opinions. Such a determination may only be properly made on a
case-by-case basis (see Salomon Bros. v. Carey, 556 F. Supp. 499,
501 [S.D.N.Y. 1983]).
"Congress established the declaratory judgment procedure so
that parties who were uncertain of their rights could
adjudicate their claims without first engaging in dubious
conduct" (Penguin Books USA Inc. v. Walsh, 929 F.2d 69, 72 [2d
Cir. 1991]). The federal court's "ability to pass on the future
rights and relations of parties, however, is not without
significant constitutional and statutory limits. A federal
court lacks the power to render advisory opinions and the
authority `to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of
litigants in the case before them'" (id. quoting North Carolina
v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246, 92 S.Ct. 402, 404, 30 L.Ed.2d 413
). The decision to grant declaratory relief rests in the
sound discretion of the district court (see Christopher P. v.
Marcus, 915 F.2d 794, 802 [2d Cir. 1990], cert. denied, ___
U.S. ___, 111 S.Ct. 1081, 112 L.Ed.2d 1186 ), and the
question in each case "`is whether the facts alleged, under all
the circumstances, show that there is a substantial
controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of
sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a
declaratory judgment'" (Kidder, Peabody & Co. v. Maxus Energy
Corp., 925 F.2d 556, 562 [2d Cir.], cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___,
111 S.Ct. 2829, 115 L.Ed.2d 998 , quoting Golden v.
Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108, 89 S.Ct. 956, 959, 22 L.Ed.2d 113
 [other citations omitted]).
As stated above, on November 5, 1990, the Board of
Commissioners issued a letter to Sound Pilots stating that it
was a violation of New York Navigation Law § 89-b(1) 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.
Plaintiff Captain Jonas admits having docked and undocked
vessels at the Northville and Northport platforms in New York
(see Jonas Aff't ¶ 7). Sound Pilots subsequently advised the
Board of Commissioners of other alleged instances of
Connecticut-licensed pilots navigating through the Long Island
Sound to New York ports. In addition, in light of the
commencement of this lawsuit, the Board of Commissioners has
since refrained from taking further action on these alleged
violations, until the issue is decided by this Court (Sammis
Aff't ¶ 10).
The plaintiffs' recourse to the Declaratory Judgment Act is
the proper procedure under the circumstances, since a
declaratory judgment "will serve a useful purpose in clarifying
and settling the legal relations in issue, and . . . will
terminate and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity,
and controversy giving rise to the proceeding" (Fort Howard
Paper Co. v. William D. Witter, Inc., 787 F.2d 784, 790 [2d
Cir. 1986] [citations omitted]). In this Court's view, there
exists a real and immediate controversy between the parties who
have adverse legal interests. The plaintiffs are seeking to
establish that they have an affirmative federal right under the
boundary statute to navigate to ports located in New York
within the Long Island Sound, without having to first obtain a
New York license.
Accordingly, based upon the foregoing, the Court finds that
federal jurisdiction exists over the claims raised, and the
issuance of a declaratory judgment may properly be considered.
(b) The Federal Boundary Statute and New York's Navigation Law:
In 1824, Chief Justice John Marshall held that the federal
statute governing the licensing of vessels granted those ships
the right to engage in coastal trade and, accordingly,
invalidated the grant by New York of a steamboat monopoly to a
private company (see Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. [9 Wheat.] 1, 6
L.Ed. 23 ). In so ruling, Chief Justice Marshall
carefully examined the scope of both federal and state powers
under the commerce clause, and the broadly read Congressional
power under that clause.
Subsequent to Gibbons v. Ogden, the Supreme Court held that
Congress has the
power to regulate navigation that occurs within the
internal waters of the states (see Cooley v. Board of Wardens
of the Port of Philadelphia, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 299, 13 L.Ed.
996 ). Congress has, however, expressly chosen not to
exercise this power, specifically leaving such regulation to
the several states:
"(a) Except as otherwise provided in this
subtitle, pilots in the bays, rivers, harbors, and
ports of the United States shall be regulated only
in conformity with the laws of the States"
(46 U.S.C. § 8501[a]).
A statutory exception to this is contained in the federal
"boundary statute". Pursuant to the boundary statute, states
share this retained power when their ports are situated upon
waters that form the boundary between the two states:
"(b) The master of a vessel entering or leaving a
port on waters that are a boundary between 2
States, and that is required to have a pilot under
this section, may employ a pilot licensed or
authorized by the laws of either of the 2 States"
(46 U.S.C. § 8501[b], formerly codified at
46 U.S.C. § 212).
As of January 1, 1972, the State of New York regulated and
required the licensing of pilots who navigate vessels on the
New York waters of the Long Island Sound as they make their way
to and from New York ports which are situated on the Sound
(see N.Y. Navigation Law § 89-b; see also Kennedy v. Board
of Commissioners of Pilots, 41 A.D.2d 173, 341 N.Y.S.2d 490
[1st Dep't 1973]). Section 89-b(1) provides, in relevant part,