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.
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 Judicial 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.
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 Judicial 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.
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).
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.
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 Judicial 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 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
- 17 Oct 2022:
Bank of New Zealand (Security Trustee) v The vessel MY "Island Escape"  FCA 1230
ADMIRALTY -application for judicial sale of ship pendente lite without valuation - luxury cruise vessel - no appearance entered by defendant - appearances filed by caveators against release - orders made for judicial sale with provision for valuation - form of undertaking under r 69 of the Admiralty Rules 1988 (Cth) - method of sale to be…
Judge: Feutrill J
- 12 Oct 2022:
Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd v BBC Chartering Carriers GmbH & Co. KG (The BBC Nile)  FCAFC 171
SHIPPING AND NAVIGATION - stay of action - anti-suit injunction - where arbitration commenced in London - whether foreign choice of law and jurisdiction clauses in respect of inter-State carriage invalid by s 10(1)(b)(ii) of Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991 (Cth) (COGSA) - whether carrier's liability lessened contrary to Art 3(8) of Sch 1A to…
Judge: Rares, SC Derrington and Stewart JJ
- 5 Oct 2022:
Poralu Marine Australia Pty Ltd v MV Dijksgracht (Costs)  FCA 1184
COSTS - separate questions - whether there is any reason to depart from the usual rule that costs follow the event
Judge: Stewart J
- 21 Sep 2022:
Yamba Shipping Pty Ltd v Australian Maritime Safety Authority  FCA 1124
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW - Judicial review - procedural fairness - review of decision of National Regulator to refuse to grant exemption to operate under Marine Safety (Temporary operations) Exemption 2020 - whether matters considered by decision-maker needed to be drawn to applicant's attention - whether issues arising "obvious or natural" - whether…
Judge: Sc Derrington J
- 19 Sep 2022:
Ixom Operations Pty Ltd v Blue One Shipping SA  FCA 1101
ADMIRALTY - demise charter - where owner not a party to contract of carriage evidenced by bill of lading - where extensions to limitation period on bringing a claim over contaminated cargo given to the consignee of the cargo by lawyers acting for both owner and demise charterer of vessel - where consignee only brought proceedings initially against …
Judge: Burley J
- 6 Sep 2022:
Poralu Marine Australia Pty Ltd v MV Dijksgracht  FCA 1038
SHIPPING AND NAVIGATION - where cargo allegedly damaged - limitation of liability - applicable scheme - where Arts 1-8 of the Hague Rules incorporated into booking note contract - where Art 9 of the Hague Rules not incorporated - where booking note contract provided that carrier's liability shall not exceed f100 per package - where booking note…
Judge: Stewart J
- 5 Sep 2022:
Ozmen Entertainment Pty Ltd v Neptune Hospitality Pty Ltd (No 8)  FCA 1091
HIGH COURT AND FEDERAL COURT - whether referee's report made under s 54A of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) should be adopted - whether open to both parties to argue afresh factual issues determined by referee - whether error of principle, absence or excess of jurisdiction or patent misapprehension of the evidence demonstrated to…
Judge: Rares J
- 3 Jun 2022:
Minister for the Environment v Northern Seafoods Pty Ltd  FCA 656
ENVIRONMENT LAW - application for declaration as to contravening conduct and pecuniary penalties - where respondent conducted commercial demersal trawl fishing in Multiple Use Zone of Commonwealth Marine Park where such activity is prohibited under s 354(1)(f) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) - multiple…
Judge: Stewart J
- 13 May 2022:
Maersk A/S v Patti  FCA 663
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - application to strike out defence - whether respondent entitled to invoke privilege against self-incrimination or self-exposure to a penalty to avoid pleading to statement of claim - where statement of claim makes no direct allegations of criminality or conduct that may sound in a civil penalty - where privileges important …
Judge: Rares J
- 10 May 2022:
Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd v MT "AG Neptune" (No 2)  FCA 533
ADMIRALTY - application to amend orders permitting a vessel to sail from Newcastle to Gladstone whilst under arrest - where vessel unable to safely reach Gladstone whilst remaining within the territorial sea - whether Marshal will retain custody of the vessel - where owners undertake that no point about the validity of the arrest will be taken -…
Judge: Stewart J
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.
- 30 Sep 2019:
Charting a new course - Promoting the development of an international convention on liability and compensation relating to transboundary damage from offshore oil and gas activities
Presented at the CMI conference, Mexico, by Justice Rares
- 12 Sep 2019:
Writ or Wrong? Protecting against a change of ownership before the vessel is arrested
Delivered at the 46th National Conference of the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand (MLAANZ) by Justice Stewart, Auckland.
- 24 Jul 2019:
Salvage learnings from the Thor Commander
Delivered at the MLAANZ / Federal Court of Australia Lunchtime Lecture by Justice Stewart, Sydney.
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.
Federal Court news
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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.