Everyone knows by now that when buying a second-hand ship it is smart to have a technical inspection. But a legal inspection is unfortunately often forgotten. Sometimes with far-reaching consequences.
When selling a house you need a notary, because a house is listed in the land register. For the transfer of ownership, a notarial deed must be executed. Ships may also be entered in the land register: the shipping register. Unlike a house, it is not always immediately clear whether a ship is a so-called registered property. When a ship is registered, it is marked with a brand and that this brand is not always in a logical place, Mr. Argus noticed years later, during major maintenance on his ship. Research in the shipping register showed that the ship had been registered fifteen years earlier and had never been sold through a notary. In the intervening period there had been five owners, all of whom had not become owners.
What is the legal effect of a non-notarial transfer? The buyer is not the owner, because the necessary notarial transfer of ownership has not taken place. When that buyer then sells the ship on, he is indeed the economic owner, but not the legal owner. And since no one can transfer more rights than he owns, the next buyer/owner also becomes no owner, and so on, until Mr. Argus.
This defect in the delivery can be repaired, but then the original owner must be able/willing to cooperate. If so, a notary can still skip all the intermediate owners and make a notarial deed of delivery between the original owner and in this case Mr. Argus. Thus was done.
If there is no living owner or survivor, then it becomes more difficult and expensive. Then things often have to be sorted out through the courts and that again requires a lawyer. Don’t imagine that there is still a “forgotten” mortgage outstanding.
If you don’t want to buy a registered boat through the notary, you can agree that the owner deregisters the boat from the shipping register. Then it will become an ordinary movable thing like a car. The advantage of the shipping register, however, is that it is clear to everyone who the owner is and that it can be reclaimed in the event of theft or resale. In any case, always check with the seller.