Ship Arrest

The Netherlands is a jurisdiction that is internationally known as an arrest haven for vessels, as it is relatively cheap and easy to obtain and execute an arrest warrant.

Necessary information for arrest

When a ship is due to call into port, a petition can be lodged with the court by a lawyer. The petitioner does not need to provide full documentary evidence of their claim, but a petition must contain at least the following:

  • a brief description of the claim and its legal basis;
  • the names and domiciles of the parties involved;
  • the name and place of registry of the vessel;
  • an explanation of why the claim is enforcable against the ship.

Though documentation is not mandatory for the petition, it is important to provide your lawyer with this evidence as soon as possible as the arrest may be challenged. A well documented case will also improve the chances of the arrest being granted without additional questions (delay!) from the magistrate.


The petition is handled ex parte and in general without a hearing by the court. In normal cases the arrest order is granted by the court within 24 hours of the petition being lodged. The court order is then served by a bailliff on the master of the vessel. The port authorities are also informed, so as to prevent a vessel from leaving port.

When granting the order, the magistrate will rule when proceedings must be initiated to hear the merits of the case. It is, however, not necessary that these proceedings take place in The Netherlands. Often arrest is made in The Netherlands as security while proceedings are being brought in another jurisdiction. Arbitration is also regarded as initiating proceedings. If no proceedings are brought the arrest automatically lapses at the end of the term given by the magistrate and the ship is free to depart.

Remedies for the ship owner

When confronted with an arrest, the ship owner has three options. He can settle the claim, put up a bank guarantee (such as the Rotterdam Guarantee Form) or club letter, or go to court to dispute the claim and try and lift the arrest in summary proceedings. If summary proceedings are brought, then the case is typically handled within a few days, so a decision is rendered within a very short space of time.


The costs of a petition are relatively low as court fees are not linked to the size of the claim. For a petition including court fees and bailiff costs, we typically charge EUR 2,000. Further costs depend on whether the claim is settled or further action is necessary.


Before arresting a vessel it is very important to review the strength of your claim against the owner. If the merits of the case are lost, then the arrest will be deemed wrongful and the arresting party will be liable for financial damage caused by the arrest.

How can Bowmer & Nuiten help you?

Bowmer & Nuiten is situated ideally in Dordrecht and Rotterdam to affect arrest both on seagoing vessels in the jurisdictions of Rotterdam and Breda (Moerdijk) and on river barges, which play an important part in Dordrecht's industry. We offer a cost effective service to ensure that your claim is secured.

If, on the other hand, you are confronted with a wrongful arrest, we can initiate summary proceedings and take all steps necessary to free your ship.

Should you have any further questions or require further information, please contact Jaap Wijnja or Maria Bowmer.