It is a well settled principle of maritime law that a claim for breach of a maritime contract creates a maritime lien that can be enforced by the injured party through an action in rem against the vessel. Providing maritime necessaries, e.g., repairs to a vessel, and not getting paid for those services is one of the instances in which the injured party is entitled to such a remedy. It is also well settled that parties may contractually limit the rights that are generally afforded to them by law.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently upheld the validity of a clause in a contract in which a subcontractor, who had been engaged to install a new atrium structure on board of a vessel, contractually waived its right to a maritime lien against the owner/charterer of the vessel - with whom it had no privity of contract - by entering into a contract with the general contractor that included a maritime lien waiver clause. The clause read in relevant part that "The parties agree that no lien or action in rem proceeding may attach or otherwise affect title to the Vessel for which the items are being utilized..." The Second Circuit affirmed the District Court (i.e., federal trial court) reasoning that the clause constitutes clear affirmative proof of an express written waiver on the face of the contract and, therefore, the subcontractor expressly agreed that no maritime lien could arise from the contract.
As these well settled principles can be reconciled, parties must be mindful that contractual "no lien" clauses are enforceable. See Triodetic Inc. v. Statue of Liberty IV, LLC, No. 13-4460-cv (2d Cir. Nov. 7, 2014).