Arresting Vessels on the Texas Gulf Coast, by James R. Koecher
Maritime arrest or attachment of vessels pursuant to Rule B or Rule C of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims is a remedy often employed by marterialmen and/or suppliers of necessaries to vessels to obtain security for their payment. In this regard, the only way to obtain service and jurisdiction over a vessel is to arrest it and there is no other action which will get the immediate attention of a vessel owner quicker than having a United States Marshal arrest its vessel.
Arresting vessels in Texas is not a difficult procedure to accomplish assuming the firm retained to arrest the vessel has expertise in doing so and is familiar with the local rules and quirks of the District in which the arrest is being effected. The typical documents and pleadings used to effect the arrest are as follows:
1. Civil Cover Sheet;
2. Summons in a Civil Case;
3. Verified Original Complaint;
4. Plaintiff’s Motion for Issuance of Summons and Warrant of Arrest;
5. Memorandum in Support of Motion of Order Issuing Warrant for Arrest;
6. Order to Arrest a Vessel;
7. Warrant to Arrest Vessel;
8. U. S. Marshals Service’s Process Receipt and Return Form USM-285;
9. Check in the amount of $150.00 payable to the United States District Clerk; and
10. Check in the amount of 10,000.00 payable to the United States Marshal.
To arrest a vessel, she must be at dock and her exact location must be known. It is generally a good idea, and a matter of courtesy, to give the Marshal advance notice that a vessel arrest will be filed shortly. Our firm tries to give 24 hours’ advance notice, which the Marshal greatly appreciates.
To effect the arrest, a Verified Original Complaint in rem must be filed against the vessel and a $150.00 filing fee paid. The Civil Intake person filing the complaint will recognize that it is a vessel arrest and will arrange for an immediate ex parte conference with the Magistrate Judge for the District Judge in whose court the complaint is filed. The purpose of the meeting with the Magistrate Judge is to get the Order to Arrest Vessel signed which is required by the Marshal. In this regard, it is a good idea for the attorney who prepared the complaint to walk it through Civil Intake and to attend the meeting with the Magistrate Judge. The Magistrate Judges vary greatly in their knowledge of the supplemental rules and, more times than not, he/she will have questions about the supplemental rules, the case, or the facts giving rise to the claim which only the attorney familiar with the case or his client can answer. The question(s) must be answered before the Magistrate Judge will sign the arrest order.
Once the Order to Arrest Vessel has been signed, the original Order goes back to Civil Intake where the District Clerk will make certified copies of the necessary pleadings required by the Marshal. The next step is to deliver the documents necessary to effect the arrest to the Marshal, together with the check for $10,000.00, which is the arrest bond. After a review of the pleadings to ensure everything is in order and that the correct number of copies are provided, and after payment of the $10,000.00 bond, the Marshal will travel to the location of the vessel specified in the Process Receipt and Return and will arrest the vessel. A copy of the complaint will be served upon the vessel Captain or other person in possession of the vessel. The Marshal will then post a sign in a conspicuous place, on the vessel, usually in the wheelhouse, visible to all stating that the vessel is under arrest. The arrest has now been accomplished and efforts to secure her release usually follow immediately.