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MAMMOET SHIPPING CO., B.V. v. CITY OF NEW YORK

June 5, 1986

MAMMOET SHIPPING COMPANY, B.V., Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Plaintiff-Intervenor, v. MARK TWAIN (a/k/a Mark Twain Show Boat), her engines, boilers, etc.; MISSISSIPPI HOLDINGS LIMITED, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET

SWEET, D.J.

This admiralty action was brought by Mammoet Shipping Company B.V. ("Mammoet") against the MARK TWAIN (a/k/a Mark Twain Showboat) and Mississippi Holdings Limited to recover on a bill of lading. The City of New York now moves to intervene as a party in this action, and upon such intervention for an order granting injunctive relief enforcing the judgment of the Civil Court of the City of New York issued against Mississippi Holdings Limited. The motion is granted.

In November 1983 Mammoet commenced the action against the vessel MARK TWAIN and her owner, Mississippi Holding Limited ("Mississippi"). Mammoet sought the following: 1) a warrant for the arrest of the MARK TWAIN; 2) judgment for $ 447,220.60, and 3) sale of the MARK TWAIN to pay the judgment. Mammoet alleged jurisdiction in this court by virtue of diversity of citizenship and a maritime contract in admiralty. On or about May 9, 1984 the MARK TWAIN was arrested, and this court issued an order appointing Mammoet as substitute custodian for the safe keeping of the MARK TWAIN during the pendency of this action.

 The MARK TWAIN has been berthed at Pier 84, North River, New York, New York, which is owned and operated by the City of New York. On December 11, 1984, the Civil Court of the City of New York, County of New York, entered a final judgment of possession in favor of the City of New York ("City") as to the berthing space occupied by the MARK TWAIN.

 Facts

 The MARK TWAIN is a riverboat which was built in 1896. The vessel has been renovated for use as a restaurant and showboat. Her owner, Mississippi, a Canadian corporation, contends that in June of 1982 the City invited Mississippi to dock the MARK TWAIN at a berthing space at a pier in Manhattan on the Hudson River for the purposes of establishing a restaurant business and showboat. Mississippi asserts that the City had promised to permit such operation of the MARK TWAIN. In reliance upon the City's alleged promises, Mississippi contracted with Mammoet, a Dutch corporation, to ship the MARK TWAIN from Toronto, Canada to New York aboard Docklift 1. After the arrival of the MARK TWAIN in New York, the City refused to permit the boat owners to operate their business.

 Mississippi then arranged to rent berthing space from the City on a day-to-day basis at the rate of $100.00 per day. Negotiations with the City to obtain a permanent site or the necessary permits were unsuccessful. Mississippi asserts that the inability to rent a permanent berthing site from the City prevented it from taking actions to sell or lease the MARK TWAIN. According to Mississippi, its inability to operate or sell the MARK TWAIN caused it to delay payment to Mammoet. The delay precipitated the present suit brought by Mammoet.

 The City maintains that its use of Pier 84 is impaired by the presence of the MARK TWAIN. The City has obtained a judgment of possession and a money judgment in the amount of $7,371.00 against Mississippi from the Civil Court of the City of New York as to the berthing space occupied by the MARK TWAIN. The City now seeks to intervene and requests the court to enforce its judgment.

 Since the initiation of the action, a number of conferences have been held with counsel for Mammoet and Mississippi with respect to the resolution of the dispute. Both of the original parties have explored the possibilities of selling or operating the MARK TWAIN, to date without success. Negotiations for its sale have been hampered by the difficulties potential buyers have had in procuring alternative permanent sites for the MARK TWAIN.

 Motion to Intervene

 The City's application for leave to intervene, which is unopposed, is based on Fed.R.Civ.P. 24. Under Rule 24(a), a party is entitled to intervene as of right if he claims an interest relating to the property which is the subject of the action "and he is so situated that the deposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that interest."

 Although the City's claim for relief involves the pier and not the vessel, the City has demonstrated a sufficient interest in the disposition of the original lawsuit to justify allowing intervention as of right. The requirement that a party have a significantly protectable interest relating to the subject matter of the case "cannot be taken to mean that one must have 'a specific legal or equitable interest in the case'." N. Y. State Energy R & D v. Nuclear Fuel Services, 102 F.R.D. 18, 21 (W.D.N.Y. 1983) (citations omitted). As a practical matter, the City's ability to protect its legal interest in the pier may be impacted by the order of the court granting Mammoet an attachment upon the MARK TWAIN. Although the City's intervening complaint fails to allege the jurisdictional amount for a diversity action, intervention will be permitted since a party intervening as of right need not establish an independent source of jurisdiction. N. Y. State Energy R & D v. Nuclear Fuel Services, supra, 102 F.R.D. at 22; Coca Cola Bottling v. Coca Cola Co., 98 F.R.D. 254 (D.C.Del. 1983). The City's application to intervene as a party to this action is granted.

 Motion for Injunctive Relief

 The City seeks to have this court enforce the judgment of the Civil Court of the City of New York granting it the right of possession of the berthing space. Mammoet contends that the Civil Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the City's action for repossession of the berth occupied by the MARK TWAIN. In support, Mammoet relies on its characterization of the relationship between the City and the MARK TWAIN, which involved the lease of dock space, as giving rise to a ...


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