Section 17. A person having such lien, unless the contract described in section fourteen or fourteen A, as the case may be, is a maritime contract and the enforcement of the lien is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, may enforce the lien by a civil action in the district court or in the superior court for the county where the vessel was at the time when the debt was contracted or where the vessel is at the time the action is commenced. The subsequent proceedings shall, except as hereinafter provided, be as prescribed in chapter two hundred and fifty-four so far as applicable. Upon the commencement of such action, a writ of attachment shall issue against such vessel, her tackle, apparel and furniture; the attachment may be dissolved as in any civil action but such dissolution shall not dissolve the lien.
No civil action shall be required for a lienholder to sell at public auction or dispose of a vessel on which a lien exists pursuant to section 14 or 14A and on which title is presumed to have been abandoned. Title to a vessel shall be presumed to have been abandoned if: (i) the lienholder sent a notice to owner of record by certified mail at his last known address and shall include, but not be limited to, the amount of the lien and any proposed disposition or sale of the vessel; (ii) the lienholder published a notice of the lien, which shall include, but not be limited to: a description of the vessel, a description of where the vessel is located and a proposed disposition or sale in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town of the owner of record’s last known address for 3 consecutive days; and (iii) no response or reply was received from the owner of record within 90 days after the date of publication indicating an ability to satisfy the debt to the lienholder.
The lienholder may dispose of the vessel upon filing with the marine title division of the department of environmental police a notarized affidavit stating no reply was received from the owner of record within 90 days of the lienholder sending certified notice or within 90 days after publication pursuant to this section, whichever is later. The filing by the lienholder shall include legible copies of the affidavit and notice. If the lienholder of a vessel presumed to have been abandoned elects to hold a public auction of the vessel then, upon receipt of the notarized affidavit and notice, the marine title division, shall issue an abandonment of title document to the lienholder, if requested, and thereafter, shall issue new title documents to the purchaser of the vessel at public auction.