The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.
Whether the federal "boundary statute" and New York's
Navigation Law together permit Connecticut-licensed pilots to
navigate their vessels through the Long Island Sound, into or
out of ports located in New York on the north shore of Long
Island, is the gravamen of the present controversy. Claiming
entitlement to do so prompted these Connecticut pilots to
commence this declaratory judgment action to finally settle the
issue between them and the State of New York.
The plaintiffs move pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) for
partial summary judgment on their first cause of action of the
complaint seeking a declaratory judgment. Specifically, the
plaintiffs seek a declaration as to their rights under
46 U.S.C. § 8501(b) and New York Navigation Law § 89-b.
The material facts underlying this controversy, set forth
below, are not in dispute.
The individual plaintiffs are ship pilots licensed by both
the United States Coast Guard and the State of Connecticut. The
corporate plaintiff, Interport Pilots Agency, Inc.
("Interport"), is the pilot agency of which the individual
plaintiffs are members.
The defendant, Commissioners of Pilots of the State of New
York ("Board of Commissioners"), is a public entity constituted
pursuant to section 87(1) of New York's Navigation Law. The
individual defendants, S. Fraser Sammis ("Sammis"), and Robert
Pouch ("Pouch"), are the President and Secretary, respectively,
of the Board of Commissioners.
Sound Pilots, Inc. ("Sound Pilots"), is an association based
in Newport, Rhode Island, which acts as a dispatching agent
assigning pilots to ships through a rotation system. Presently
there are fifteen pilots licensed by the Board of Commissioners
to be "Long Island-Block Island Sound" pilots, each of whom are
members of Sound Pilots.
Under the present procedure, once assigned to a vessel, the
New York-licensed pilots meet foreign-flagged and American
vessels under register, board the vessels from their pilot
boat, and advise the master in navigating to or from the New
York ports. A "master" is one who has "charge, control or
direction of a vessel" for a specified period of time (N Y
Navigation Law § 2). A "pilot", is an "individual licensed
to take charge of the course of a vessel through or upon
specific waters" (N.Y. Navigation Law § 2).
The rationale underlying the system is that these licensed
pilots have the expertise and familiarity with local waters and
conditions to properly navigate the vessels to one of Long
Island's three ports, namely, Port Jefferson, Northville and
Northport (Sammis Aff't ¶ 7).
Toward the end of 1990, Sound Pilots informed the defendant
Board of Commissioners that the plaintiff Captain Jonas had met
the vessel "Hoegh Forum" at the eastern end of the Long Island
Sound and piloted this vessel to and from the Northville
platform without a New York pilot. Captain Jonas, a
Connecticut-licensed pilot, does not deny that he was the pilot
on this voyage (see Jonas Aff't ¶ 7).
On November 5, 1990, the Board of Commissioners issued a
letter to various state pilot groups, including Sound Pilots,
stating that it was a violation of New York pilotage law
(i.e., Navigation Law § 89-b) for a foreign flag tank vessel
to be piloted into the New York waters of the Long Island Sound
via the eastern end, bound for the Northville platform, without
a New York-licensed pilot aboard.
Sound Pilots, by Captain Bruce B. Fisher, later advised the
Board of Commissioners by letter dated January 17, 1991, of
seven other alleged instances of Connecticut-licensed pilots
navigating through the Long Island Sound to and from New York
ports. Because of the pendency of this lawsuit, the Board of
Commissioners refrained from taking any further action on these
alleged violations (Sammis Aff't ¶ 10).
The plaintiffs commenced this action contending that the
Board of Commissioners' position in the November 5, 1990 letter
is contrary to both federal and state law. Specifically, the
plaintiffs contend that they have full authority by virtue of
federal law to pilot vessels through the New York State waters
of the Long Island Sound to and from New York-based ports, such
as Port Jefferson, and the Northville and Northport platforms
in those waters.
The plaintiffs now move for partial summary judgment on the
first cause of action only.
In opposition, the defendant Board of Commissioners contends
that pursuant to section 89-b(1) of New York's Navigation Law,
only pilots licensed by New York may navigate to and from New
York ports through the New York waters of the Long Island
(a) Federal Subject Matter ...