The opinion of the court was delivered by: KAPLAN
LEWIS A. KAPLAN, District Judge.
On New Year's Day 1994, the M/V MARIKA foundered and sank in international waters some 700 miles east of Newfoundland with the loss of all hands. Plaintiffs -- relatives and the personal representatives of five deceased crew members, all of whom were Greek nationals -- here seek to recover under the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA"), 46 U.S.C. §§ 761 et seq., the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 688, and the general maritime law against the vessel's owner, others affiliated with it, and the American Bureau of Shipping ("ABS") on various theories. The defendants move to dismiss the action under the doctrine of forum non conveniens and, in some instances, on other bases.
The plaintiffs, as noted, all are Greek nationals and family members of seamen who died in the sinking. They sue both individually and as personal representatives of the decedents.
Defendant Marika Maritime Corp. ("Marika") is a Liberian corporation which is alleged to have owned and operated the M/V MARIKA at all relevant times. (Cpt PP 2, 6-7) It employed the crew, including plaintiffs' decedents. (De Luca Aff. P 8) It is important to note that the MARIKA did not carry cargo to or from, or engage in trade in, the United States while owned by Marika. (Id. P 7) Defendants Atlantic Maritime Enterprises, S.A. ("Atlantic") and Astron Management Corp. ("Astron"), which are Greek and Connecticut corporations respectively, both performed various tasks and functions for Marika including assisting with financing, chartering, crewing, engineering and day-to-day operations. (Bonner Aff. P 4) Atlantic, which has an office in the Greek port of Piraeus, handled crewing matters, maintenance, repairs, surveys and insurance matters. Astron was involved in financing and chartering. (De Luca Aff. PP 3-4) Thomas Peter Pappas is a Greenwich, Connecticut, resident who is alleged to control, and to be the alter ego of, Atlantic, Astron and Marika. (Cpt P 13)
The last major repairs to the MARIKA were made during the period March 12 through April 16, 1993 in Piraeus (Kopsinis Aff. P 9) at which time Dimitrios Lambros and Christos Nomikos, surveyors in ABS's Piraeus office, conducted several classification and statutory surveys
aboard the MARIKA. (Bessis Decl. PP 3, 19) Vasilios Spyridonos of Atlantic was present on behalf
of Atlantic. (Id. P 5) Assodivers, I & T Kalogeridis, Ultratest Marine Technical Bureau, and Electromarine Co. of Piraeus -- all based in Piraeus, Greece -- performed repairs on the vessel or assisted ABS. (Id. PP 6-20; Kopsinis Aff. PP 9-14)
The plaintiffs, to the extent revealed by the record, all signed on to the MARIKA in Piraeus at various dates on or after December 7, 1992. All entered into contracts of employment with Marika which were expressly subject in certain respects to the Greek Collective Agreement, a collective bargaining agreement,
and which provided that Greek law governed and "absolutely prohibited" recourse to courts of countries other than Greece. (Kopsinis Aff. P 6 & Exs. B 1, B2)
On December 24, 1993, the MARIKA loaded 140,000 metric tons of iron ore at Seven Islands, Canada, and sailed for Ijmuiden, the Netherlands, on December 27, 1993. (Cpt P 25) As noted, the ship was lost with all hands on January 1, 1994. (Id. P 26)
Shortly after the sinking, the vessel's owners, operators, agents and insurers engaged Spyridon Karakitsos, an attorney and partner in the Greek law firm Deucalion Rediadis and Sons. Karakitsos promptly negotiated settlements and obtained releases from three of the five plaintiffs in this case. As a portion of each settlement was allocated to claims under Greek Workers Compensation Law, each was approved by the Greek court. The settlements ranged from the U.S. dollar equivalents of $ 113,300 to $ 255,000. (Karakitsos Decl. PP 1-20) Plaintiffs now dispute the enforceability of the releases they gave.
Plaintiffs commenced this action in this Court in 1995. They seek recovery on the theory that the defendants were negligent in sailing the MARIKA into the North Atlantic in January and in failing to keep her in good repair (am cpt P 28), that she was unseaworthy (id. P 29), and that ABS was negligent in surveying the vessel and in allowing it to sail into the North ...