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Norwegian Bunkers v. the Samatan et. al. -- The power of the maritime lien...By Megan Nicholls Vancouver Lawyer with Bernard LLP - Subscriber Access Only

By BCShippingNews 30 April 2015

Of interest to ship owners, charterers, and suppliers is the recent decision of Norwegian Bunkers v. the Samatan et al, 2014 FC 1200, in which the Federal Court determined that a Norwegian supplier of bunkers to a ship in Brazil was entitled to a maritime lien. At issue was whether Brazilian or Canadian law applied to the transaction: if Brazilian law applied, the suppliers were entitled to a maritime lien, but if Canadian law applied, the suppliers were not entitled to a Canadian maritime lien. This case illustrates the power of the maritime lien in maritime law.

The facts of the case are briefly as follows. The plaintiffs, Norwegian Bunkers and Atlas Bunkering Services, supplied bunkers to the sub-charterer, Kristiania, for fuel for the vessel, the Samatan, while in port in Brazil. After the bunkers were delivered to the Samatan, the Samatan applied a “No Lien” stamp to the delivery receipt, consistent with the no-lien clause in its charter. Norwegian issued an invoice to the master or owner of the ship (Boone Star), care of Kristiania, for US $666,915. The invoice remained unpaid and litigation ensued. The Samatan was arrested in Vancouver to enforce the plaintiffs’ maritime lien.

Since there was no express contract between the vessel owner and the bunker supplier in this case, the court had to determine which law applied by assessing which jurisdiction had the closest and most substantial connection to the transaction of supply. The plaintiffs argued that Brazilian law should apply, because the vessel operated in Brazil and was bunkered in Brazil by a Brazilian supplier. The defendants argued that Norwegian law should apply, but because Norwegian law was not formally proven by evidence it was deemed the same as Canadian law.