Watch Out – Ship Arrests on the Raise at Australian Ports



The Federal Court can arrest any ship in Australian waters if a claim is lodged against the ship’s owner or operator, for a debt or because of damage done to another ship or unpaid wages to the crew.  The court’s marshals can arrest a ship by boarding it — often landing on it by helicopter — and sticking the arrest warrant on the bridge of the ship.  The ship’s crew cannot move the vessel or load or unload goods without permission.

The number of ships ‘arrested’ by the Federal Court at Australian ports over the past six months because of commercial disputes has increased to 23 ships compared with an average of 10 ships a year for the previous three years.  A Panama-registered bulk carrier was arrested, on Wednesday, off the Port of Newcastle in connection with payment for shipping fuel, or “bunker” fuel.  Many of the most recent arrests have been sparked by the collapse of OW Bunker and the economic downturn.

The cost of an arrest include the cost of a helicopter, tugging a vessel if necessary and providing supplies to crew members — but the plaintiff is responsible for reimbursing the Federal Court for those costs which generally involved about $500,000 to $1 million.  Ports Australia chief executive David Anderson said the arrests were made before the ships are berthed to minimise “disruption” to port operators.

Source: The Australian


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