Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Anchorage Definition:

The temporary imobolization of a vessel near land through the use of some fixing of the boat to the land under the water bed.

Related Terms: Maritime Law, Mooring

Although historically, anchorage referred to the tax, duty or toll payable to secure a vessel, the term is now also used to refer to the right to secure a boat by use of an anchor, whether a tax, duty or toll is demanded or not. The tax, as opposed to the legal right of safe haven, if often distinguished as an anchorage toll.

Anchorage, as a right, is usually done through the use of an anchor.

Mozley defines anchorage as:

"A duty paid by the owners of ships for the use of the haven when they cast anchor."

In reference to a tax or toll payable to the public authority with jurisdiction over the port within which the vessel sits in anchor, Justice Chelmsford wrote in Foreman:

"[T]he right of the public freely to navigate the high seas is a paramount right .... and, therefore, the right of navigation must include the right of anchoring.

"The right of anchorage is usually, if not universally, incident to the proprietorship of a port....

[Anchorage] (is) a prestation or toll for every anchor cast there, and sometimes though there be no anchor...."

In reference to the right of anchorage, Gann, Justice Wensleydale wrote:

"[E]every subject of the Crown has a right to navigate, and to cast anchor, but where he thinks fit, as a necessary means of safe navigation....."

In R. v Lewis, Judge  Kitchen wrote, at ¶29:

"There is a common law right to navigation which includes the incidental right to anchor. This is not a right to anchor or moor permanently but it must be exercised reasonably as determined by the circumstances at the time of anchoring such as the weather, loading or unloading of the vessel, or the need for repairs to the vessel.  The right to anchor therefore contemplates the right to do so for a reasonable time, for a reasonable purpose.  Both the right to navigation and the right to anchor must not be exercised so as to interfere with the equal rights of others.  These rights to navigate and anchor have paramountcy and can only be modified or extinguished by an authorizing statute.  The rights apply in navigable waters that have been defined as any body of water capable, in its natural state, of being navigated by floating vessels of any description for the purpose of transportation, recreation, or convenience."

In determining whether a vessel was at anchor or not, Justice Merrivale adopted these words, in Palembang:

"The true criterion ... must be whether the vessel be actually holden by or under the control of her anchor, or not. The moment she ceases to be so, she is in the category of a vessel under way...."


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