Common maritime misunderstandings

There’s local knowledge that’s not going to be printed up anywhere, but some stuff is down in writing. If it’s in print, it’s probably worth reading yourself rather than hearing someone else’s interpretation. Here are a couple of things you might have learned one way, when the writings say something different.

Maybe you don’t speak French, but if you’re in the wheelhouse you’re required to sound — at least in one instance — like a Parisian. The word “securite,” used as a safety signal prior to transmitting a safety message about your navigation, is supposed to be “pronounced as in French,” according to regulations. Also, that safety signal and its accompanying message “must be sent on one of the international distress frequencies.” Have you or someone you know been content with making such securite calls on a working frequency? You can find a copy of this regulation in the telecommunications chapter of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Sometimes seasoned mariners and marine industry professionals get a little loose with the concept of maritime liens. In the face of a dispute, I’ll hear people say, “Well, I guess we could put a lien on the boat.”  That’s not how it works. Maritime lien issues get complicated quickly, so always speak to your admiralty lawyer, but they arise at the time the service is provided or the goods delivered. 

Unlike the automobile lender or bank that holds your home mortgage that must go through a process to establish their lien, your maritime lien springs to life on its own. Sure, you can file a “Notice of Claim of Lien” on a vessel’s abstract of title, but that doesn’t create a lien.  

There are several examples of what you once heard doesn’t quite align with how things actually are. That makes it worthwhile to listen once and check twice.

About the author

John K. Fulweiler

John K. Fulweiler is a licensed mariner and experienced admiralty attorney. He represents individuals and companies throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and has recently taken command of his own maritime law firm. He enjoys navigating the choppy waters of the maritime law, but readily admits to missing life on the water. He can be reached at . His website is

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