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Cargo lien is a lien on account of salvage, demurrage, general average, freight, or other maritime service or obligation.
A cargo lien arises under general maritime law when the owner of freight fails to pay for its carriage. Under such circumstances, the vessel owner may hold the cargo until payment arrives, or sell the cargo to recover the cost of carriage. [Ventura Packers, Inc. v. F/V Jeanine Kathleen, 305 F.3d 913, 921 (9th Cir. Cal. 2002)]
Further, such liens are not strictly a privilege, as are liens on ships, but are approximate to the possessory lien of the land carrier and do not survive unconditional delivery of cargo. [Barnett Marine v. Cargo of Crane Equip. & Mach., 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9548 (E.D. La. June 19, 1998)]