The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.
This Admiralty and Maritime action was originally commenced on
January 14, 2000, by Plaintiff. It involves an ownership dispute
over title to the historic steamtug New York (previously known,
among other names, as the Catawissa). Presently before this Court
is Plaintiff's motion to establish title under Local Rules of
Admiralty and Maritime Claims Rule D. For the reasons set forth
below, Plaintiff's motion is denied.
A. Non-Compliance with Publication Requirement
Rule C of Section XII of the Northern District of New York
Local Rules of Procedure, for Admiralty and Maritime Claims
requires that the notice follow Rule 4(c) of the Supplemental
Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure and that the notice required shall be
published at least once and shall contain (i) the fact and date
of the arrest; (ii) the title of the cause; (iii) the nature of
the action; (iv) the amount demanded; (v) the name of the
marshal; (vi) the name and address of the attorney for the
Plaintiff; and (vii) a statement that Claimants shall file their
claims with the Clerk of this Court within ten (10) days after
the arrest or within such additional time as shall be allowed by
the Court, and shall serve their answers within twenty (20) days
after the filing of their claims.
In this action, the notice was publicized on March 3, 2000, by
the U.S. Marshal in the Times Union (an Albany region
newspaper), but contained no reference to the fact that Plaintiff
was appearing pro se or was his address provided in said notice.
Despite non-compliance, this Court will not penalize a pro se
litigant for the U.S. Marshal's error.
B. Admiralty and Maritime in rem proceedings
An in rem action may be brought against a vessel or other
maritime property by making the vessel itself a defendant in the
action. Plaintiffs can proceed in rem by either establishing a
maritime lien or proceeding pursuant to federal statute.
In the present action, plaintiff provides no reliance upon any
federal statute. Therefore, the Court must determine whether
Plaintiff may proceed in rem pursuant to a maritime lien.
1. Maritime Liens and Arrest
Only a maritime lien holder may have a vessel arrested. Under a
maritime lien arrest, a maritime lien falls into one of four
categories: (i) a general average claim, see Compania Altantica
Pacifica, S.A. v. Humble Oil & Ref. Co., 274 F. Supp. 884 (D.Md.
1967) (damages arising from a vessel's stranding); (ii) a salvage
claim, see Veverica v. Drill Barge Buccaneer No. 7,
488 F.2d 880 (5th Cir. 1974) (salvage must be performed as a result of
marine peril and not rendered voluntarily); The SABINE,
101 U.S. 384, 11 Otto 384, 25 L.Ed. 982 (1880) (services rendered
that successfully prevent vessel from sinking); (iii) a crew wage
claim, see Taylor v. Carryl, 61 U.S. 583, 20 How. 583, 15 L.Ed.
1028 (1857); or (iv) a claim for damages arising from maritime
tort, see The ANACES, 93 F. 240 (4th Cir. 1899) (all actions
for maritime tort are in rem, except for actions for assault and
battery, which are in personam).
In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges undocumented expenditures
of $150,000 for the repair and upkeep of the vessel. This alleged
expenditure does not give rise to a maritime lien justifying the
arrest of the vessel. Plaintiff provides no proof that these
alleged expenditures arose from any of the four categories set
Plaintiff therefore lacks the required maritime lien to arrest
the vessel under Rule C(1)(a).
This Court also has in rem jurisdiction in an action where
title is at stake, known as a petitory action.
Plaintiff's assertion that this action constitutes a petitory
action is erroneous. This Court has in rem jurisdiction over a
petitory action only where the plaintiff already holds legal
title to the vessel, and not a mere equitable interest. See
Stathos v. The Maro, 134 F. Supp. 330, 332 (E.D.Va. 1955). Since
Plaintiff does not already hold title to the vessel but is in
effect trying to establish title, this Court lacks jurisdiction.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion to establish title under