People will often call and ask about the ability to arrest a ship. Sometimes they think that because they have a claim against a ship owner, that they are automatically entitled to arrest the ship to satisfy their claim. That is not the case. While the ability to arrest ships exists to support many claims, it is not just any claim that entitles a claimant to arrest. There must, generally, be a valid nexus between the claim and the ship (or the owner, as owner of a ship) to support a right of arrest. Sometimes a specific nexus with the ship owner is not required, but that is in fairly rare cases where a true maritime lien exists.
As a starting point, ship arrest is not available in all courts. The Federal Court, thought of as our admiralty court, has a ship arrest power and procedure. The Supreme Court of British Columbia also has a ship arrest power and procedure, but it is not used as frequently as the Federal Court procedure. The Federal Court practice relating to the arrest of ships, as such, is more evolved and is typically where lawyers will look for guidance on issues that might arise. The ship arrest power in the Supreme Court of British Columbia is actually based on the arrest power set out in the Federal Courts Act.
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