Comfact Corporation v. Hull 717

In Maritime Liens, Mortgages & Priorities on (Updated )

Précis: The Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the trial Judge that s. 139 of the MLA did not give a lien to a subcontractor who supplied manpower to construct a vessel.

The builder of the defendant ship became insolvent and went under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act while in the course of constructing the ship. The plaintiff was a subcontractor of the builder who had supplied welding services to the ship but had not been paid. The ship was being built for a Norwegian corporation but was recorded in the Canadian registry. The plaintiff claimed to have a maritime lien pursuant to s. 139 of the Marine Liability Act. The mortgagee of the ship (who defended the in rem action) denied the existence of a lien. The trial Judge agreed with the mortgagee and held that the plaintiff did not have a lien. In his reasons (at 2012 FC 1161) the trial Judge noted that s. 139 of the Marine Liability Act (“MLA”) grants a maritime lien against a foreign vessel in respect of claims that arise out of the supply of goods, materials or services to the foreign vessel or out of a contract relating to the repair or equipping of the foreign vessel. He further noted that s. 139 does not expressly include ship construction. He said, as a matter of statutory construction, that the omission of a reference to ship construction in s. 139 and its inclusion in s.22(2)(n) of the Federal Courts Act gave rise to a presumption that the omission is deliberate. Further, although interesting issues were raised as to whether s. 139 of the MLA did away with the requirement that the liability of the owner be engaged before an action in rem could be maintained, the trial Judge said those issues would have to be decided another day. The plaintiff appealed.

Decision: Appeal dismissed.

Held: The court is not persuaded that providing manpower to a shipbuilder for the construction of a vessel amounts to the provision of services within the meaning of s. 139 of the MLA.