Payment of ‘maritime lien’ allowed on reading International Convention on Maritime Lien with Admiralty Act

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of K.R. Shriram, J. decided an admiralty suit wherein it was held that the claim of charges on the sale proceeds of MT Pratibha Bheema (marine vessel)  constituted maritime lien.

The said vessel was anchored outside Panaji Port, it had developed a technical snag; in view of the impending monsoon, the plaintiff State of Goa towed MT Pratibha Bheema to Mormugoa Port. While anchored at the port, the vessel was sold. Since, at the time of sale, the vessel was within the limits of area controlled by the plaintiff, it demanded various charges from the sale proceed. The question before the Court was whether plaintiff’s claim was secured by maritime lien on sale proceeds of MT Pratibha Bheema. According to the plaintiff, its claim was a maritime claim within the meaning of Article 1(l) of International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to the Arrest of Sea going Ships, 1952 and Article 1(n) of International Convention on the Arrest of Ships, 1999.

At the outset, High Court noted that plaintiff produced all the documents to substantiate its claim; and in fact, the defendants conceded that heads of claim had been sufficiently proved. The Court referred to Article 4(1)(d) of International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages, 1993 which reads, “claims for port, canal, and other waterway dues and pilotage dues”. It was noted that India is a signatory to the Convention. Following its earlier decision, the Court held that said Convention could be said to be part and parcel of Indian law or to have force of law in India. Moreover, Section 4(1)(n) of Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Act 2017, provides that dues in connection with any port, harbour, canal, dock or light tolls, other tolls, waterway or any similar kind chargeable under any law for the time being in force, will be a maritime claim. Also, Section 9 provides for inter se priority on maritime lien. The Court held that Section 4(1)(n) read with Section 9(1)(d) of Admiralty Act provides that plaintiff’s claim will be in the nature of maritime lien. Plaintiff’s claim was allowed with interest of 12% pa. The suit was disposed of accordingly. [State of Goa v. Sale Proceeds of the Vessel MT Pratibha Bheema,  2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1320, dated 07-06-2018]

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