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BARWIL ASCA v. M/V SAVA

April 7, 1999

BARWIL ASCA AND MORAN TOWING & TRANSPORTATION DIVISION OF MORAN TOWING CORP., PLAINTIFF,
v.
M/V SAVA, HER ENGINES, TACKLE, FURNITURE, APPAREL, FREIGHTS, ETC., IN REM, AND CROATIA LINE, MALTA CROSS SHIPPING CO. LTD., AND PALM STAR SHIPPING, LTD., IN PERSONAM, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gershon, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Barwil ASCA ("Barwil") and Moran Towing Corp. ("Moran") assert a claim for a maritime lien against the M/V SAVA ("the Vessel") in rem, as well as in personam claims against the Vessel's owner Croatia Line, its operator Malta Cross Shipping Co. ("Malta"), and its charterer, Palm Star Shipping Ltd. ("Palm Star"), which is the agent for an undisclosed principal, Queensgate Shipping ("Queensgate"). Plaintiffs move for summary judgment to enforce their maritime lien against the Vessel.

FACTS

The following facts are undisputed: On or about June 20, 1997, defendant Palm Star, as time charterer of the M/V SAVA, engaged plaintiff Barwil to act as port agent for the Vessel in connection with the Vessel's scheduled call to the Port of New York. Barwil requested advance payment from Palm Star prior to the Vessel's arrival. The Vessel entered New York harbor on June 29, 1997, at which time Barwil arranged for the services of Sandy Hook and Metropolitan Pilots ("the Pilots") to shift the Vessel to the Amstar terminal facility and from the terminal to anchorage after the completion of discharge. Despite not having received Palm Star's advance payment, Barwil's President, Charles Aitcheson, acknowledges that Barwil continued to provide services to Palm Star for seventeen days. Indeed, during this period, Barwil provided, made advances or arranged for the following necessaries to be provided to the Vessel: customs and immigration fees ($2,578.94), lines handlers ($1,179.78), launches to and from the Vessel ($41.60), harbor dues ($60.00), dockage at the Amstar terminal ($50,794.50), clerk hire ($3,178.38), cash advances to the Master and charts ($1,658.50), water supplied to the Vessel ($250), miscellaneous services including auto hire, telephone, fax, cables, telexes and postage ($1,909.41), and Barwil's agency fee ($5,650). Mr. Aitcheson stated that Barwil and its executives were not unduly concerned about Palm Star's failure to provide advance payment because it was not necessary in their business, where the vessel served as security, to obtain a deposit before furnishing necessaries.

In June and July of 1997, Moran provided the services of its tugs to move the Vessel to and from anchorage and the Amstar terminal facility; Moran is owed $5,160.40 for these services. In addition, Moran provided the services of its tugs to the Vessel in connection with a prior call to the Port of New York in or about April 1997 and its invoices in the amount of $3,854.20 remain outstanding.

On July 18, 1997, the M/V SAVA completed discharge and was moved to anchorage at the Bay Ridge Flats where it awaited sailing orders. At the close of business on that day, Barwil and Moran received a faxed letter from Palm Star advising them that the accounts of its principal, Queensgate Shipping, had been frozen by Croatia Line and that, as a result, plaintiffs should seek payment directly from Croatia Line and/or Malta.

Plaintiffs filed their verified complaint on July 19, 1997. A Warrant of Arrest was issued by this court on July 19, 1997 and served on the M/V SAVA by the U.S. Marshal Service. On July 21, 1997, the U.S. Marshal informed Barwil that a custodian would not be provided for the Vessel until Barwil arranged for the Vessel to be moved to a layberth. Accordingly, Barwil and Moran arranged for the M/V SAVA to be moved to a layberth for the duration of the arrest and paid all expenses incidental to the arrest: fees ($8,614.74), tugs ($2,227.75), lines handlers ($1,608.32) and layberth ($4,800). On July 28, 1997, the North of England Protecting & Indemnity Association Limited, the underwriter for defendants Malta and Croatia Line, issued a letter of undertaking in the amount of $120,000 in favor of plaintiffs, after which the Vessel was released from arrest pursuant to a stipulation.

DISCUSSION

A motion for summary judgment is granted if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Lipton v. Nature Co., 71 F.3d 464, 469 (2d Cir. 1995). The moving party must demonstrate the absence of any material factual issue genuinely in dispute. See id. The court must view the inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). However, the non-moving party may not "rely on mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 12 (2d Cir. 1986). Rather, it must produce specific facts sufficient to establish that there is a genuine factual issue for trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

Maritime Lien

Plaintiffs Barwil and Moran move for summary judgment to enforce a maritime lien against the Vessel in rem. Plaintiffs argue that this lien exists as a matter of law because of plaintiffs' provision of necessaries to the Vessel. Defendant M/V SAVA does not contest that Moran is entitled to summary judgment to enforce its maritime lien for towing services provided to the Vessel. Defendant argues, however, that Barwil is not entitled to a maritime lien against the M/V SAVA because Barwil improvidently extended credit to Palm Star.

The Maritime Commercial Instruments and Liens Act of 1988 ("Liens Act"), 46 U.S.C. § 31341-31342, provides in relevant part:

[A] person providing necessaries to a vessel on the order of the owner or a person ...


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