How it works

What is a lien?

A maritime lien is a claim against a boat for non payment of goods or services supplied to a boat. The lien arises the moment the work is completed or the goods are supplied. A lien becomes delinquent when the request for payment is delayed or denied. A supplier or service provider has options:

  • The Supplier or contractor can post a claim of lien on the web site and use the posted claim as a gentle persuasion and continue to pursue the collection. If that fails he may leave the claim posted on the web site and wait until the vessel is sold or financed in which case the search would show the claim.
  • The Supplier or contractor can post a claim of lien on the web site and have his attorney send a letter to the boat’s representative along with a copy of the posted claim. This method often works well.
  • The Supplier or contractor can post a claim of lien on the web site, and have his attorney proceed with the legal process of arrest of the boat.

Details about liens

  • A lien is a charge against property for payment of debt. Maritime liens can arise under general maritime law (arising from collision or personal injury) and by statute (ship mortgages). Ordinarily, local law where arrest of a vessel or personal property occurs,  governs the validity of the lien and its priority with respect to other liens. A maritime lien has characteristics that distinguish it from other liens:
  • A maritime lien is a claim laid against maritime property, most often a vessel, but may also be brought against other personal property involved in maritime transactions such as cargo.
  • A maritime lien arises from services rendered to or injuries caused by maritime property.
  • Generally a maritime lien attaches to the property and is valid whether or not recorded. It travels with the vessel or personal property from port to port and owner to owner until it is extinguished or discharged.
  • Unlike land liens, most recent maritime liens may have first priority, subject to statutes such as those establishing mortgages.
  • A maritime lien is enforced by an action against the property itself, by arrest. That suit must be brought in a court having jurisdiction over the place where the property is located at the time of enforcement. A maritime lien is not a possessory lien such as a mechanic’s lien.
  • A maritime lien is extinguished by destruction of the vessel or property, or laches (undue delay in enforcement), or is discharged by payment or judicial act.

Who can file?

Anyone can file a maritime claim of lien under certain circumstances. You can assert a claim of lien against a maritime property if you are due compensation for having provided labor, goods, mortgage monies and other services and supplies or have suffered the loss of or injury to person or property for which you have not been compensated. A maritime lien remains attached to a vessel from owner-to-owner—regardless of re-sale—and whether it has been filed publicly or not. Since a maritime lien remains in place and follows a vessel everywhere, it allows the vessel to go on sailing and conducting its business, with the understanding that the debt will be paid in the future. Indeed, maritime liens were designed to promote the continuation of business as usual. However the longer the person waits to enforce a maritime lien the more likely it is that subsequent liens will take priority or that the lien will be unenforceable due to unreasonable delay (laches). At the same time, a claimant can force settlement of a lien by bringing suit against a vessel and requiring the courts to sell the vessel to satisfy the lien. In reality, this rarely happens. Most claims are resolved out of court according to a settlement plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the site cater to recreational vessels as well as commercial?

Yes. A lien is a lien and does not discriminate between vessel usage or trade endorsements

Can a missing and presumed stolen boat be posted on the site?

Yes. This is a very important category and the site will be searched by users worldwide. The site will be instrumental in the deterring of stolen boats. If a stolen boat is discovered it will be important to notify the local authorities or a reputable marine surveyor. If for some reason neither of these assist you, we offer a link to the directory of International Association of Marine Investigators at

Can a claim of lien be posted for work in progress on a vessel?

Yes. Since the posting, editing and releasing of a claim is free, the site can be used as on online receivables tool. A posted claim can be updated daily as additional time and materials are invested into the job by the contractor.

How can one determine a hull identification number on a vessel whose number has been obliterated?

Your local authorities or reputable surveyor has access to the source for the hidden number to confirm identity of the vessel. Also, should neither of these categories be able to help you, contact the International Association of Marine Investigators at

Can a contractor post more than one lien on the site?

Yes. Each contractor/user can post as many claims as he has. A user may post a claim for each outstanding contract on the same vessel. If one contract were paid, then only that claim would be released while the others remain.

Does the site organize my claims for me?

Yes. Once a user registers on the site a “Personal Home Page” is created within the site. All claims posted by the user will appear in order on the “Personal Home Page” of the registered user. From the user’s “Personal Home Page” the individual claims of lien can be accessed.

Are the claims of liens posted to the site uploaded to any governments site, such as the United States Coast Guard, Registrar of Ships, etc.?

No. All claims posted on the site remain independent and are not shared with any other organization. Governments, however, may register as users of the site.

Can a broker post a claim for commission on

Yes. To protect himself the broker may post a claim on the site upon the signing of the listing agreement. The broker should advise the owner of the process. By doing so may discourage the owner from selling the vessel outside of the listing agreement. The broker may also tell each buyer of the posting on the site to further discourage the potential buyer for trying to purchase without the broker.

However, it must be clear that brokerage commissions may not be considered a maritime claim.