Are your bunkers ‘necessaries’? Not if you are carrying them as cargo says US Fifth Circuit.

The Commercial Instruments and Maritime Liens Act (“CIMLA”), 46 U.S.C. §§ 31301–31343, provides that a person may obtain a maritime lien against a vessel by providing it with “necessaries.” In Martin Energy L.L.C v Bourbon Petrel MV, yet another case involving the OWB collapse, the Fifth Circuit has considered the issue of  “necessaries” in a claim by the physical bunker supplier against support vessels that took on bunkers as cargo, for refuelling seismic survey vessels off the Louisiana coast.

The District Court had found that the supplier had a maritime lien over the supply vessels. The court reasoned that two of the support vessels, served as “floating gas stations” for the seismic Vessels and that the fuel was “necessary” for the support Vessels to perform this function. Similarly, the court reasoned the fuel was “necessary” for the third support Vessel, to function as an “offshore supply vessel,” transporting fuel, equipment, and personnel to the Seismic Vessels.

The Fifth Circuit has reversed that finding. Fuel may be “necessary” to a vessel if it fuels the vessel. But the fuel transported by the support vessels was for refuelling other vessels and was not “necessary” to the support vessels.

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Professor Simon Baughen

Professor Simon Baughen was appointed as Professor of Shipping Law in September 2013 (previously Reader at the University of Bristol Law School). Simon Baughen studied law at Oxford and practised in maritime law for several years before joining academia. His research interests lie mainly in the field of shipping law, but also include the law of trusts and the environmental law implications of the activities of multinational corporations in the developing world. Simon's book on Shipping Law, has run to five editions and is already well-known to academics and students alike as by far the most learned and approachable work on the subject. Furthermore, he is now the author of the very well-established practitioner's work Summerskill on Laytime. He has an extensive list of publications to his name, including International Trade and the Protection of the Environment. He has also written and taught extensively on commercial law, trusts and environmental law. Simon will be a member of the Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, a University Research Centre within the School of Law, and he will teach on both the LLM (Carriage of Goods by Sea, Land and Air and Oil and Gas Law) and LLB programmes at Swansea.

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