the parties. Vessel interests are entitled to post a cash or surety bond as alternative security, so long as the bond is in an appropriate amount and otherwise complies with applicable law, rules, and court requirements. See local general rules 67.1 & 67.2; miscellaneous general order 707 February 21, 1992. If Plaintiff agrees, a letter of undertaking or other type of collateral or commitment pursuant to a "stipulation for value" may be provided. Once a bond, letter of undertaking, or stipulation for value is in place, the vessel will almost certainly sail free and clear of the claim thereby secured, which thereafter must be pursued against the security.
Early consideration should be given to whether the vessel will need to be shifted to another location or to another port at the time of, or subsequent to, arrest, whether a surveyor will need to board the vessel, and whether cargo or other items should be removed from the vessel. Such considerations should be brought to the court's attention and an appropriate order obtained as early as possible. Serious consideration must be given to the risk of theft. While it may seem that a "Marshals' sticker" would warn people away from a vessel, in fact some seem to consider it an invitation to visit a vessel. Finally, due consideration should be given to proper maintenance during long periods of custody, and to winterization.