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Can a charterer appointed port agent arrest the vessel for unpaid invoices?

A ship’s agent plays a very important role in organizing and coordinating all aspects of a port call. Often, they make certain payments themselves for things such as light & harbour dues, pilotage fees, mooring costs, garbage disposal, union fees etc. and later invoice their principals. If invoices go unpaid, then can the agents arrest the vessel?

In The Almirante Storni [2020] the agent, appointed by time charterers, had unpaid invoices relating to a port call in Italy and had arrested the vessel in Ireland. So does an agent have a maritime claim against the ship? The time charter was long over. Lower court had decided in favour of owners. It was now being appealed.

The claim had the characteristics of a maritime claim falling under Art 1.1 of the 1952 Arrest Convention, but since the agent was appointed by charterers to facilitate the operation of ship to enable them to earn freight, personal liability of owner did not arose. The point that charterers had ostensible or other authority was a no go for lack of evidence. 2nd part to this was whether there was claim in rem and a recourse against the ship. In other words was there a maritime lien for disbursements? After looking at various authorities & text books, appeal court said disbursements made on behalf of a person other than master/owner of the ship do not qualify.

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