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From Ear to There: Common Maritime Misunderstandings

Whether on the dock or on the deck, there's always a lot of knowledge floating around. You likely give what the older guys or gals say more weight and maybe that's justified. As for me, I like to know for certain. Yea there's local knowledge that's not going to be printed up anywhere, but some stuff is down in writing. If it's printed, it's probably worth reading yourself rather than hearing someone else's interpretation. Here's a couple of things you might've learned one way, when the writings say something different.

Maybe you think 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, the regulations tell us, supposed to be "pronounced as in French." Plus, 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 let the concept of maritime liens get loose. 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 understand that maritime liens arise at the time the service is provided or the goods delivered. Unlike the auto lender or bank holding your home mortgage who have to 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 loads of these instances where what you once "heard" doesn't quite align with how things actually are making it worthwhile, I'd venture, to listen once and check twice.

Underway and making way.

John K. Fulweiler, Esq. is a Proctor-in-Admiralty representing individuals and small businesses in maritime matters including personal injury claims throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and with his office in Newport, Rhode Island. He can be reached at 1-800-383-MAYDAY (6293) or visit his website at

Categories: General Maritime Law

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