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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