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MCQUADE v. COMPANIA DE VAPORES SAN ANTONIO

February 1, 1955

Arthur J. McQUADE, as Administrator of the goods, chattels and credits of Argyrios Depountis,* Libelant,
v.
COMPANIA DE VAPORES SAN ANTONIO, S.A., The S.S. Eurystheus, her engines, tackle, etc., Respondents. *The original libelant, Argyrios Depountis has died and Arthur J. McQuade has been appointed Administrator



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GODDARD

This is an action on behalf of an alien seaman against the ship Eurystheus, and her owners, for wages, vacation pay and transportation expenses from the port of discharge to the port of engagement said to be due on account of an alleged violation of agreement in discharging the seaman from the ship's service.

Depountis was a Greek national who signed on at Mobile, Alabama, on August 16, 1949, to the Persian Gulf and such other port and places in any part of the world as the master may direct, and back to a final port of discharge. On November 8, 1949, he was discharged at Bandar Shahpour, Persia, allegedly without his consent.

Respondent, Compania De Vapores San Antonio S.A., owner of the Eurystheus, is a corporation doing business in the United States and incorporated under the laws of Panama.

 The ship was registered in Honduras and carried the flag of that country.

 Respondent has moved the court to decline jurisdiction in this action between aliens.

 The libelant sues under the law of Panama, the domicile of the shipowner. The answer of respondent denies that the law of Panama applies and alleges that the law of Honduras applies, and that if the law of Panama is applicable the suit is barred as not timely.

 A treaty *fn1" between Honduras and the United States provides that:

 'A consular officer shall have exclusive jurisdiction over controversies arising out of the internal order or private vessels of his country * * * (and) shall also have jurisdiction over issues concerning the adjustment of wages and the execution of contracts relating thereto provided the local laws so permit.'

 In an affidavit of Juan F. Funes, Consul General of Honduras in New York, which has been submitted, he states that his office is prepared to hear libelant's claim and to pass upon the merits so that a proper determination may be made under the laws of Honduras. Panama and Honduras are both parties to a multilateral treaty, being a Code of Private International Law, approved in 1928 by the Sixth International American Conference. The treaty contains the following provisions:

 'Article 274. The Nationality of ships is proved by the navigation license and the certificate of registration and has the flag as an apparent distinctive symbol.

 'Article 279. The powers and obligations of the master and the liability of the proprietors and ship's husbands for their acts are also subject to the law of the flag.

 Article 281. The obligations of the officers and seamen and the internal order of the vessel are subject to the law of the flag.' League of Nations Treaty Series, 246, 326, vol. 86, 1929.

 According to the plain terms of this treaty the appropriate law applicable to the internal order of the vessel is the law of the flag. Seamen's contracts are treated as matters of internal order or economy. See Taylor v. Atlantic Maritime Co., 2 Cir., 179 F.2d 597.

 In the absence of treaty the result that the law of the flag controls seems to be called for under the conflict of laws principles recognized in this ...


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