More NPA logo with link NPA logo with link

About this NPA

The Admiralty and Maritime National Practice Area (NPA) incorporates proceedings that relate to admiralty or maritime disputes, including:

The admiralty and maritime jurisdiction also includes:

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.

Urgent Applications

To a Judge

Practitioners should approach the Admiralty and Maritime Registry Co-ordinating Judge in the relevant registry (through his or her associate) for any urgent judge-related admiralty and maritime applications.

To a Registrar - Arrest of a vessel

Practitioners making an urgent application for the arrest of a vessel should contact the Duty Registrar (or other nominated Registrar) in the local registry where the arrest will take place. Contact details are under Contact the Court.

Urgent applications for the arrest of a vessel may be made at any time, including outside Court hours. After-hours contact details are listed on the Daily Court List and under Contact the Court.

Arrest of a Vessel

Admiralty Marshals are available to arrest a vessel anywhere in Australia at any time on any day of the year.

In making an urgent arrest application to a Registrar, practitioners should be prepared to provide to the Duty Registrar or Marshal the following details:

  • Name and location of the vessel to be arrested (if known)
  • When the application to arrest the vessel is intended to be filed
  • Any information that may assist the Marshal to execute the arrest, including any safety issues
  • Confirmation that the practitioner has the necessary funds to pay for the Marshals’ fees and expenses to execute the arrest.

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's Insurance.

Case Management

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.

Conduct of cargo claims

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.

The NPA practice note sets out the arrangements for the management of admiralty and maritime proceedings:

NPA Practice Note:

Other practice notes and guides which may be relevant to this NPA include:

NPA Practice Notes:

  • Schedule 3 – International Commercial Arbitration of the Commercial & Corporations Practice Note (C&C-1)

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.

Specific information about Marshals' costs and admiralty insurance cover is also available on the website.

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).

1.  In rem proceedings

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:




  •  There are specific service requirements for in rem proceedings (refer to Rule 30 of the Admiralty Rules). Ordinarily a Marshal serves the initiating process (refer to Rule 33 of the Admiralty Rules) when the Marshal executes an arrest warrant (refer to Rule 43(1) of the Admiralty Rules).

2.  In personam proceedings

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).

These costs and expenses can be very significant. Further information on Marshal’s costs is available on the Admiralty Marshals webpage.

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.




  • The Register of Caveats against arrest can be searched at any Registry of the Federal Court. A list of the current caveats against arrest on the register is available on the Court's website through the Federal Law Search facility.

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 and makes an application to the Registrar
  • 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 Registrar is not able to order the release of the ship or property unless the Court so orders.


  • Admiralty Form 4 - Caveat against release from arrest of ship or other property



  • A caveat may be set aside, wholly or in part
  • The Register of Caveats against release filed in the Federal Court can be searched at any Registry of the Court. A list of the current caveats against release on the register is available on the Court's website through the Federal Law Search facility.

7.  Withdrawal of caveats

A caveator may withdraw a caveat by filing:



For further procedural and case management information you should refer to the Central Practice Note (CPN-1) and the Admiralty & Maritime Practice Note (A&M-1).


The admiralty and maritime work of the Court is not limited to proceedings under the Admiralty Act and Admiralty Rules, see also All Australian Legislation.

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

Please note: these lists are not exhaustive

Latest Judgments

Recent Judgments – Federal Court

  • 7 Dec 2017: Wyzenbeek v Australasian Marine Imports Pty Ltd [2017] FCA 1460
    PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - application to amend statement of claim - where application has been filed after the commencement of the hearing - where particulars of statement of claim do not reflect detail of the case which applicants wish to rely - where respondents first objected to the evidence the week before the commencement of the hearing…
    Judge: Derrington J
  • 28 Nov 2017: Advanced Energy Resources Pty Ltd v Bremer Lloyd Marine Logistics GmbH &  Co KG [2017] FCA 1487
    PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - application for service of court process out of the jurisdiction - claim for damage to goods whilst on a voyage from Germany to Australia - service upon a corporate entity in Germany under the Convention between the United Kingdom and Germany regarding Legal Proceedings in Civil and Commercial Matters.
    Judge: Siopis J
  • 17 Nov 2017: Tritton Resources Pty Limited v Ever Rock Navigation S.A. [2017] FCA 1605
    Judge: Rares J
  • 21 Sep 2017: Delaware North Marine Experience Pty Ltd v The Ship "Eye-Spy" (No 2) [2017] FCA 1120
    COSTS - where plaintiff enjoyed substantial success - whether plaintiff entitled to indemnity costs due to offers of compromise rejected by defendants - whether defendants entitled to costs in relation to interlocutory proceedings on which they were partially successful
    Judge: McKerracher J
  • 21 Sep 2017: Ozmen Entertainment Pty Ltd v Neptune Hospitality Pty Ltd [2017] FCA 1124
    ADMIRALTY - joint venture to operate hospitality business aboard vessel - agreement to charter and license vessel PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - interlocutory application for order to appoint receiver and manager to take control of vessel and business operated on-board - whether there is a serious question to be tried - balance of convenience - whether…
    Judge: Burley J
  • 23 Jun 2017: Delaware North Marine Experience Pty Ltd v The Ship "Eye-Spy" [2017] FCA 708
    ADMIRALTY- bareboat charter - whether charter breached due to failure to exercise due diligence to make vessel seaworthy - whether damage to vessel a result of a latent defect - whether the plaintiff's crew took delivery of the crew "as is, where is" - whether damage to vessel caused by the negligence of the plaintiff's crew - whether plaintiff…
    Judge: McKerracher J
  • 12 Apr 2017: Suk v Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd [2017] FCA 404
    BANKRUPTCY AND INSOLVENCY - Admiralty - Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008 (Cth) - Recognition of foreign main proceeding and foreign representative - foreign proceeding terminated - failure to notify Court of termination of foreign proceeding - continued contravention of Model Law - orders made restraining disposal or transfer of Australian assets…
    Judge: Jagot J
  • 30 Mar 2017: Offshore Marine Services Alliance Pty Ltd v Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd [2017] FCA 333
    ADMIRALTY - general average - whether respondents are owners for the purpose of s 72(3) of the Marine Insurance Act 1909 (Cth) - whether the respondents otherwise have a relevant interest in property to attract liability for the purpose of s 72(3) of the Marine Insurance Act 1909 (Cth) by virtue of contractual obligations or otherwise
    Judge: McKerracher J
  • 7 Dec 2016: BY Winddown, Inc v Vautin [2016] FCAFC 168
    PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - interlocutory application for leave to appeal - no sufficient doubt in correctness of primary judge's judgment - no substantial injustice - proper construction of Federal Court Rules 2011 (Cth) concerning joinder of parties and service abroad Held: - application dismissed. 346 ALR 401
    Judge: Besanko, Middleton and Griffiths JJ
  • 29 Nov 2016: Wilmington Trust Company (Trustee) v The Ship "Houston" [2016] FCA 1349
    ADMIRALTY - the plaintiffs claimed delivery up of a ship and damages for conversion and/or detinue - whether the claims were proprietary maritime claims within s 16 of the Admiralty Act.
    Judge: Siopis J

Papers & Publications


NPA news

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.

Federal Court news

To stay up-to-date with news in the Federal Court, including developments in this NPA, subscribe to our email subscription services.

We provide subscriptions for Practice News and Daily Court Listings.

All Subscriptions

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.