Ship´s Chandler seeking vessel arrest for unpaid ship supplies (a vision on Spanish legislation)

Spain is signatory of the 1999 Geneva convention on arrest of Ships. Under such Convention you may arrest a ship for “goods, materials, provisions, bunkers, equipment (including containers) supplied or services rendered to the ship for its operation, management, preservation or maintenance.”

Nevertheless,  you are only allow to proceed “in persom” and against the vessel if your debtor in the owner of the ship. In other case, – being your debtor  i.e a time chartered or voyage chartered, the creditor/ claimant only can legally proceed to  arrest the vessel to execute the credit ( “action in rem”) in Spain in  case that the alleged credit were a maritime lien/privilege of those listed in the International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages ( 1993), applicable in Spain.

Regrettably  to ship suppliers community, “provision and supplies to vessels” has been excluded of the above mentioned Convention applicable in Spain ( it is no longer a maritime privilege).

This  opinion is  a  direct consequence of art 3.3 of Geneva Convention 1999, in accordance with Spanish domestic legislation.

Art 3 Geneva Convention 1999

<<Exercise of right of arrest

  1. Arrest is permissible of any ship in respect of which a maritime claim is asserted if:

(a) the person who owned the ship at the time when the maritime claim arose is liable for the claim and is owner of the ship when the arrest is effected; or

(b) the demise charterer of the ship at the time when the maritime claim arose is liable for the claim and is demise charterer or owner of the ship when the arrest is effected; or

(c) the claim is based upon a mortgage or a «hypothèque» or a charge of the same nature on the ship; or

(d) the claim relates to the ownership or possession of the ship; or

(e) the claim is against the owner, demise charterer, manager or operator of the ship and is secured by a maritime lien which is granted or arises under the law of the State where the arrest is applied for.

  1. Arrest is also permissible of any other ship or ships which, when the arrest is effected, is or are owned by the person who is liable for the maritime
    claim and who was, when the claim arose:

(a) owner of the ship in respect of which the maritime claim arose; or

(b) demise charterer, time charterer or voyage charterer of that ship.

This provision does not apply to claims in respect of ownership or possession of a ship.

 3.Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this article, the arrest of a ship which is not owned by the person liable for the claim shall be permissible only if, under the law of the State where the arrest is applied for, a judgment in respect of that claim can be enforced against that ship by judicial or forced sale of that ship.>>

As far as I am concern, Spanish Courts do not admit any proceeding aiming to/resulting in the sale /auction of a vessel unless the debtor and defendant is that particular court case is the ship owner (action in person) or de alleged credit is a maritime privilege of those listed on the International Convention on Maritime liens and Mortgages ( 1993) ( action in rem).

Due to  the above,  I am the opinion that ship´s chandler can only legally seek to arrest a vessel for unpaid provisions in Spain, in the case that the debtor is the owner of the vessel.

That is to say, the ship candler needs to bill the vessel owner or at least  her managing company for the provisions supplied if  he wants  to have an open door for  a possible  arrest for unpaid provisions against the vessel in Spain.