Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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Plaintiff appealed the denial of her petition to "vacate and/or alternatively to deny recognition and enforcement" of the foreign arbitral award in favor of her employer, Carnival, on her claims under the Jones Act and U.S. maritime law for injuries related to her carpal tunnel.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that plaintiff failed to establish that the foreign arbitral award offended the United States' most basic notions of morality and justice. Weighing the policies at issue and considering the specific unique factual circumstances of this case, the court held that plaintiff's Article V(2)(b) of the New York Convention defense failed. Therefore, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's request that it refuse to enforce the arbitral award and dismissing her claims. View "Cvoro v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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The Virgin Islands is a U.S. territory that can set and receive proceeds from duties, Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) is authorized to “determine, fix, alter, charge, and collect reasonable rates, fees, rentals, ship’s dues and other charges.” Since 1968, VIPA has set wharfage and tonnage fees for Virgin Islands ports. Customs collected those fees from 1969-2011, deducting its costs. The remaining funds were transferred to VIPA. In 1994, the Virgin Islands and Customs agreed to “the methodology for determining the costs chargeable to [the Virgin Islands] . . . for operating various [Customs] activities.” The agreement cited 48 U.S.C. 1469c, which provides: To the extent practicable, services, facilities, and equipment of agencies and instrumentalities of the United States Government may be made available, on a reimbursable basis, to the governments of the territories and possessions of the United States. Customs increased collection costs, which outpaced the collection of the disputed fees starting in 2004, leaving VIPA without any proceeds. After failed efforts to resolve the issue, VIPA notified Customs in February 2011, that VIPA would start to collect the fees in March 2011. VIPA sued Customs to recover approximately $ 10 million in disputed fees that Customs collected from February 2008 to March 1, 2011. The Federal Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Customs. Customs had authority to collect the disputed fees during the time at issue under the 1994 agreement, in combination with 48 U.S.C. 1469c. View "Virgin Islands Port Authority v. United States" on Justia Law

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A flag painted on the side of a vessel is not "flying" for the purpose of making a "claim of nationality or registry" under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, 46 U.S.C. 70502(e). In this case, the United States Coast Guard stopped a vessel in international waters and arrested the crew members aboard the vessel. The crew members argued that the United States lacked jurisdiction because the painted Colombian flag constituted a claim of nationality under section 70502(e)(2) that obliged the Coast Guard to ask Colombian officials about the vessel. The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for drug offenses, holding that the United States had jurisdiction over the vessel and its crew because the painted Colombian flag on its hull was not flying for the purpose of making a claim of nationality or registry. Finally, the court rejected alternative arguments. View "United States v. Obando" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presents an issue of first impression: whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls on foreign ports constitutes “performance . . . abroad” under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C. 202. The Convention makes enforceable an arbitration agreement between United States citizens if their contractual relationship “envisages performance . . . abroad.” The court affirmed the order compelling arbitration of the dispute because a seaman works abroad when traveling in international waters to or from a foreign state. View "Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Cie KG (Rickmers) sought to enforce a Philippine arbitral award given to Lito Martinez Asignacion for maritime injuries. Asignacion sued Rickmers in Louisiana state court to recover for his injuries. Rickmers filed an exception seeking to enforce the arbitration clause of Asignacion’s contract. The state court granted the exception, stayed litigation, and ordered arbitration in the Philippines. The district court refused to enforce the award pursuant to the public-policy defense found in the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, and the prospective-waiver doctrine. Rickmers appeals. Finding that the district court erred in reaching its conclusion, the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded for the district court to enforce the award. View "Asignacion v. Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Cie KG" on Justia Law

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From 1987 to 2001, Bengis and Noll engaged in a scheme to harvest large quantities of South Coast and West Coast rock lobsters from South African waters for export to the United States in violation of both South African and U.S. law. Defendants, through their company, Hout Bay, harvested rock lobsters in amounts that exceeded the South African Department of Marine and Coastal Management’s quotas. In 2001, South Africa seized a container of unlawfully harvested lobsters, declined to prosecute the individuals, but charged Hout Bay with overfishing. Bengis pleaded guilty on behalf of Hout Bay. South Africa cooperated with a parallel investigation conducted by the United States. The two pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit smuggling and violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in illegally taken fish and wildlife, and to substantive violations of the Lacey Act. Bengis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. The district court entered a restitution order requiring the defendants to pay $22,446,720 to South Africa. The Second Circuit affirmed, except with respect to the extent of Bengis’s liability, rejecting an argument the restitution order violated their Sixth Amendment rights. View "United States v. Bengis" on Justia Law

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Miranda and Carvajal, citizens of Colombia, participated in an operation that used high-speed boats to smuggle drugs from Colombia to Central American countries. Neither planned to, or did, leave Colombia in furtherance of the conspiracy. Carvajal was an organizer of the operations, and Miranda provided logistical support. In 2011, Colombian officials arrested them. They were extradited to the United States and pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA) 46 U.S.C. 70501. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting their arguments that the MDLEA was unconstitutional as applied to their conduct, that the MDLEA fails to reach extraterritorially to encompass their conduct in Colombia, and that the facts failed to support acceptance of their guilty pleas. They waived all but one of the arguments when they entered pleas of guilty without reserving any right to appeal. Their remaining claim, whether vessels used by the drug conspiracy were “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” within the meaning of the MDLEA, implicates the district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction and could not be waived by appellants’ pleas. On the merits of the issue, the stipulated facts fully supported the conclusion that the vessels were subject to U.S. jurisdiction. View "United States v. Miranda" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a citizen of Taiwan, filed suit against the United States, seeking damages for the accidental killing of her husband and the intentional sinking of her husband's fishing vessel during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counter-piracy mission. Plaintiff's husband was one of three Chinese hostages captured by pirates. Because allowing this action to proceed would thrust courts into the middle of a sensitive multinational counter-piracy operation and force courts to second-guess the conduct of military engagement, the court agreed that the separation of powers prevents the judicial branch from hearing the case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action under the political question and discretionary function doctrines. View "Wu Tien Li-Shou v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Neutrality Act, 18 U.S.C. 962, passed in 1794, is generally recognized as the first instance of municipal legislation in support of the obligations of neutrality. The Act makes it unlawful to furnish, fit out, or arm a vessel within the U.S. with the intent of having the vessel used in the service of a foreign state or people to commit hostilities against another foreign state or people with whom the U.S. is at peace. Vessels covered by the Act are subject to forfeiture, and persons who give information leading to the seizure of such vessels may recover a bounty. Bauer sought to pursue a claim under the Act, claiming to have informed the government of vessels that had been funded, furnished, and fitted by anti-Israel organizations in the U.S., together with violent and militant anti-Israel organizations from other countries. The complaint alleged that the vessels were to be employed in the service of Hamas, a terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, to commit hostilities against Israel. The district court dismissed, holding that the statute lacks an express private cause of action. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, holding that informers lack standing to sue on their own. View "Bauer v. Mavi Marmara" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the crew of an Ecuadorian fishing boat, filed suit against the United States, alleging that the United States harmed plaintiffs and their property when the Coast Guard boarded the boat in search of drugs. The court held that, on the evidence submitted by the parties, reciprocity with Ecuador existed; the discretionary function exception applied generally to plaintiffs' claims because most of the actions by the Coast Guard were discretionary; the government could have violated its non-discretionary policy of paying damages to the owner of the boat; and to the extent that plaintiffs could establish that the United States violated that mandatory obligation, sovereign immunity did not bar this action. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tobar v. United States" on Justia Law