About this NPA
The Admiralty and Maritime National Practice Area (NPA) incorporates proceedings that relate to admiralty or maritime disputes, including:
- in rem proceedings
- in personam proceedings
- marine insurance
- cargo claims
- other matters including matters relating to the Navigation Act 2012 (Cth) and the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 (Cth).
The admiralty and maritime jurisdiction also includes:
- any proceeding under or by reference to the Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth) and Admiralty Rules 1988 (Cth) (Admiralty Rules) and any of the Acts (and related Regulations thereunder) set out under the Legislation section (A&M Acts)
- applications pursuant to the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) for review of decisions made under the A&M Acts
- appeals from decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in relation to applications to that Tribunal for reviews of decisions made under the A&M Acts
- proceedings arising under a provision of the A&M Acts for the purposes of paragraph 39B(1A)(c) of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth).
The Court is also able to determine any proceeding of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction not otherwise within its jurisdiction that is associated with a proceeding in which the jurisdiction of the Court under the Admiralty Act is invoked.
Memoranda of Understanding
The Court continues to clarify relations with key maritime organisations and the Court has entered into Memoranda of Understandings with:
- Australian Maritime Safety Authority ("AMSA") – 14 August 2002
- Australian Customs and Border Protection Service – effective 4 November 2013
- Ports Australia - revised 1 December 2015.
The Oar Mace of Admiralty
The Federal Court maces are the first ever to bear the arms of Australia, signifying the sovereign source of admiralty jurisdiction in Australia and the jurisdiction of the Court in admiralty.
For urgent applications to arrest or release a vessel from arrest, see Arrest and release of a vessel below.
Urgent applications for the arrest of a vessel may be made at any time, including outside Court business hours.
For urgent applications, other than for the arrest or release of a vessel:
- If the matter is already in a judge’s docket, contact the chambers for that Judge;
- If the matter is not currently docketed to an admiralty and maritime judge, contact the chambers of the relevant Admiralty and Maritime Registry Co-ordinating Judge in the Registry where the proceeding is intended to be filed or, in his or her absence, a judge in the Admiralty & Maritime National Practice Area in that Registry.
- If the application is made outside of normal business hours contact the Out of Hours Duty Registrar on 1300 352 000
Arrest and Release of a Vessel
Admiralty Marshals are available to arrest a vessel anywhere in Australia at any time on any day of the year.
Practitioners should be prepared and able to provide to the Duty Registrar or Marshal the following details about a potential arrest:
- Name and location of the vessel to be arrested (if known);
- When the application to arrest the vessel is intended to be filed and in which Registry;
- Any information that may assist the Marshal to execute the arrest, including any safety issues; and
- Confirmation that the practitioner has the necessary funds to pay for the Marshals' fees and expenses to execute the arrest.
1. In situations where an arrest is not necessarily required urgently, practitioners are still strongly encouraged to contact the court, as far in advance as possible, to provide these, and any other relevant details. To do so, practitioners should contact one of the following Admiralty Registrars:
During east coast business hours:
During west coast business hours:
2. When filing documents regarding an arrest that is not urgent, or when filing documents during business hours in respect of an urgent arrest:
- the Registry in which the documents are filed will refer them to the Duty Registrar who will liaise with one of the Admiralty Registrars in order to expedite the filing and arrest process;
- if you have already been in contact with an Admiralty Registrar, please notify that Registrar when you have filed the documents and let them know at which Registry they were filed.
3. When seeking an urgent arrest out of business hours:
- Please contact the Out of Hours Duty Registrar on 1300 352 000
The Out of Hours Duty Registrar will then contact one of the Admiralty Registrars, (or if none is available, contact the chambers of one of the Admiralty Judges).
The relevant forms and rules required to commence an application to arrest a vessel are set out under Forms, Rules and Fees below.
Insurance of property arrested under the Admiralty Act
The Marshal will obtain indemnity insurance for the period the vessel is in the custody of the Marshal under the Admiralty Act. Further information about the insurance requirements and how to calculate insurance is available in Admiralty Marshal Insurance Cover.
Practitioners should follow the process set out above for contacting the relevant Registry where a vessel is to be released from arrest. Where the release is required as a matter of urgency, please contact one of the Admiralty Registrars listed above in business hours or the out of hours duty registrar if you have not already been in discussions with one of them or the Marshal about the release.
The ship or property will only be released if satisfactory arrangements have been made for the payment of the Marshals' costs and expenses incurred in connection with its custody while under arrest. (refer to Rules 41 and 53 of the Admiralty Rules).
Admiralty and maritime proceedings will initially be allocated, on a provisional basis, to the Admiralty and Maritime Registry Co-ordinating Judge in the relevant registry, who will be responsible for case managing the proceeding until it is allocated to the docket judge (an Admiralty and Maritime NPA Judge). The docket judge will then be responsible for case management, hearing and determination of the proceeding.
As early as possible in the proceeding, practitioners must inform the Court of the nature of the dispute, the real issues in dispute, how the essential facts are to be proved, whether or not there are technical issues and whether there are any particular evidential difficulties because of expert or overseas witnesses.
The Court appreciates that in admiralty and maritime proceedings both the plaintiff and the defendant may need extra time (for example, to obtain instructions from overseas clients). Nevertheless, the Court expects the parties and their lawyers to promptly ascertain, as far as is reasonably possible, the nature and facts of the proceeding.
The Court’s expectations with respect to the resolution of cargo claims is set out in the Admiralty and Maritime Practice Note (A&M-1).
Alternative dispute resolution
The Court has staff (some of whom are Marshals) with skills and expertise in maritime proceedings, who are available, as required, to conduct or assist in the conduct of mediations in this NPA.
In appropriate proceedings the Court is prepared to make available outside persons with relevant skills retained by the Court on an ad hoc basis. The engagement of such persons would generally be through the offices of professional or industry associations.
The Court also has power to refer proceedings (by consent) to arbitration under the Federal Court Act. Speedy procedures akin to those of the London Maritime Arbitration Association Small Claims procedures can be used. This may be particularly suitable in small cargo claims.
For more detailed information relating to the case management of admiralty and maritime proceedings, refer to the Admiralty and Maritime Practice Note (A&M-1).
Practice Notes, Guides & Precedent Orders
All practice notes are to be read with the Central Practice Note. It is the essential guide to practice in the Federal Court in all proceedings.
Central Practice Note (CPN-1)
NPA Practice Note:
Other practice notes and guides which may be relevant to this NPA include:
NPA Practice Notes:
General Practice Notes:
Guides and Precedent Orders:
Forms, Rules & Fees
Filing fees for commencing a proceeding in this NPA may apply. Information about Court fees, including the fees payable and circumstances where an exemption or deferral can be given is available in Forms, Fees & Costs or from the Registry.
Procedural rules for proceedings under the Admiralty Act
The general procedure for the conduct of proceedings under the Admiralty Act is set out in the Admiralty Rules. As the Admiralty Rules do not provide a comprehensive code, the Federal Court Rules 2011 (Cth) (FCA Rules) also apply except to the extent of any inconsistency.
Commencing a proceeding under the Admiralty Act
Proceedings under the Admiralty Act are commenced either as an action:
- in rem or
- in personam.
Proceedings in rem and in personam must be commenced by separate processes (refer to rule 18 of the Admiralty Rules).
An action in rem is an action against a ship or cargo or other property on, or related to, the ship. In such an action, a ship coming into Australian waters may be arrested for the purpose of providing security for money claimed from the ship owner and operator. If security is not provided, a judge may order the sale of the ship to provide funds to pay the claims.
An action in rem may be commenced against a ship or other property as provided in Part III of the Admiralty Act, including:
- a proprietary maritime claim
- a maritime lien (as defined in the Admiralty Act) or other charge in respect of the ship or other property
- a general maritime claim where the owner of the ship or property when the action is commenced was the owner or charterer or was in possession or control of the ship or property when the cause of action arose, and such person would be also liable on the claim if commenced as an action in personam
- a general maritime claim where the demise charterer (being a person who has full possession and control of a ship pursuant to a lease) of the ship when the action is commenced was the owner or charterer or was in possession or control of the ship when the cause of action arose, and such person would be also liable on the claim if commenced as an action in personam.
A proceeding in respect of a general maritime claim against a ship ('the first ship') may also be commenced as an action in rem against some other ship ('the surrogate ship') where the owner of the surrogate ship when the action is commenced was the owner or charterer or was in possession or control of the first ship when the cause of action arose, and such person would be also liable on the claim if commenced as an action in personam. The right to proceed against a surrogate ship does not arise in relation to a proprietary maritime claim.
A proceeding which is an action in rem (also known as the initiating process) under the Admiralty Act is commenced by filing the following forms:
An action in personam is a proceeding against a person, including an organisation.
The Admiralty Rules do not provide for how an action in personam is to be commenced, other than to state that such an action cannot be commenced by the same initiating process as the process initiating an action in rem.
The usual practice in the Court is for an action in personam to be commenced by filing the following forms and paying the relevant fees:
Parties should consider whether it is necessary to file a Genuine Steps Statement (Form 16) in certain proceedings in this NPA – see r 8.02 of the FCA Rules and the Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011 (Cth) (including sections 6, 7 and 16).
3. Application for arrest
An application for an arrest warrant constitutes an unlimited undertaking to the Court to pay the Marshal, on demand, an amount equal to the costs and expenses of the Marshal in relation to the arrest, including the costs and expenses in relation to the ship or property while it is under arrest (refer to r 41 of the Admiralty Rules).
An application for the arrest of a vessel is commenced by filing the following forms:
4. Caveats against arrest
A caveat against the arrest of a ship or property constitutes an undertaking by the person lodging the caveat to enter an appearance in any action in rem started against the ship or property specified in the caveat.
In certain situations the caveat also operates as an undertaking to pay into the Court, unless otherwise agreed, within three days of being served with a writ, either the amount claimed in the writ or the amount specified in the caveat (whichever is the less) or to enter a bail bond in that amount.
5. Release of an arrested vessel
A ship or property may be released from arrest where:
- the party who obtained the arrest consents in writing to the release see Arrest and release of a vessel for details as to the process where the release is required as a matter of urgency.
- the Court orders release, or where the proceeding is discontinued or dismissed
- a bail bond in the required amount is filed in the Court
- the required amount is paid into the Court.
The ship or property will only be released if satisfactory arrangements have been made for the payment of the Marshals' costs and expenses incurred in connection with its custody while under arrest (refer to Rules 41 and 53 of the Admiralty Rules).
6. Caveats against release
A caveat against release may be filed in the Court where the arrest warrant was issued. Where a caveat against release is in force, the person who lodged the caveat must be given a copy of any application to the Court for an order to release the ship or property under arrest. In addition, the Judicial Registrar is not able to order the release of the ship or property unless the Court so orders.
7. Withdrawal of caveats
A caveator may withdraw a caveat by filing:
|Commonwealth of Australia||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
|New South Wales||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
|Northern Territory||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
|Queensland||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
|South Australia||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
|Tasmania||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
|Victoria||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
|Western Australia||Acts | Subordinate legislation|
- Treaties and conventions
- Other countries’ legislation
Please note: these lists are not exhaustive
Recent Judgments – Federal Court
- 8 Sep 2023:
Poralu Marine Australia Pty Ltd v MV Dijksgracht  FCAFC 147
CONTRACTS - contract of carriage of goods by sea - formation - whether contract was concluded by way of fixture recap email - construction of recap emails - where recap provided that terms were otherwise as per carrier's standard form booking note and bill of lading including rider clauses but with English law and London arbitration - whether…
Judge: Rares, Sarah C Derrington and Feutrill JJ
- 4 Sep 2023:
Delta Corp Ship Management DMCCO v The Ship "Caledonian Sky"  FCA 1058
ADMIRALTY - application by plaintiff to Registrar for release of vessel under arrest - caveats against release previously filed - whether vessel should be released from arrest - role of caveats against release - whether release should be delayed to protect interest of caveator - release of vessel ordered
Judge: Stewart J
- 4 Aug 2023:
GeelongPort Pty Limited v The Ship "Voyager P"  FCA 918
ADMIRALTY - application for judicial sale of ship pendente lite - application for order to move ship under arrest - ship abandoned - orders made
Judge: O'Callaghan J
- 26 May 2023:
Bank of New Zealand (Security Trustee) v The vessel MY "Island Escape" (No 3)  FCA 541
ADMIRALTY - action in rem under s 16 of the Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth) - claim relating to mortgage of a ship and interest in respect of it under ss 4(2)(a)(iii) and (d) of the Act - no appearance filed by chip or relevant persons - application for summary judgment - ex parte hearing - choice of law - no reasonable possibility of defence to claim -…
Judge: Feutrill J
- 12 May 2023:
Brontes Security LLC v "Lihir Chief" (formerly "Charlie B") (No 2)  FCA 515
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - application by non-party to restrain party's solicitors from acting and to set aside earlier orders releasing party from implied undertaking not to disclose information or documents produced under compulsion - where party making application did not produce documents subject of order releasing undertaking - where proceeding …
Judge: Rares J
- 4 May 2023:
Sealanes (1985) Pty Ltd v Vessel MY "Island Escape"  FCA 414
ADMIRALTY - in rem proceedings against defendant ship - general maritime claim - supply of goods or materials to the ship for its operation or maintenance - demise charterer - no appearance entered - no participation in proceedings - summary judgment - default judgment - principles applicable where summary judgment and default judgment both…
Judge: Feutrill J
- 21 Apr 2023:
Brontes Security LLC v "Lihir Chief" (formerly "Charlie B")  FCA 388
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - application by party for release from implied undertaking not to disclose or use documents or information obtained under compulsion in court proceeding, without the leave of the court, for use for any purpose other than that for which documents or information were given - where proceeding settled - where party later seeks…
Judge: Rares J
- 5 Apr 2023:
Herd v Haines  FCA 325
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - foreign judgments - registration of part New Zealand judgment under Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Cth) - where party now seeks to register omitted judgment debt - power of the court to permit registration of further amount - whether party estopped from seeking to register
Judge: Sarah C Derrington J
- 27 Feb 2023:
Dan-Bunkering (Singapore) Pte Ltd v The Ship Yangtze Fortune (No 2)  FCA 148
ADMIRALTY - where orders made for judicial sale of a ship pendente lite by closed tender process - where Admiralty Marshal accepted tender of highest bidder - where highest bidder defaulted on contractual obligations - directions sought as to termination of contract and acceptance of second-highest bid
Judge: Stewart J
- 20 Feb 2023:
Ixom Operations Pty Ltd v Blue One Shipping SA  FCAFC 25
ESTOPPEL - where extension of time limitation to sue on contract evidenced by bill of lading granted by "owners" of vessel - where "owners" can refer to registered owners or demise charterers (ie, disponent owners) - where the proper defendant was the demise charterer - where primary judge found that both the registered owner and demise charterer… 408 ALR 508 ; 296 FCR 1
Judge: Rares, Sarah C Derrington and Stewart JJ
Papers & Publications
- 28 Jul 2022:
Admiralty and maritime seminar
Updates on UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
- 18 Nov 2021:
Navigating the rough seas of enforcement
AMTAC annual address, by Justice Stewart.
- 1 Sep 2021:
Introductory remarks to MLAANZ marine insurance webinar
Webinar presented by Justice Stewart.
- 23 Sep 2020:
World in a box: What legal issues might yet need to be resolved and by what mechanism?
Presented by video at the Australian Academy of Law "World in a box" online seminar, by Justice Sarah Derrington.
- 23 Sep 2020:
World in a box: Impact of containerisation on shipping transactions
Presented by video at the Australian Academy of Law "World in a box" online seminar, by Justice Stewart.
- 9 Mar 2020:
The role of courts in supporting arbitration: a review of recent developments in the Asia-Pacific
Presented by video at the 21st International Congress of Maritime Arbitrators, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by Justice Stewart.
- 24 Oct 2019:
The fluctuating incidence of the burden of proof under the Hague-Visby Rules: the implications of Volcafe v CSAV  AC 358 for the position in Australia
Delivered as the 2019 Richard Cooper Memorial Lecture by Justice Stewart, Brisbane.
- 24 Jul 2019:
Salvage learnings from the Thor Commander
Delivered at the MLAANZ / Federal Court of Australia Lunchtime Lecture by Justice Stewart, Sydney.
- 25 Jul 2017:
Practical aspects of a judicial sale
Presented to the National Admiralty Seminar, Federal Court of Australia, by Tony Tesoriero.
- 25 Jul 2017:
Some practical aspects associated with the judicial sale of ships
Presented to the National Admiralty Seminar, Federal Court of Australia, by Gregory Nell SC.
Admiralty & Maritime Research Links
- International maritime and trade related organisations
- Maritime law associations
- Maritime security
- News and research
- Organisations - Australia
- Organisations - International
- Ports, port authorities and related government bodies - Australia
- Universities, maritime law centres, education and training
To be notified when a ship is arrested or released, subscribe to our Admiralty Arrest Notification service.
A list of ship arrests and releases since January 2016 are available on the Court’s website.
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Important note: This information is procedural advice only. You should seek your own legal advice about legal cases and procedure in the Federal Court and in this area of law.