Argument for Petitioner.

254 U.S.

lien for furnishing supplies "to a vessel upon the order of the owner," under the Act of June 23, 1910, c. 373, § 1, 36 Stat. 604, because the coal furnished the vessels was furnished by their owner and not by the coal dealer, p. 6, et seq.; (2) That the fact that such maritime use had been contemplated did not render the subsequent appropriation by the owner a furnishing by the coal dealer to the several vessels, p. 8; nor (3) was the understanding of the owner and the dealer that the law would afford a lien of any legal significance as against the purchaser under the mortgage. P. 10. To hold that a maritime lien for the unpaid purchase price of supplies arises in favor of the seller merely because the purchaser, who is the owner of a vessel, subsequently appropriates the supplies to her use, would involve abandonment of the principle upon which maritime liens rest and the substitution therefor of the very different principle which underlies mechanics' and materialmen's liens on houses and other structures. P. 8.

253 Fed. Rep. 20, affirmed.

THE case is stated in the opinion.

Mr. John M. Woolsey, with whom Mr. Frank Healy, Mr. F. C. Nicodemus, Jr., and Mr. H. Brua Campbell were on the brief, for petitioner:

Is the petitioner to be deprived of its lien and its decrees undermined for the benefit of the purchaser of the vessels at foreclosure sale, who acquired the vessels with full knowledge of the facts, merely for the reason that the petitioner did not do the impossible and indicate in advance of the delivery of the coal at the oil corporation's bins the name of each vessel to be supplied with coal and the amount to be appropriated to her?

It is urged that such a construction is out of line with previous well-considered judicial decisions and so limits the act of Congress that it is wholly unavailable as a source of credit to ship owners operating fleets of vessels.

The Act of June 23, 1910, affords a maritime lien for supplies furnished to a vessel, and where coal is delivered to the owner of a fleet of vessels for distribution among them, upon an express stipulation that the delivery is

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Argument for Petitioner.

made upon the credit of the vessels and not upon the credit of the owner, a lien attaches to each vessel for the coal actually distributed to and used by it.

The case of the petitioner is one of unusual hardship. It parted with its coal solely upon the security of the lien given by the act of Congress. The coal was actually delivered to and used by the libeled vessels to the amount for which the lien was allowed against each of them. By the use of the petitioner's coal the vessels were kept in operation, contributing earnings to the oil corporation and its creditors, including the claimant herein, which under foreclosure proceedings, purchased the libeled vessels with knowledge that the petitioner asserted a maritime lien against them for coal unpaid for although actually delivered to, and used by, the vessels.


A maritime lien under such conditions is sustained by the weight of authority both prior to and subsequent to the passage of the Act of June 23, 1910. The Yankee, 233 Fed. Rep. 919; Berwind-White Coal Co. v. Metropolitan S. S. Co., 166 Fed. Rep. 782; 173 Fed. Rep. 471 (materialman's lien); The Kiersage, 2 Curtis, 421 (materialman's lien); The Cora P. White, 243 Fed. Rep. 246 (where the claim of maritime lien was denied only because the coal was furnished the owner without mentioning that it was intended for use on a vessel); The Murphy Tugs, 28 Fed. Rep. 429 (maritime lien); McRae v. Bowers Dredging Co., 86 Fed. Rep. 344 (maritime lien); The Grapeshot, 9 Wall. 129, 145; The Lulu, 10 Wall. 192, 204.

While it is true that certain of the above decisions were rendered under state statutes, we fail to perceive, in view of the wording of the lien act, any substantial basis for distinguishing them or questioning their authority.

Especial reliance is placed upon the decision in The Kiersage, 2 Curtis, 421. The Maine statute involved in that case allowed a lien for supplies "furnished to or for account of a vessel."

Argument for Petitioner.

254 U. S.

The lien act was intended to increase the security of persons furnishing supplies to vessels, not to narrow or circumscribe it, and hence should have an enlightened construction to meet modern needs.

It is not necessary in order to impress a maritime lien on a vessel that the supplies be actually delivered on board the vessel by the person who supplies them. Ammon v. The Vigilancia, 58 Fed. Rep. 698; Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. v. The Alida, 7 Fed. Cas. 399; The James H. Prentice, 36 Fed. Rep. 777.

It is settled that an owner may by agreement, express or implied, create a maritime lien on his vessel for supplies furnished. The Kalorama, 10 Wall. 208; The Cimbria, 214 Fed. Rep. 128; The Alaskan, 227 Fed. Rep. 594; The George Dumois, 68 Fed. Rep. 926; The Fortuna, 213 Fed. Rep. 284; The South Coast, 247 Fed. Rep. 84.

Agreements for a general lien such as was here shown have frequently had judicial approval, and the fact that the supplies have been first charged to the owner on the supplier's books has been held immaterial. The Patapsco, 1871, 13 Wall. 329; Lower Coast Transportation Co. v. Gulf Refining Co., 211 Fed. Rep. 336; Freights of The Kate, 63 Fed. Rep. 707; The Advance, 72 Fed. Rep. 793; Astor Trust Co. v. White & Co., 241 Fed. Rep. 57.

As between the owner of a vessel, who agrees to give a maritime lien for money or supplies, and the person furnishing the money or supplies on the credit of the vessel, the owner is estopped to deny that the money or supplies were actually used for the vessel. The Worthington, 133 Fed. Rep. 725; The Schooner Mary Chilton, 4 Fed. Rep. 847; The Robert Dollar, 115 Fed. Rep. 218; United Hydraulic Cotton Press v. Alexander McNeil, Fed. Cas. 14,404; The Mary, 1 Paine, 671.

Mr. Philip L. Miller, with whom Mr. Royall Victor was on the brief, for respondent.


Opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the court.

The Atlantic Phosphate and Oil Corporation owned a fleet of nineteen fishing steamers. It owned also factories at Promised Land, Long Island, and Tiverton, Rhode Island, to which the fish caught were delivered and at which its vessels coaled. When the fishing season of 1914 opened the company was financially embarrassed. Its steamers and factories had been mortgaged to secure an issue of bonds. Bills for supplies theretofore furnished remained unpaid. The company had neither money nor credit. It could not enter upon the season's operations unless some arrangement should be made to supply its vessels and factories with coal. After some negotiations, the Piedmont and Georges Creek Coal Company, then a creditor for coal delivered during the year 1913, agreed to furnish the Oil Corporation such coal as it would require during the season of 1914 the understanding of the parties being that the coal to be delivered would be used by the factories as well as by the vessels, that the greater part would be used by the vessels, that the law would afford a lien on the vessels for the purchase price of the coal and that the Coal Company would thus have security. Shipments of coal were made under this agreement from time to time during the spring and summer as ordered by the Oil Corporation. In the autumn receivers for the corporation were appointed by the District Court of the United States for the District of Rhode Island, and later a suit was brought to foreclose the mortgage upon the vessels and factories. At the time the receivers were appointed five cargoes of coal shipped under the above agreement had not been paid for. The Coal Company libeled twelve of the steamers asserting maritime liens for the price and value of either all the coal or of such parts as had been used by the libeled vessels respectively.

Opinion of the Court.

254 U. S.

Meanwhile, the vessels were sold under the decree of foreclosure. The Seaboard Fisheries Company became the purchaser and, intervening as claimant in the lien proceedings, denied liability. The District Court held that the Coal Company had a maritime lien on each vessel for the coal received by it. The William B. Murray, 240 Fed. Rep. 147. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed these decrees with costs and directed that the libels be dismissed. The Walter Adams, 253 Fed. Rep. 20. Then this court granted the Coal Company's petition for a writ of certiorari. 248 U. S. 556.

As to the facts proved there is no disagreement between the two lower courts. The substantial question presented is whether these facts constitute a furnishing of supplies by the Coal Company to the vessels upon order of the owner within the provisions of the Act of June 23, 1910, c. 373, § 1, 36 Stat. 604.1 That coal was furnished to the vessels to the extent to which they severally received it on board, is clear. The precise question, therefore, is: Was the coal furnished by the libelant, the Coal Company, or was it furnished by the Oil Corporation, the owner of the fleet? In determining this question additional facts must be considered:

No coal was delivered by the Coal Company directly to any vessel; and it had no dealings of any kind concerning the coal directly with the officers of any vessel. All the coal was billed by the Coal Company to the Oil Corporation and there was no reference on any invoice, or on its books, either to the fleet or to any vessel. There

1 Act of June 23, 1910, c. 373, § 1: Any person furnishing repairs, supplies, or other necessaries, including the use of dry dock or marine railway, to a vessel, whether foreign or domestic, upon the order of the owner or owners of such vessel, or of a person by him or them authorized, shall have a maritime lien on the vessel which may be enforced by a proceeding in rem, and it shall not be necessary to allege or prove that credit was given to the vessel.

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