The governing law?
The arrest of ships in Lebanon is regulated by the Code of Civil Procedures which grants any creditor the right to apply for a conservatory seizure of the debtor’s assets in order to obtain security for its claim.
Lebanon is not a party to the International Convention on the Arrest of Seagoing Ships of 1952 or 1999, but is a party and has ratified the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law relating to Maritime Liens and Mortgages of 1926 enacted in Articles 48-61 of The Merchant Shipping Act.
What claims can you arrest for?
Under Lebanese law, a vessel can be arrested for any claim which the claimant has against her Owner or the vessel herself, provided that the claim is well founded and there is a good arguable case. In principle, the arrest can only proceed if the debtor is the ship’s registered Owner, unless the claim is secured by a maritime lien whereby an arrest is possible even if the debtor has sold the vessel to a third party.
The Lebanese Merchant Shipping Act (Articles 48-61) recognizes the following maritime liens:
- Legal charges and expenses incurred in the common interest of the creditors in order to preserve the value of the vessel. Tonnage dues, light and port dues and other public taxes and charges of the same character, and pilotage dues;
- Claims arising out of the contracts of employment of the master, crew and other persons employed by the vessel;
- Remuneration for salvage and assistance and the contribution of the vessel in general average;
- Indemnities for collision or other accident of navigation and also for damages caused to ports, docks and navigable ways and indemnities for damages to personal injury to passengers and crew and for loss or damage to cargo or baggage;
- Claims resulting from contracts entered into or acts by the master within the scope of his authority for the purpose of the preservation of the vessel or the continuation of the voyage whether the master is the owner of the vessel or not and whether the claim is his own or of the ship-chandlers or repairers or lenders or other contractual parties;
- Damages due to Charterers;
- All premiums for insurances of the hull, machinery and equipment of the vessel due for the last insured voyage (if the insurance is taken out by voyage) or for the last insured period (if the insurance is taken out for a certain period of time) up to a maximum period of one year.
Which vessel can the debtor arrest?
- The vessel relating to the debt (but only if the debtor is the ship’s current registered Owner unless the claim is secured by a maritime lien then an arrest is possible even if the debtor has since sold the vessel).
- An arrest of a sister ship is only possible if she is owned by the same debtor of the arresting party.
- Arresting associated vessels is uncertain. It may succeed if the arrestor proves close links between the two vessel entities but the Judge may lift the arrest if the arrest is challenged by the actual registered owner of the arrested vessel.
Is there any other way to arrest?
One can also obtain an arrest for security only e.g. in relation to proceedings in a foreign jurisdiction (see Article 73 of The Merchant Shipping Act).
Is there a time bar?
Time bars under the above claims vary from 6 months to a year from their date of occurrence save for claims that fall under number 5 above where you do not lose the right to arrest the vessel but may lose ‘priority’ in any sale of the vessel.
What is the procedure?
Provided that the claim is well founded and there is a good arguable case, once the arrest application is filed, the judge will consider the matter on a prima facie basis and the arrest order is rendered ex-parte on or around the date of filling of the application,
Is counter-security required?
This is at the discretion of the court but is rarely implemented.
Does the arresting party have to initiate a claim on the merits in Lebanon?
Once the arrest order is issued, the Claimants will have five (5) days from the date of the arrest order to file an action on the merits, otherwise the arrest order will be cancelled. The same applies for the claims secured by maritime liens.
The above is an overview and is general in nature. Should you require more detailed information on ship arrest in Lebanon, please do not hesitate to contact us.