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Maritime lien for physical bunker suppliers (OW bunkers saga)

Following the financial collapse of OW Bunkers, the physical suppliers of ship bunkers have been threatening to or arresting vessels to get their dues, which run in millions. The competition is against ING bank, the assignee of OW.

One favourable jurisdiction (or atleast the physical suppliers thought it was) is US which allows a maritime lien for ‘necessaries’, which includes bunkers. The caveat is that authorization must be given by the vessel’s owners to the physical suppliers to supply fuel else no lien exists

So the question in the OW bunkers saga is that if the owner (COSCO in this case) contracted with OW entity and then OW (now bankrupt) sub-contracts it to another supplier to provide bunkers then does this supplier have a lien until full payment is received?

US Appeals ct. for 5th cir has confirmed in negative. OW might have made it known to the owners who the actual supplier is, but such knowledge held by owners does not amount to anything more than awareness as to who will be supplying the fuel. It cannot be treated as authorization. The question whether OW can assign its lien to ING bank still remains somewhat open, though majority of US courts have ruled it is possible.

Remark: the result is very jurisdiction specific. The outcome could be different elsewhere

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