Are yachts undergoing land-based repairs “vessels”?Do bears….well, you get the picture.
That’s the essence of today’s 11th Circuit opinion that provides a comprehensive and very interesting history of the development of maritime liens.
It makes total sense, but I never really understood that the reason maritime liens exist is to allow ships to get quick repairs wherever they are, without having to provide cash or other security not readily available far away from home port:
Maritime liens originated, in part, “in a desire to protect the ship,” which is “peculiarly subject to vicssitudes which would compel abandonment . . . unless repairs and supplies were promptly furnished.” Id. at 9, 41 S. Ct. at 3. Ships braved the danger of the seas dependent on a solid construction and a skillful crew. Should structure or seaman fail, ships had little to compensate for the loss and, at times, had to seek the help of strangers. Ships, however, often lacked items of sufficient value to offer in exchange for the help they needed.
Because a ship was often in need of repairs and necessaries while it was away from its home port and without large sums of money on board, maritime liens enabled persons in charge of the ship to use the value of the vessel itself as a pledge of credit in order to secure the work and parts it needed during the voyage.
However, each state and jurisdiction had their own maritime lien law, creating confusion and contradictory legal obligations:
It is not surprising that, given the historical nature and special needs of the shipping industry, maritime lien laws are no recent development. Maritime liens existed in Continental Europe and first emerged in the United States through state and common law. See 2 Benedict on Admiralty §§ 36–37 at 3-21 to 3-22; § 41, at 3-44 (7th ed. rev. 1998). This decentralized development of the lien laws resulted in a “confusing collection of individual statutes enacted over . . . centuries—each enacted to solve some particular problem of the day.” See H. R. REP. NO. 100-918, at 11 (1988). The statutes were “poorly organized, duplicative, often obsolete, and difficult to understand and apply.” Id.
The competing legal regimes governing maritime liens were further complicated by geographical variance. Different locations had different rules governing whether liens could attach, depending on, for example, a ship’s origin and port of service. See H. R. REP. NO. 46-1698 at 1–3 (1880). The laws also differed as to when during the repair process a lien could attach. Id. Congress recognized the need to unify and simplify the law. See The Gertrude v. Coward, 38 F.2d 946, 948 (5th Cir. 1930) (noting one of the purposes of the Act of June 23, 1910 was to replace state maritime-lien statutes with a single, national law). In 1910, Congress passed the first version of the Federal Maritime Lien Act, establishing a uniform national maritime lien system.
Hold on — federal legislation that imposed uniform national requirements on differing and contradictory state regimes??
Goddarn federal do-gooders running roughshod over individual states’ rights?Where are the teabaggers when you really need them?
DOWN WITH TAFTCARE!