Mortgaging a ship is a form of security wherein a ship owner (“Mortgagor”) gives to the lender (“Mortgagor”) an interest in a ship as a security for loan either by way of creating a statutory mortgage or a equity mortgage. The mortgage is consequently discharged upon payment of the principal sum and usually the interest.
Section 54 of the Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act 2007 (“MSA”) allows a vessel or a share in a vessel to be made a security for a loan or other valuable consideration. Upon entering a mortgage agreement, the mortgage may be registered at the Nigerian Ship Registry. One of the benefits of registering the instrument creating the mortgage at the ship registry is that, it takes priority over unregistered mortgage deeds. Where the Mortgagor is a corporate body, a charge may be registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Section 57 of the MSA stipulates that if there are more mortgages than one registered in respect of a ship or share, the mortgages shall, notwithstanding any express, implied or constructive notice, be entitled in priority one over the other, according to the date on which each mortgage is recorded in the register and not according to the date of each mortgage itself. It is therefore important that mortgage agreement be registered as soon as executed by parties.
Under the Nigerian law, the procedure for enforcement of a ship mortgage is subject to a contractual right. Accordingly, the rights of a mortgagee are derived from specific terms agreed with the mortgagor. Usually, the loan documentation, which the mortgage is premised upon, will identify those events by the mortgagor, which give rise to the right on the part of the mortgagee to take enforcement action.