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SPL Shipping Ltd. v. Gujarat Cheminex Ltd.

March 15, 2007

SPL SHIPPING LTD., PLAINTIFF,
v.
GUJARAT CHEMINEX LTD., BLUE LINE CHEMICALS, MONTE BLUE INTERNATIONAL, AND NIRMA LTD., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Defendant Nirma Ltd. ("Nirma") seeks to vacate an Order of Maritime Attachment obtained by Plaintiff SPL Shipping Ltd., pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Supplemental Admiralty Rule E(4)(f) ("Rule E(4)(f)"), and to dismiss the Complaint. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Vacate the Attachment and Dismiss the Complaint is DENIED.

I. Background

On December 21, 2006, Plaintiff obtained from this Court an Order of Maritime Attachment against Gujarat Cheminex Ltd. ("Gujarat"), Blue Line Chemicals, Monte Blue International, and Nirma Ltd. In the accompanying Verified Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Plaintiff and Gujarat entered into a Charter Party dated October 6, 2006, for a one-time charter trip of about twenty-five to thirty days. (Verified Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff has brought suit against Gujarat for "delays in discharging . . . cargo . . . [and] additional hire and charges to replenish bunker fuel . . . together with additional damages for loss in hire . . . ." (Id. ¶ 19.)

Before the cargo was unloaded, however, Plaintiff received two payments of hire. The first payment was made on November 4, 2006 and came from Nirma. Nirma's payment of $329,950, according to Plaintiff, "was characterized [by Nirma] as a payment against freight certificate." (Id. ¶ 14.) The second payment was made on November 6, 2006, in the amount of $45,000 by Blue Line Chemicals, which Plaintiff alleges is the alter-ego of Monte Bleu International. (Id. ¶ 15.)

Relying, in part, on Nirma's payment to Plaintiff for hire to a Charter Party that Nirma was not a party to, Plaintiff alleges that Nirma and Gujarat are alter-egos of one another. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 27.) In addition, Plaintiff alleges that "there existed such unity of ownership and interest . . . that no separation exists between" Nirma and Gujarat, such that the "corporate form has been disregarded" (id. ¶ 25); that Nirma and Blue Line Chemicals have paid hire to other vessel owners in the past, even though they were not signatories to the charter party (id. ¶ 27); that Nirma and Blue Line Chemicals were the actual charterers of the vessel in this case (id. ¶ 26); and that "[a]t all material times, Defendants BLUE LINE and NIRMA have dominated and used Defendant GUJARAT for their [sic] own purposes such that there is no meaningful difference between the three entities and there has been an intermingling of funds between the several entities" (id. ¶ 28).

Nirma denies that it is the alter-ego of Gujarat. Nirma maintains that it was merely a subcharterer to Gujarat, and that Nirma's payment to Plaintiff of $329,950 satisfied its obligations as a sub-charterer to Gujarat. Nirma explains that Gujarat requested that Nirma's payment be made directly to Plaintiff, rather than to Gujarat, because "had it been made by Gujarat, it would likely have been stopped in New York in connection with an outstanding attachment order in another case . . . ."*fn1 (Def. Nirma Ltd.'s Mem. of Law In Supp. of Mot. to Vacate Attachment and Dismiss Compl. 6.)

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

To obtain a maritime attachment, a plaintiff must comply with Supplemental Admiralty Rule B ("Rule B"), which states in relevant part:

If a defendant is not found within the district, . . . a verified complaint may contain a prayer for process to attach the defendant's tangible or intangible personal property - up to the amount sued for - in the hands of garnishees named in the process . . . . The court must review the complaint and affidavit and, if the conditions of this Rule B appear to exist, enter an order so stating and authorizing process of attachment and garnishment. The clerk may issue supplemental process enforcing the court's order upon application without further court order.

Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. R. B(1)(a)-(b).

Rule E(4)(f) allows any person whose property has been attached pursuant to Rule B an opportunity to appear before a district court to contest the attachment. Rule E(4)(f) states, in relevant part:

Whenever property is arrested or attached, any person claiming an interest in it shall be entitled to a prompt hearing at which the plaintiff shall be required to show why the arrest or attachment should not be ...


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