maritime liens


By GODWIN DJOKOTO (Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon)


Ghana maritime law is basically drawn from the general maritime law from the English common law,[1] and statutory law, currently the Ghana Shipping Act, 2003.[2] Therefore, the law governing maritime liens in Ghana is to be found in these two sources. The Ghana Shipping Act (GSA, 2003) repealed the Merchant Shipping Act, 1963 (Act 183) as severally amended,[3] and seeks to consolidate and bring the law governing maritime activity in Ghana into conformity with the International Maritime Organization’s (I.M.O.) conventions.[4] Prior to the enactment of the GSA, 2003, there was no statutory provision on maritime liens[5] and the subject was primarily governed by the traditional common law rules. The obvious defect was that law on maritime liens as it applied in the United Kingdom on 24th July 1874 was the only applicable law in Ghana despite the fact that maritime world had significantly moved on.  In recognition of this state of affairs, Ghana acceded to the 1993 International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages and implemented this Convention into domestic legislation.[6]

This Convention, and by extension the Ghana Shipping Act, among other things, recognizes that ship financing is becoming increasingly international and, therefore, the need for the application of uniform rules in the recovery of loans by  financiers.[7] Secondly, the Convention seeks to reduce the number of maritime liens in order to encourage ship financing by granting better priority to mortgage holders.[8] In this way, ship-owners could develop their fleets and obtain adequate financing while securing the financial interest of the financiers. Finally, the Convention aims to secure maritime liens as a means of contributing to the safe and efficient operation of ships.[9]

This paper is an exposition and critique of the law on maritime liens in Ghana. It discusses the changes the GSA, 2003 has introduced to alter the common law rules, the practical difficulties that may be encountered in the application of the rules under the new maritime liens regime and, some patent omissions (or what I refer to as “blind spots”) in the Act which must be healed.

This paper is divided into four parts. Part I lays the foundation for my subsequent analysis by briefly discussing the nature and character of maritime liens. In part II, I discuss the claims that attract maritime liens under Ghana law which, not surprisingly, only confirm most of the liens that exist at common law, and the recognition of some claims that, hitherto, did not enjoy the status of maritime liens. In Part III, I focus on priority and extinction of liens. In this section, I argue that as much as the rankings listed in the Act should not be lightly tempered with, where adherence to the ranking would lead to unfairness and inequitable treatment of competing claimants, the rankings ought to be altered. Finally, in Part IV, I argue that the omission of assignment and subrogation of maritime liens from the GSA and the failure of the law makers to create national maritime liens constitute blind spots in the law which must be healed.

Part I

Definition and Nature of Maritime Liens

The concept of maritime liens is unique to maritime law. It has its origin in the civil law concept of “privilege” which has no equivalent in the common law.[10] Maritime liens are privileged because of the priority they enjoy. Generally, maritime liens enjoy priority over mortgages, possessory liens and statutory right of action in rem.[11] The origins and development of the maritime liens has been greatly influenced by the peculiar needs of maritime commerce, custom and the ancient lex maritima. Owing to the evolving character of maritime liens, the claims recognized as secured by a maritime lien and the property on which maritime lien attaches has changed over the years and varies from one jurisdiction to the other. For example, some courts have held that a maritime lien attaches to the vessel only,[12] while other courts and publicists have indicated that in addition to the vessel, maritime lien could attach to freight and cargo.[13] In this wise, it is much deprecated that the GSA, 2003 does not define the term “maritime lien” either by concept or content. In my view, the definition of the term enables us to map out the area within which the concept is to operate, in order to avoid extending it to things that it might not apply to. Nevertheless, it can safely be said that a maritime lien under the Act attaches to a vessel only.[14] This is because Section 66 states that “…any of the claims against the owner, demise charterer, manager or operator of the vessel shall be secured by a maritime lien on the vessel…” (emphasis added). Therefore, under Ghanaian law a maritime lien does not attach to the vessel’s freight and cargo. The Act does not deal with a ship owner’s lien on the charterer’s cargo and sub-freight payable by the charterer, presumably because they arise by the operation of law or from contract.[15]

In the absence of a definition of “maritime lien” in the GSA, 2003, I turn to the common law for guidance. At common law, maritime lien is said to be a privileged claim upon a vessel (and sometimes freight and cargo) in respect of services rendered to the vessel, or injury caused by it, to be carried into effect by legal process by a proceeding in rem.[16]  It is inchoate from the moment the claim attaches, and when carried into effect by legal process, by a proceeding in rem, it relates back to the period when it first attached.[17] This charge or privilege comes into existence automatically and gains priority over other claims without any antecedent formality, registration or court action.[18] The unique feature of maritime liens is that its existence can be secret and it travels with the ship everywhere, even into the hands of a purchaser for value without notice.[19] In other words, it is of no moment that the new purchaser does not know of the existence of the lien. In addition, a maritime lien is not extinguished by change of nationality or registration in another registry.[20] Under the GSA, 2003 a lien is not only enforceable against the ship in connection with which the claim arose, but also against a sister ship.[21] Although several maritime claims exist, a maritime lien attaches only to a restricted number of maritime claims. It is to these claims that I turn in the next section.

Part II

Types of Maritime Liens

The GSA, 2003 recognizes five types of maritime liens that could be secured on the vessel to enforce payment of a claim owed by an owner, demise charterer, manager or operator of the vessel. These are claims for wages and other sums due to the master, officers and other members of the vessel’s complement in respect of their employment on the vessel; claims in respect of loss of life or personal injury; claims for rewards for salvage of the vessel; claims for ports, canal and other waterway dues and pilotage dues; and claims based on tort arising out of physical loss or damage caused by the operation of a vessel.[22]  Therefore, liens for respondentia and bottomry claims, which existed under the inherited common, are no longer recognized in Ghana. Historically, bottomry and respondentia were the primary sources of shipping finance when the ship was distant from her home port. However, it seems to me that in a world of improved communications and improved credit facilities, the bottomry bond has declined in importance and, to all intents and purposes, has fallen into oblivion.[23] 

It is pertinent to observe that the express mention of “an owner, demise charterer, manager or operator of the vessel” in Section 66 as persons whose liability can be enforced against the vessel implies the exclusion of time and voyage charterers. To my mind, the reason for the exclusion of time and voyage charters lies in the distinction between demise charters and the former. A demise charter is a lease of the hull and equipment of a ship. The charterer crews it, makes provision and supplies for it.[24] The demise charterer accepts a bare–boat charter and agrees to run it at his own expense. Put differently, demise charterparties are different from other charterparties because it is not a hiring of the services of the ship owner to carry cargo, but a hiring of the ship alone. Therefore, under a demise charter, if loss occurs to a third party cargo, the shipper’s claim lies against the charterers, as “despondent” owner, not against the ship owner.[25] On the contrary, in the case of voyage and time charter parties the ship-owner continues to have control of the ship and in charge of managing and navigating the vessel.[26] Therefore, rarely would any of the claims in Section 66 of the Act be brought against time or voyage charterers. 

Master’ and Seafarer’s Wages

The GSA, 2003 retains the “sacred” common law lien for crew wages. The Act gives the master, officers and other members of the vessel’s complement a maritime lien in respect of wages and other sums due to them in respect of their employment on the vessel, including cost of repatriation and social insurance contributions payable on their behalf.[27] Although the crew’s lien for wages and others may negatively impact on the security of a mortgage, presumably, they are provided for because their services contribute to the safe and efficient running of the vessel.[28] Traditionally, seamen have always been the wards of the admiralty courts and their right to be paid for wages has always been of paramount concern to the courts.[29] This right is not dependent on the ship having earned wages,[30]  and it attaches from the date the claimant is discharged from the vessel.[31]

The determination of who is a master or officer is not controversial, as it is well defined by the Act. Section 481 defines “master” to include “every person who lawfully has, for the time being, command or charge of a ship”. Officer in relation to the ship is also defined to include “a master and deck officer, engineer, radio or medical officer”. The problem, however, remains with determining those persons who are eligible to exercise a lien as “the other members of the vessel’s complement”. To my mind, the other members of the vessel’s complement refer to seafarers under the Act. The Act defines “seafarer” as “a person employed or engaged in any capacity on board a ship, and includes apprentices…but does not include a master, pilot or a person temporarily employed on the ship while the ship is in port”.[32] The broad definition of seafarer entitles not only seamen and apprentices, but others employed on the vessel in any capacity, including cooks and kitchen help to exercise a lien on the vessel in case their wages and other benefits due them remain unpaid.[33] It will also cover hotel and entertainment personnel on a cruise ship.[34] In other words, the test of whether a person is entitled to claim a lien depends not only on the fact that he or she has rendered service to the ship, but he or she must also have a relationship with the vessel. Therefore, a person who is temporarily employed to work on the vessel while the vessel is at port cannot exercise a maritime lien on the vessel.[35]

What constitutes wages and other sums payable to crew for which they can exercise a lien is another difficult question that must be resolved. The GSA defines “wages” as remuneration for the crew for work done as agreed between the crew and the vessel owner or managing owner”.[36] To my mind, the entitlements contemplated here would not be restricted to the payment of salaries, social insurance contributions and repatriation costs only, but would cover others such as agreed bonuses,[37] paid leave, sick leave[38] and gratuity.[39] Also, a seafarer whose contract of employment is wrongfully terminated without his consent either before the commencement of the voyage or before one month wages are earned, is entitled not only to sue for damages but can enforce his claim on the vessel.[40]   To this end, any amount a master, officer or seafarer is entitled to could fairly be said to be accompanied by a corresponding maritime lien.

Apparently, repatriation costs and the payment of social insurance contributions have been expressly listed ex abundantia cautela, to remove any doubt that if the owner does not pay for these benefits, a lien is exercisable on the vessel for non-payment. The lien in respect of social insurance contributions is exercisable for contributions deducted by the ship-owner (employers) but not paid to the operators of the social insurance scheme.[41] In this light, the lien is exercisable by the social insurance operators, and not the crew, against the vessel. However, claims of social insurance operators in respect of contributions due to the ship-owner are not secured by a maritime lien.[42]

Salvage Claims

Another maritime lien recognized by the GSA, 2003 is reward for salvage of the vessel.[43] Although salvage claims may adversely affect the security of mortgagees, its impact would not be felt if adequate insurance provision is made for perils at sea. In any case, salvage operations take precedence over all other claims, including the mortgagee’s claim, because it is the salvor’s exertions that preserved the property for the benefit of all other claimants.[44] In other words, but for the salvage operation the security would have been lost.

The GSA, 2003 retains the common law rule that no remuneration is due to a salvor if the salvage operation yields no useful result.[45] The other requirements that must be satisfied in order to entitle a salvor to remuneration are that the property must be in danger and the services must be voluntary.[46] Properties that could be salved include human life, the vessel, cargo, freight at risk and the wreck.[47] However, under the GSA, 2003, a salvor’s right to exercise a lien arises only in respect of “reward for salvage of the vessel”.[48] This wording of the provision effectively precludes a salvor from exercising a lien against the person salved[49] or cargo or the wreck. This fundamentally changes the common law position in Ghana, where hitherto, a maritime lien was exercisable not only against the vessel but against the salved cargo and the wreck.[50] Perhaps, the word “reward” in the provision also excludes the lien in respect of the special compensation payable to a salvor in circumstances where the vessel itself or cargo poses a threat to the environment and the salvor has failed to earn a reward for it.[51]

Who then is entitled to claim a salvage lien? Under the GSA, 2003 all persons who perform salvage services are entitled to claim a salvage reward. To borrow the words of the court in The Waterloo: “The clearest right they who have saved lives and property at sea should be rewarded for their salutary exertions”. [52]  Therefore, any one who takes part in salvage operations that saved, among others, a vessel is entitled to exercise a lien on the ship. These persons would include seafarers, cargo owners or even passengers whose services exceed what would ordinarily be expected of them.[53] Where the government of Ghana renders salvage services to salve a vessel, it can also exercise a lien on the ship.[54]

However, a salvage lien cannot be exercised against a non-commercial cargo owned by a state entitled, at the time of the salvage operations, to sovereign immunity. It can also not be exercised on humanitarian cargoes donated by a state where the state has agreed to pay for salvage services rendered in respect of the humanitarian cargo. [55]

Collision Liens

Collision damage giving rise to maritime lien must result from the direct or indirect activity of the vessel.[56] Although the vessel must be the instrument of the damage, the crew’s acts are attributable to the ship.[57] Collision liens arise when a ship causes damage to another ship or other property external to it or to an object[58] as a result of a wrongful act of navigation for want of skill, or negligence.[59] Therefore, a collision lien would not arise unless it is proved that those legally in charge or in possession of the vessel were in breach of a duty they owed to the injured vessel or object. Under the GSA, 2003 where property is damaged as a result of non-observance of Collision Regulations published by the Minister,[60] there is a presumption that the damage was caused by the willful default of the person in charge of the ship, unless it is shown that the circumstances of the case do not fall within the Regulation.[61]

Collision liens under the GSA,2003 arise from tort and, therefore, exclude all contractual claims for cargo, containers and passengers’ effects carried on the vessel.[62] Reference in the section to “physical loss or damage” excludes claims based on pure economic loss.[63] In other words, pure economic loss arising from damage caused by the vessel does not attract a maritime lien.

Personal injury claims

Maritime liens created by personal injury or loss of life arise from harm or death caused to a person. This harm or death may occur either on land or on water.[64] However, it must have a direct nexus with the operation of the vessel,[65] although direct physical contact with the vessel is not required in order to give rise to the claim.[66]

Unlike collision claims, personal injury or death claims arise from both contracts of affreightment and in tort. Therefore, the dependants of a deceased passenger or a passenger who suffers harm on board a vessel may exercise a lien on the vessel, grounding her claim either in tort or in breach of contract. In addition, a third party on land, or a float of a non-ship, for example, a raft, would be entitled to enforce a maritime lien against a ship. [67]

Under the GSA, 2003 where a person suffers harm or dies on board a vessel due to the concurrent negligence of that vessel and another vessel, the owners become jointly and severally liable.[68] To my mind, the injured person or a deceased’s dependent has two options opened to him or her. First, he or she may enforce a lien against both or all the vessels to the extent of their liability. Secondly, he or she may enforce a lien on only one ship in satisfaction of the whole claim.[69]

Exclusion of maritime liens for Claims arising from radio active and chemical substances

No maritime lien attaches to a vessel to secure a claim arising from loss of life or personal injury or collision damage when death or harm or damage is caused by oil transported by sea for which compensation is payable to the claimant under an international convention, for example, the International Convention on Civil Liability For Oil Pollution Damage, 1969,[70] or under the laws of Ghana which provide for strict liability and compulsory insurance or other means of securing the claim.[71] Secondly, maritime lien does not attach to a ship where harm or death or damage is caused by radioactive substances or in combination with toxics, explosives or other hazardous or noxious substances.[72]

Maritime Liens for Ports, Canal and Other Waterway Dues and Pilotage

Granting maritime liens for ports, canal and other waterway dues is the most fundamental change introduced by the GSA, 2003 to the subject of maritime liens. At common law, none of these claims were secured by a maritime lien. Port, harbour, canal, docks and other waterway dues were treated as special legislative rights with rights of detention and sale.[73] This right gave port authorities priority over crew’s lien for unpaid wages,[74] over collision tort liens[75] and over a salvor’s lien.[76] On the other hand, pilotage claims were ranked after the traditional maritime liens and mortgages because they were considered neither essential nor were they for the common benefit of maritime travels.[77]

However, under the GSA, 2003 both pilotage claims and ports and waterway dues have been elevated to the status of maritime liens ranking after crew’s wages, personal injury claims and salvage claims.[78] The consequence of their new status is that these claims, like the other maritime liens, follow the vessel even into the hands of bona fide purchasers or change of nationality.[79] 

Shipbuilder’s and Repairer’s Possessory Liens

A ship-builder or repairer has a right of retention of the vessel for the unpaid portion of the price for work completed or for repairs carried out on the vessel.[80] A ship-builder’s lien arises from the moment the first keel plate is laid, but becomes enforceable when the builder becomes unpaid under the terms of the contract with the ship-owner.[81] The ship- builder’s or repairer’s lien over the vessel, unlike a maritime lien, does not give them a right to sell the vessel in satisfaction of their claims. Nevertheless, they have a right to enforce payment when a preferential right holder takes action to enforce her right pursuant to any law in Ghana relating to bankruptcy or insolvency.[82] Upon a forced sale of the ship, the ship-owner’s and repairer’s lien rank against the proceeds immediately after the traditional maritime liens discussed above, but take precedence over any mortgage or other preferential right over the vessel.[83] In order to exercise this right, a ship-builder or repairer must remain in continuous possession of the ship. The possession of the ship serves as security for the unpaid debt, and loss of that possession amounts to loss of the security.[84] In this light, the Ghana Court of Appeal in Heward-Mills v. R.T Briscoe (Gh.) Ltd., has held that a possessory lien holder who gives up possession of the security, loses the lien, and it is unlawful to rearrest it.[85] The court further held that a possessory lien is lost if by a special agreement the object of the lien is released but the agreement is silent on the retention or preservation of the lien.[86]

Having discussed the various maritime liens recognized in Ghana under the GSA, 2003, it is important to determine the priority attached to the various liens in the event of competing claims maritime liens and especially when funds available from a forced sale are insufficient to settle all claims secured on the vessel.

Part III

Rules and Order of Ranking Maritime Liens

The rules of ranking fix the order or priority of maritime liens and claims when funds available from a forced sale are insufficient to settle all claims.[87] The concept of maritime lien, like “antipodean fauna”,[88] has unique rules for determining priority, with sometimes strange results. Basically, with the exception of special legislative rights and custodia legis, maritime claims rank ahead of non-maritime claims and maritime liens claims outrank claims which are maritime but not liens.[89] Under the GSA, 2003 where upon a forced sale of a vessel to which maritime liens, registered mortgages and other charges attach, the proceeds of the sale are distributed in the following order of priority. First priority is given to custodia legis expenses, that is, the cost of arresting the vessel and the cost of rendering a fund available by the sale of the res.[90] These sums would include the cost of upkeep of the vessel, crew wages, advertisement of the sale,[91] appraisal fees and commission and the cost of making the application for the arrest.[92]

The next in line is special legislative right which the government gives to itself as an act of self-interest and protection to recover the cost it incurs in recovering stranded or sunken vessels in the interest of safe navigation or the protection of the marine environment.[93] It must be emphasized that in order to recover this cost it must be proved that the wreck posed a danger to safe navigation or to the marine environment.[94]

Traditional maritime liens are next in order after the special legislative rights.[95] With the exception of salvage liens which take priority over all prior liens, maritime liens rank in the following order: crew’s wage and other benefits; claims in respect of loss of life or personal injury; claims for ports, canal and other waterway dues and pilotage; and damage caused by the operation of the vessel.[96] Salvage liens have priority over all prior liens because the salvage operations yield to the benefit of all prior liens. Put differently, but for the salvage operation all prior liens would have extinguished with the loss of the vessel.[97] Maritime liens within each category recognized under section 66 rank pari pasu, that is, the first in time has priority.[98] The same cannot, however, be said of salvage liens which rank inter se in inverse order based on the time when claims they secure accrued. The wisdom in this inverse order of ranking, in the words of Bateson J., is “because the later salvor made it possible that the earlier salvor should get paid”.[99]

Following traditional maritime liens are ship builders and repairers possessory lien holders who have a right of retention.[100] In light of the express unambiguous rankings provided under the Act, it appears that the common law rule that held that when a ship- builder or repairer who had a possessory lien that predates maritime liens, actually ranks ahead of maritime liens,[101] is of doubtful legal significance in Ghana. In Ghana, it seems the traditional maritime liens take precedence over possessory liens irrespective of when they were created. After possessory liens are satisfied, registered mortgagees and other preferential rights are settled and, the residue, if any, paid to the ship-owner.[102]

Effect of Forced Sale

The effect of a forced sale in Ghana, as elsewhere, is to extinguish all liens, registered mortgages except those assumed by the purchaser with the consent of the holders, and other encumbrances.[103] The proviso to this is that at the time of the sale, the vessel must be within the jurisdiction of Ghana and the sale must be conducted in accordance with the Act.[104]

One may be tempted to ask whether the above ranking is sacrosanct, or they are alterable under certain circumstances. Consider, for example, a scenario where as a result of negligent navigation by the crew of vessel ‘SS DJOKOTO’, the latter causes damage to vessel ‘SS KINGDOM’S passengers, thereby entitling the latter to exercise a lien on SS DJOKOTO’. However, proceeds of the forced sale are insufficient to settle all claims secured on the vessel. In such a circumstance, is it justifiable for the court to alter the rankings to pay for the personal injury claims ahead of crew’s wages? In other words, can principles of equity be introduced to alter this ranking?

To my mind, the answer should be in the affirmative since equity is a recognized source of law under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.[105] Equity permeates all branches of the law, including admiralty law. An American judge has lucidly reminded us that: “The Chancellor is no longer fixed to the woolsack. He may stride the quarter–deck of maritime jurisprudence and, in the role of admiralty judge, dispense, as would his landlocked brother that which equity and good conscience impels.”[106] This is the path that should be taken if the judge realizes that an unbending worship of the rankings would result in injustice to the competing maritime lien claimants. Though Professor Tetley cautions that alteration should be done with great prudence in order not to destabilize uniformity in the application of the order of rankings,[107] I think that justice or fairness must not be sacrificed on the altar of uniformity. Where injustice would result from following the ranking set out in the Act, equity must intervene to alter the order.[108] In any case, if all jurisdictions alter this ranking having fairness as their guiding principle, harmony or uniformity in the order of ranking would not be disturbed. 

Extinction of Maritime Liens

Although maritime liens are invisible and follow the vessel everywhere, they are not invincible and may be extinguished in a number of ways. The obvious method is the payment and acceptance of the debt or underlying claim owed by the ship-owner or charterer.[109] However, a maritime lien is extinguished where the claimant elects to take securities instead of cash or where on being offered her wages, leaves them on deposit.[110] Secondly, a maritime lien may be extinguished by the express waiver of the lien holder. Under the GSA, 2003 if a seafarer desires to waive a lien, he must sign an attested release instrument.[111] Also, a maritime lien would cease to exist upon a forced sale of a vessel in Ghana[112] except those assumed by the purchaser.[113]

A maritime lien may also be extinguished by the loss or destruction of the res.[114] Nevertheless, the lien holder may bring an action in personam against the ship owner to recover his claim or against a sister vessel.[115] Finally, a maritime lien may be extinguished by the effluxion of time. Generally, there is an obligation on the lien holder to enforce his claim with reasonable diligence.[116] This means he must bring an action to enforce his or her right within the shortest possible time after his or her right accrues. Under the GSA, 2003 a lien is extinguished after a period of one year, unless prior to the expiring of the period, the vessel has been arrested or seized, and the arrest or seizure leads to a forced sale.[117]

Despite the fact that the GSA, 2003 has introduced novel provisions on maritime liens in meeting the needs of the maritime industry and bringing the law of Ghana on the subject in conformity with internationally accepted standards, the provisions of the Act suffer from some patent defects that must be cured or addressed to secure the full benefits of maritime liens to the industry. Two of such concerns are the absence of assignments and subrogation of maritime liens and the failure of parliament to create some National Maritime Liens. 

Part IV


Absence of Rights of Assignments and subrogation of maritime liens

Subrogation is one of the key principles of marine insurance law and a necessary incident of the contract of indemnity. The rule of subrogation basically provides that on settlement of a loss, the indemnifier (insurer) is entitled to step into the shoes of the debtor or assured. Having paid the assured for the loss, he is subrogated to all the rights and remedies of the assured for the loss in and in respect of the subject matter from the time of the casualty causing the loss. According to Lord Blackburn in Bumard v Rodocanachi[118] the doctrine of subrogation is rule of law and of equity. In his words:

 “The general rule of law( and it is obvious justice) is that where there is a contract of indemnity and a loss happens, anything which reduces  or diminishes  the amount which the indemnifier is bound to pay ; and if the indemnifier has already paid it, then anything which diminishes  the loss comes  into the hands of the person to whom he has already paid the full  indemnity is entitled  to be recouped  by having that amount back”. [119]

The objective of subrogation is to prevent the assured from taking with both hands, that is to say an assured is not permitted to recover more than his actual loss. He cannot take from the insurer (indemnifier) and from the person who has caused the damage insured[120]. This therefore permits the insurer to step into the shoes of the insured and to sue in his name any person through whose default or wrongdoing the loss may have occurred. However, the insurer, is strictly confined to the rights of the assured, and cannot, by virtue of the doctrine of subrogation, acquire rights which the assured never possessed, for example, a right to sue himself when two of his own vessels collide with each other.[121]

In essence, the right of subrogation is engrained in the common law and to some extent in statutory law. In Ghana, for example, Section 16(1) of the Contracts Act, 1960(Act 25) provides that:  “any guarantor, or any other person being liable together with another for any debt or legal duty, who pays the debt or performs the duty, shall be entitled to have assigned to him any security held by the creditor and to stand in the place of the creditor and use all remedies available to him in respect of the debt or duty”.

It is instructive to point out that although the Ghana Shipping Act, 2003 makes some references to the concept of subrogation or assignment of some rights, it is submitted that neither does these provisions apply to maritime liens nor do they answer the question whether the subrogation or assignment carries with it the simultaneous assignment or subrogation of the maritime lien, if it is a claim secured by a maritime lien.[122] It is critical to state that the coming into force of the GSA seems to have cast some doubts or shadow over the principle of subrogation as it particularly relates to maritime liens in Ghana. This state of confusion stems from the fact the law makers in drafting the Ghana Shipping Act, 2003 for whatever reason decided to exclude the corresponding provision in the International Convention on Liens and Mortgages, 1993 which squarely addresses the problem. Article 6 of the Convention provides that: “The assignment of or subrogation to a claim secured by a maritime lien set out in [section 66 of GSA] entails the simultaneous assignment of or subrogation to such maritime lien”.[123]

In this state, it is clear that the subrogation of a maritime claim concurrently involves the assignment of or the subrogation of such a maritime lien. This enables the insurer to step into the shoes of the assured and entitles him to the remedies that the latter may be entitled.

However, with the exclusion of this provision in the Ghana Shipping Act, it is attractive to argue that its exclusion is an indication that Parliament does not intend insurers (indemnifiers) of maritime claims to be subrogated to maritime liens in Ghana. This interpretation is consistent with a rudimentary rule of statutory interpretation that where from among a list of items or a number of provisions all of which are capable of being included, but only some are included, those not included are obviously excluded[124].

This apparent quietude of a provision categorically affirming an assignee’s or subrogee’s right a maritime lien appears innocuous to the uninitiated. However, with the benefit of the history of the subject one soon realizes that this confusion is real to industry players.

The position that Ghana seems to have taking in excluding the subrogation or assignment of maritime liens only blindly perpetuates an alleged common law prohibition or reluctance to assign or subrogate maritime liens, and the English case of The Petone[125] is often branded or heralded as authority for this proposition. In my considered view, even if the alleged common law prohibition against subrogation and assignment was an established common law rule, its usefulness is today discredited and out of touch with the current trend of judicial authority on maritime liens, and Ghana should not have followed it.

In The Petone, the plaintiff paid the crew’s wages and made some disbursements at the request of the master of the ship. The plaintiff brought an action in rem to exercise a lien on the vessel in respect of the payments the plaintiff had made. Hill J., held, after reviewing some authorities, that a third party who pays seamen’s wages is not subrogated by the law to the maritime lien for the wages of the seamen.

The Canadian courts have also long held that a debt for wages is assignable at common law, but the lien expires with the payment of the debt.[126] The only exception to this rule is that seamen cannot assign their wages in anticipation of payment. Unfortunately, these decisions never gave any reason why a maritime lien could not be assigned or subrogated.[127]

If these decisions stood alone, it would have concluded the matter. However, review of the case law suggests that the issue of whether a maritime lien can be subrogated at common law is inconclusive. A litany of judicial authorities, supported by Sir Robert Phillimore and Dr.  Lushington,[128] two of the most distinguished and influential admiralty judges, have held that a man who pays off the privileged claimant stands in the shoes of the privileged claimant, and may bring an action in his own name to enforce that privileged claim.[129] In The Tagus[130], a Mr. X, before he became master, had been super-cargo, and while supercargo had paid the crew’s wages and made other disbursements. He claimed these sums, and he was allowed to recover so much of those disbursements as were payment of the crew’s wages against the vessel in priority to mortgagees.

Following from the above discussion, it is clear that the alleged common law rule against the assignment or subrogation of maritime liens is neither a conclusive nor  an established rule of the common law, and does not constitute solid grounds for the exclusion of the right of assignment or subrogation in Ghana.

Even if it is accepted, for the sake of argument, that the common law position is that stated by Hill J. in The Petone, it leaves many questions unanswered. First, The Petone decided only the subrogation of liens regarding seamen’s wages, and no other maritime lien. This decision must be taken in the context that seamen’s “sacred lien” for wages is unique among all the liens and seafarers have traditionally been protected by the admiralty courts.[131] The Petone never resolved the possibility of subrogation by contract or assignment. Hill J himself in The Petone declared: “I say nothing about contractual assignments of debts or claims supported by maritime liens”.[132] Neither did it decide the subrogation or assignment of other maritime liens. Indeed, in The Petone, Hill J. reaffirmed assignment by a bottomry holder who may endorse over his bond to a third party who pays off his claim.[133]

In any case, it is my humble opinion that since the decision in The Petone was given after 1874, it does not form part of the common law inherited by Ghana and only has persuasive authority.

Furthermore, the current tide of judicial decision in some common law countries, like Canada and United States, strongly suggests a change in judicial attitude towards the so-called common law prohibition against subrogation of maritime liens. Recently, the Supreme of Canada held in Metaxas v.Galaxias, that an organization which paid crew wages were subrogated to the seamen’s wages and were, therefore, paid ahead of mortgagees.[134] 

If Ghana is minded to make the most capital of the maritime industry and maritime voyage in particular, it is my contention that it must permit the assignment or subrogation of maritime liens. This is because allowing assignees and subrogees of maritime liens to step into the shoes of privileged claimants facilitates the efficient operation of a vessel and helps to preserve other liens that would have been extinguished by the premature sale of the vessel to satisfy some higher ranking liens. This is borne out by the practice in the maritime industry where a lower lien holder pays off a higher lien holder who would otherwise have sold the vessel at a time when the proceeds of the sale would have been sufficient to settle only his claim to the detriment of the other lien holders and claimants.[135] Permitting a lower lien holder to pay off the higher lien holder and stepping into his shoes preserves the vessel to be sold at a later opportune time when the proceeds would be adequate to satisfy all the claims on the vessel.

If Ghana is interested in encouraging persons and financiers of vessels in times of grave danger to the vessel, crew and goods parliament must amend the law to reflect current legal and maritime practice. Alternatively, a definite determination or pronouncement on the assignment or subrogation of maritime liens by the superior courts of the land is called for to settle or clear the current state of confusion.

Secondly, settling this matter is of great importance to maritime industry players in Ghana since the outcome plays a key role in the determination of priority of paying claims secured on the vessel. For example, if it is accepted that an insurer or indemnifier who pays a maritime lien steps into the shoes of the compensated, it means that that person has priority over other creditors such as mortgagees. However, if it is the position that an indemnifier of a maritime lien does not so step into the shoes of the compensated fellow then it means that other creditors like mortgagees have a priority.

Creating National Maritime Liens –Making a case for towage freight liens

In addition to the traditional maritime liens provided under section 66 of the GSA, the Liens Convention gives contracting party states, like Ghana, the right to create national maritime liens. Although national maritime liens would have the same characteristics as convention liens, a shorter period of six months or sixty days after the sale of a vessel to a bona fide purchaser is provided for their extinction.[136]

This provision gives Ghana the right to create national maritime liens which, in its own assessment, would facilitate maritime operations in the country. Admittedly, embedded in the right to create national maritime liens is also the right not to create any. Ghana chose the latter, preferring not to create any national maritime lien. The wisdom in not exercising this right is not clear. However, it is my considered opinion that parliament would have done the maritime industry in Ghana a lot of good if it had created a few national maritime liens that are essential to the operation of vessels. One essential service for which parliament could usefully have created a national maritime lien is towage freight.

Long ago, Dr. Lushington defined towage as “the employment of one vessel to expedite the voyage of another, when nothing more is required than accelerating her progress”.[137] Usually, ships of all sizes, including those having their own means of propulsion, require the assistance of another vessel to be navigated safely especially in port areas. This assistance may be required to enable a ship to make or leave a berth, dock, or canal, or to perform any maneuver in confined areas.[138] In fact, towage is compulsory in Ghana’s two main harbors for vessels over 1000GT. The tugs tow arriving vessels at the harbor entrance and departing vessels along the berth.[139] Towage services are crucial to the shipping industry because both vessels that are self–propelled and those that are not self-propelled carry on maritime activities such as navigation, fishing and commerce.[140] This clearly means that towage services are indispensable, particularly for non-self propelled vessels like dumb barges.

At common law, towage freight gives rise to a statutory right in rem, and it is not secured by a maritime lien.[141] Technically, a statutory right only confers on the tower a right to pursue a particular judicial action to enforce payment of his freight as a debt.[142] The drawback to this right is that it is defeated by the voluntary transfer of title and forced sale of the vessel.[143] This limitation puts the tower at a severe disadvantage, and marginalizes him in the distribution of the proceeds of the sale of a vessel during a forced sale.[144]  It is common knowledge in admiralty practice that proceeds are often not adequate to pay for all liens, let alone an unsecured right to claim towage freight. Granting towage freight enables the tower to arrest the encumbered vessel and to conduct proceedings for relief against that vessel, without the necessity of locating the owner of the property. This remedial aspect of the right is of considerable value in the field of maritime law, where the identity and location of the owner may be extremely difficult to ascertain and, the opportunities for enforcing the claim rare and of extremely short duration. Furthermore, the existence of the lien has procedural consequences, in that it secures a preference for the lien holder in the ranking of claims against a limited fund for the satisfaction of the debts of the property; and that preference affords the maritime claimant a measure of security for the claim.[145]  This situation calls for concern because it constitutes unjust enrichment on the part of the ship-owner for the tower’s services to be used in facilitating the voyage of vessel and to generate freight for the ship-owner, but not be paid. It can be argued that the tower can bring a personal action against the owner to claim his unpaid freight. Though this argument is plausible, it is a notorious fact that in most cases, the vessel constitutes the sole asset of the company or owner.[146] Therefore, the forced sale or voluntary transfer of the vessel would invariably deny the tower his right to be paid.

It also makes ample sense to create a national maritime lien for towage to protect towers because towage service providers, unlike other claimants, like mortgagees, may be in a disadvantaged position to inquire into and remain abreast with the financial affairs of the owners or others in possession of the vessel. The first indication that a tower may have as to the financial insolvency of the owners may be where the vessel is arrested and notice is given of the arrest.

Parliament must, therefore, take a second look at the GSA, 2003 to create a few national liens, especially for towage freight. Towage service providers must be protected from this exploitation if they are to continue in the business of providing this essential service to the industry.


The place of maritime liens in the shipping industry in Ghana cannot be overemphasized. As a security device, it lessens the risk incurred by persons who extend credit facilities to vessels whose owners are unable, contemporaneously, to make payment for the service rendered to the vessel or the voyage. Furthermore, it assures those who render services to vessels or those who activities are adversely affected by the vessels that their privileged claims would be settled ahead of other claims. This comfort promotes maritime trade.It is salutary that Ghana has acceded to the International Convention on Liens and Mortgages, 1993, and has implemented a significant proportion of its provisions in national legislation. Thus, the GSA, 2003 while confirming traditional maritime liens like crew’s wages, salvage claims, has also elevated other claims that, hitherto, were not secured by maritime liens. These include pilotage and ports and canal dues. At the same time it has done away with bottomry and respondentia maritime liens which have become obsolete. Nevertheless, the omission of assignment and subrogation of liens from the GSA, and reluctance of the law-makers to create a few unarguably useful national maritime liens constitute blind spots in the Act which must be healed. The means by which these blind spots could be healed may be parliamentary amendment of the Act or through judicial activism to fill the gaps.

*An earlier version of this paper is published in the University of Ghana Law Journal, Vol.  XXIV, (2008-10).

[1] Supreme Court Ordinance No. 4, 1876, section 4. On 24 July 1874, the Gold Coast (now Ghana) obtained a local legislature, and from that date the English common law, the doctrines of equity and the statutes of general application ceased to apply to the Gold Coast. Therefore, the common law of Ghana is that whole body of English law before 24 July 1874. See K.Y. Yeboa, “History of the Ghana Legal System” (1991-92) 18 R.G.L.1at 7.

[2] Act 645 which came into force on 3 July 2003, [GSA,2003]

[3] Act 183 as amended by the Merchant Shipping Act, (1963) (Amendment Decree, 1969) (NLCD 372) and the Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Law, 1991(PNDCL 248).

[4] Ghana Shipping Bill, (2000).

[5] Alexander Gaddiel Buabeng, Maritime Liens, Statutory rights in rem and Mortgages –A comparative Analysis of Ghanaian and English laws, in Admiral 2, (2006) , 105 at 121.

[6] GSA, 2003, Sections 66-76.

[7] Francisco Berliengieri, “The 1993 Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages” (1995) L.M.C.L.Q. 57.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. at 62.

[10] William Tetley, Maritime Lien and Claims (2ed) (Cowanville, Q.C.: Yvin Blais, 1998) at 55; D.C. Jackson, Enforcement of Maritime Claims (London: Lloyd’s of London Press Ltd., 1985) at 9; The Bold Buccleugh 13 ER 884 at 890. However, according to Gilmore and Black, the concept of maritime lien is not a novel and peculiar importation from the civil law. See Gilmore and Black, The Law of Admiralty (2ed) (New York: Foundation Press Inc., 1975) at 596.

[11] Alexander Gaddiel Buabeng, Maritime Liens, Statutory rights in rem and Mortgages –A comparative Analysis of Ghanaian and English laws, in Admiral 2, (2006) , 105 at 121.

[12] The Ripon City (1897) P. 226 at 242.

[13] The Tolten [1946] P 135 at 149- 150. Others like Prof. Tetley cautiously refer to it as “a claim enforced maritime property, usually a ship,” thus implying that a lien can be enforced against properties other than the vessel.

[14] See also Section 383(1) of the GSA, 2003. Vessel in this context refers to its hull, machinery and other fixed parts. Contrast with section 21(3) of the English Supreme Court Act, 1981, which says that: “In any case in which there is a maritime lien or other charge on any ship, aircraft or other property for the amount claimed, an action in rem may be brought in the High Court against that ship, aircraft or property.”

[15] Charles Donovan, “Case Comment: St John Marine Co. United States” (I997) 28 J. Mar. L & Com. 351 at 355.

[16] The Bold Buccleugh 13 ER 884 at 890; The Ripon City supra note 9 at 242. In Comeau’s Sea Food Ltd. v. Frank and Troy [1971] F.C. 556, the Canadian Supreme Court also defined a lien as “a privileged claim, upon maritime property, for services done to it or injury caused by it, arising from the moment when the claim attaches, traveling with the property unconditionally, and enforced by means of an action in rem.

[17] The Bold Buccleugh, ibid.

[18] Tetley, supra note 10 at 59-60. See also The Tolten [1946] P 135 at 149-150.

[19] The Tolten[1946] P 135.

[20] GSA, 2003, Section 70.

[21] Ibid. Section 446(b).

[22] GSA, 2003, Section 66.

[23] Bottomry is an agreement where under a representative of a ship, in most instances the master, in circumstances of distress and necessity, and in the absence of any other source of finance or credit, hypothecates the ship (or cargo in the case of respondentia) with a view to meeting the necessary expenditure or obtaining credit and so facilitating the safe continuation or completion of the voyage. See The St. George [1926] P. 217 at 226.  See also E.Gold et. al infra note 24 at 279.

[24] E. Gold, A. Chircop. H. Kindred, Maritime Law (Toronto: Irwin Law Inc., 2003) [“E. Gold et al.”] at 380.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] GSA, 2003, section 66(1) (a); section 137(1).

[28] Berlingieri, supra note 7 at 63.

[29] International Paint v. Mission Viking 1981 A.M.C. U.S Court of Appeals (5th Circuit) 1487 at 1491.

[30] GSA, 2003, Section 138 (1). However, where it is proved that, in the event of a ship-wreck or loss of the ship, the seafarer made no utmost effort to save the ship, cargo and stores, the seafarer is barred from receiving wages.

[31] GSA, 2003, section 72 (2) (a).

[33] In Connor v. The Flora (1898) 6 Ex. C.R.131, a candy seller employed on board a ship was held to be eligible to enforce a lien for her unpaid wages. Section 158 of the GSA, 2003 requires that every Ghanaian ship of one thousand gross tons or more trading beyond the waters of Ghana carry a certified cook.

[34] Tetley, supra note 10 at 269.

[35] Llido v. The Lowell Thomas Explorer [1980] 1F.C.339, a marine engineer hired to inspect a vessel at port and to verify that she could sail was held not to be a “seaman” because he was not employed on board the vessel and could, therefore, not exercise a lien on the vessel.

[36] GSA, 2003, Section 481.

[37] Elmvile No.2 [1904] P. 442.

[38] GSA, 2003, Section 144.

[39] Tetley, supra note 10 at 274.

[40] GSA, 2003, section 142. See also The Great Eastern (1867) L.R. I A & E 384.  In The Fort Morgan v. Jacobsen (1919) 59 S.C.R. 404, the Supreme Court of Canada granted a master the wages due him up to the time of his improper dismissal and 3 months additional wages, as damages, as well as his repatriation  expenses. However, where a seafarer’s contract of employment is terminated with the consent of the seafarer, he would not be entitled to a lien.

[41] Tetley, supra note 10 at 267. See also Berlingieri, supra note 7 at 63.

[42] Ibid.

[43] GSA, 2003, Section 66 (c).

[44] Berlingieri, supra note 7 at 66. See also Gilmore and Black, supra note 10 at 738.

[45] GSA, 2003, Section 376. See the English case of The Zephyrus [1842]166 E.R. 596 at 597.

[46] Tetley, supra note 10 at 331.

[47] The Act defines “property” in relation to salvage as any property not permanently and intentionally attached to the shore line and includes freight at risk”. See section 370; see also The Gas Float Whitton No.2 [1896] P. 42 at 63.

[48] GSA, 2003, Section 66 (c).

[49] Historically, salvors had no liens for life salvage, because there was no property that could be arrested. However, Dr. Lushington has pointed out that where lives as well as property are saved, the court gave a higher award. The criteria adopted by the GSA in fixing the salvage award follow Dr. Lushington’s approach by awarding a reasonable amount where lives are saved. See sections 373 and 382.

[50] Tetley, supra note 10 at 362.

[51] GSA, 2003, Section 385. This section domesticates the special compensation regime for environmental harm under the Salvage Convention, 1989, Art.14. See Berlingieri supra note 7 at 64. Contra.Tetley, supra, note 10 who argues that a maritime lien for salvage should extend to all forms of salvage remuneration, including special compensation.

[52] 165 E.R.1537 at 1538.

[53] The Sava Star [1995] 2Lloyds Rep. 143,141-144.

[54] GSA.2003, Section 402.

[55] Ibid. Section 393.

[56] Tetley supra note 10 at 317.

[57] Earlier common law cases sought to distinguish the crews’ acts from that of the ship. For example, in the ‘wisdom’ of the English House of Lords in Currie v. McKnight [1897] A.C.97, “instrument of damage” meant that the negligent or willful act should be that of the ship and not that of the crew. In Currie v M’Knight, the crew members cut loose moorings attaching their ship to an adjacent ship causing that ship to drift and incur damage. It was held that the cause of the damage was the conduct of the crew in cutting the moorings and the ship herself could not be said to be the instrument of the damage.

Recent decisions have taken a more pragmatic and sensible view of the matter, attributing the crews acts to the ship. See The Eschersheim [1976] 2 Lloyds Rep. 108; and The Rama [1996]2Lloyds Rep. 281.

[58] Such objects may include a dock, harbour, landing stage in port, a wharf, break-water, and a pier. For example, in The Merle, Sir Robert Phillimore declared that there was a maritime lien against a ship for damage caused by it to a pier.

[59] Tetley, supra note 10 at 387.

[60] GSA, 2003, Section 217.The Minister is empowered to make Collision Regulations for the purpose of preventing collisions at sea and in all navigable waters; in respect of the lights to be carried and exhibited; and in respect of steering and sailing rules to be observed by ships.

[61] Ibid. Section 220

[62] Ibid. Section 66(e).

[63] Ibid. See also Berlingieri supra note 7 at 65.

[64] Ibid. Section 66(b).

[65] Ibid.

[66] Tetley, supra  note 10 at 389.

[67] Ibid.

[68] GSA, 2003, Section 425.

[69] In this wise, the Act gives the vessel owner who pays the claimant to receive, by way of contribution, any excess payment he has made from the other concurrent tortfeasors. See Section 427.

[70] Examples of these international conventions are the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969, as amended by the 1992 Protocol signed in Brussels , November 29, 1969 (1970) I.L.M. 45, 973; U.N.T.S. 3, came into force June 19, 1975, and the International Convention on Liability for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, London, May 3, 1996, 35 I.L.M, 1415, which governs liability and compensation for damages caused by the carriage by a ship of a wide variety of potentially harmful substances, including oil in bulk, dangerous liquids and chemical substances.

[71] GSA, 2003, Section 71(a).

[72] Ibid. Section 71(b).                                                                                           

[73] Harbour, Docks and Piers Clauses Act, 1847, 10 & 11 Vic. c.27.

[74] The Emille Millon [1905] 2 K.B. 817.

[75] The Sea Spray [1907] P.133 at 136.

[76] The Veritas [1901] P.304.

[77] Tetley, supra note 10 at 459.

[78] GSA, 2003, section 66 (d).

[79] Ibid. Section 70. See also The Premier Herd (1865) 6 L.E.R 493.

[80] Ibid. Section 74(6).

[81] E. Gold, et al. supra note 25 at 289. See Scot Steel Ltd. v. The Alarissa [1996] 2 F.C. 883.

[82] Section 69.

[83] Section 74(6).

[84] Edgar Gold, et al supra note 24 at 288.

[85] [1977] 1G.L.R.138.

[86] Ibid. at 144.

[87] Tetley, supra note 10 at 890; Gilmore and Black supra note 10 at 734.

[88] Charles Donovan, supra note 15 at 351.

[89] Gilmore and Black, supra note 10 at 734.

[90] GSA, 2003, Section 74(2).

[91] Ibid. Section 73.

[92] Christopher J. Giaschi, “Law of Priorities”, www.admiraltylaw.com/papers/priorities.htm.

[93] GSA, 2003, section 74(5).

[94] It appears that unpaid fines imposed on the owners may also be deducted from the proceeds of the sale. See section 452.

[95] Ibid. Section 68.

[96] Ibid. Section 68(1).

[97] Berlingieri , supra note 7 at 68. See also The Veritas [1901] P. 304, 312-313; The Stream Fisher [[1937] P. 73.

[98] GSA, 2003, section 68(2).

[99] The Stream Fisher [1937] P.73 at 83.

[100] GSA, 2003, section 74(6).

[101] The Tergeste [1903] P. 26. See also Edgar Gold et al supra note 25 at 290; Tetley, supra note 11 at 539-540.

[102]GSA, 2003, Section 75.

[103] Ibid. Section 74(1). The Ghana Maritime Authority is obliged to issue a certificate, at the request of the purchaser, including that the vessel is free of all encumbrances except those assumed by the purchaser. See section 76(1)

[104] Ibid.

[105] 1992 Constitution, Art. 11

[106] Compania Anonima Venezolana de Navegacion v. A.J. Perez Export Co. 303 F.2d 692, 699, 1962 A.M.C.1710, 1720 (5th Cir.1962).

[107] Tetley, supra note 10 at 586.

[108] The Lind Flor (1857) 166 E.R. 1150.

[109] Gilmore and Black, supra note 10 at 588. See also E. Gold, et al, supra note 24 at 285.

[110] E. Gold et al supra note 24 at 285. See The Rainbow (1885) 53L.T.91, 5 Asp. 479.

[111] GSA, 2003, section 127.

[112] GSA, 2003, Section 74.

[113] Ibid. See also The Goulandris [1927] P. 183 particularly at 196.

[114] E. Gold et al supra note 25 at 287.

[115] GSA, 2003, section 446(b). Also, see E. Gold et al supra note 25 at 287.

[116]The Bold Buccleugh, supra note 10 at 285.

[117]GSA, 2003,Section 72(1).

[118] [1882] 7 App Cas 333.

[119] [1882] 7 App Cas 333 at 339

[120] Castellain v Preston (1883) 11 QBD 380

[121] Simpson v Thomson (1877) 3 App Cas 279

[122] For example, section 422(5), which deals with situations where a ship-owner or a salvor seeks to limit his liability and has provided security or guarantee, provides that “where a person liable or the insurer of that person has settled the claim, the person shall be subrogated to the rights of the person so compensated would have enjoyed …before the proceeds of the security or guarantee are distributed”. This provision is vague, if not absurd, for a number of reasons. First, the person liable in this context is either a ship-owner or a salvor. One would be putting too much strain on language to interpret this provision to mean that a ship-owner who settles his indebtedness to a seafarer becomes vested with the seafarer’s maritime lien because such an interpretation clearly sins against a cardinal rule of admiralty law, namely, that a person cannot exercise a lien on his own property.[122] See also Section 427(1) and (2) which limits subrogation of  the right to sue for damages and nothing more.

[123] International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages, 6 May 1993, I.L.M.353 (entered into force in September 2004), Art 6.

[124] Bimpong –Buta S. Y., The Law of Interpretation in Ghana, (Accra: Advanced Legal Publications, 1995).

[125] The Petone [1917] P. 198. See also The Lyons, 6 Asp. M.L.C. 199.                               

[126] The Eliza Fisher (1895) 4 Ex.L.R.461 at 469.

[127] Gilmore and Black, supra note 10 at 633-634.

[128] It must, however, be pointed out that Dr. Lushington was not consistent in holding this view. He sometimes preferred that the subrogation of liens be done with the sanction of the courts.

[129] The Albion (1872) 1Asp. M.L.C.481; The W.F. Safford (1860)Lush.69 at 71; In  The Tagus, [1903] P.44, a Mr. X, before he became master, had been super-cargo, and while supercargo had paid the crew’s wages and made other disbursements. He claimed these sums, and he was allowed to recover so much of those disbursements as were payment of the crew’s wages against the vessel in priority to mortgagees.

[130] [1903] P.44

[131] Tetley, supra note 10 at 404.

[132] [1917] P. 198

[133] Ibid at 205. See also The Catherine, (1847)166 E.R. 863; The Kammerhevie Rosenkrants 166 E.R. 23.

[134] (1988) See also Int. Paint v. Mission Viking 1981 AMC U. S. Court of Appeals (5the Cir.) 1487; Pierside Terminal Operators v. M/V Floridian 374 F.Supp.27

[135] Tetley, supra note 10 at 339.

[136] International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages, 1993, [“Convention Liens” in contradistinction to national maritime liens].

[137] The Princess Alice (1849) 166 E.R. 914 at 915.

[138] E.Gold et al supra note 24 at 574.

[139] Online:http://www.otal.com.ghana. See also http//:www.mapship.com/tema/htm.

[140] Vessel is defined to include “every description of watercraft with its equipment whether self-propelled or not that is used or capable of being used on water as a means of transportation for the purposes of navigation, fishing or commerce or any other purpose”. See Section 481.

[141] William Tetley, “Liens for Towage Freight” (1984) 15 J. Mar. L &Com.199. See also Carow Towing v. EdmcWilliams (1919)18 Ex.C.R.470, where it was held that there is no maritime lien for towage claims, and that mortgages ranked ahead of towage freight.

[142] E. Gold et al supra note 24 at 290.

[143] Ibid.

[144] P. Sotioropoulous, “Liens for Necessaries and the Arrest of Ships under Greek Law” (1987) 12 Tul. Mar. L.J. 299 at 315.

[145] Gilmore and Black, supra note 10 at 622.

[146] Tetley, supra note 10.

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