General Maritime v. ST Shipping
In this case the court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over a petition by a vessel manager to require a time charterer to comply with the Trade Act of 2002, as amended by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (the "Trade Act"), by filing cargo information with the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol ("CBP") under the time charterersí International Carrier Bond ("ICB") and Standard Carrier Alpha Code ("SCAC"). The Court held that the Trade Act and the regulations promulgated under it do not provide a party with a privately enforceable remedy for non-compliance. The Court therefore held that there was no case or controversy over which it could exercise jurisdiction.
DMC Category Rating: Developed
Prepared By Brian Tretter, an attorney with Healy & Baillie, LLP, New York. Healy & Baillie are the International Contributors to the website for the United States
The vessel manager first requested a formal ruling from CBP as to who - between the vessel manager and the time charterer - would be considered the "carrier" for the purpose of complying with these regulations. By letter response, CBP informed the vessel manager that it was "unable to dictate responsibilities between private parties in this regard." The letter further stated that under the regulations the vessel owner or operator is responsible for compliance and any civil penalty would be assessed against the master of the vessel. The letter further stated, however, that it would be "appropriate" for the owner or operator to contractually arrange for the time charterer to be considered the "carrier" for the purposes of these regulations.
The time charter was signed before the promulgation of these regulations and there was no provision determining which party was responsible for compliance. After receiving CBPís letter, the vessel manager thus filed its petition against the time charterer in the District Court seeking a declaratory judgment on this issue.
The time charterer opposed the petition on the grounds that (1) the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, (2) the vessel manager lacked standing to bring the suit, presumably because it was not a party to the contract, (3) the dispute was governed by the arbitration clause of the charter party, and (4) the vessel manager was not entitled to relief because the partiesí roles in respect of the cargo, the statutory and regulatory language, and the CBP letter all indicated that the vessel manager was responsible for compliance.
The vessel manager claimed the Court had original jurisdiction of this action because it arose "under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." It further claimed that jurisdiction arose because there was a strong federal interest in national security, which compliance with the Trade Act was intended to increase.
The Court stated that the Trade Act did not appear to provide the vessel manager with a "privately enforceable remedy for non-compliance, given that express enforcement provisions are directed towards the federal government." The Court stated that, in these circumstances, there was no apparent case or controversy over which it had jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and give the advisory opinion that the vessel manager was seeking and accordingly dismissed the vessel managerís petition.
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