Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 132 month sentence for drug trafficking under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. The court held that the Fifth Amendment did not entitle defendant to relief from his mandatory minimum sentence; in light of international concerns, Congress was entitled to mete out hefty sentences to maritime drug runners; the inherent difficulties of policing drug trafficking on the vast expanses of international waters suggested that Congress could have rationally concluded that harsh penalties were needed to deter would-be offenders; circuit precedents foreclosed defendant's arguments about the constitutionality of the Act and its application to him; and defendant's guilty plea foreclosed his constitutional challenges to his detention. View "United States v. Lemus Castillo" on Justia Law

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Andromeda and Internaves entered into a shipping contract that unambiguously required the parties to submit their dispute to arbitration. At issue on appeal was where the parties agreed to arbitrate. The district court was unable to determine the site of arbitration and resorted to the statutory default forum, compelling arbitration in its own district. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to compel arbitration in London under English law. The court held that the parties' intention to arbitrate in London was discernible from the very terms they wrote into the contract and thus the parties provided for the forum, which the district court was obliged to recognize and uphold. View "Internaves de Mexico S.A. de C.V. v. Andromeda Steamship Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit had interlocutory jurisdiction in this appeal from the denial of a warrant in rem for the arrest of a vessel. In this case, plaintiff filed a complaint against the vessel and others, alleging that he was entitled to enforce a maritime lien for damages arising from a maritime tort. The court held that plaintiff's claim for a maritime tort against the vessel fell within the admiralty jurisdiction of the district court and plaintiff was entitled to a warrant in rem. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to direct the clerk to issue a warrant in rem for the arrest of the vessel. View "Minott v. M/Y Brunello" on Justia Law

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A flag painted on the side of a vessel is not "flying" for the purpose of making a "claim of nationality or registry" under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, 46 U.S.C. 70502(e). In this case, the United States Coast Guard stopped a vessel in international waters and arrested the crew members aboard the vessel. The crew members argued that the United States lacked jurisdiction because the painted Colombian flag constituted a claim of nationality under section 70502(e)(2) that obliged the Coast Guard to ask Colombian officials about the vessel. The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for drug offenses, holding that the United States had jurisdiction over the vessel and its crew because the painted Colombian flag on its hull was not flying for the purpose of making a claim of nationality or registry. Finally, the court rejected alternative arguments. View "United States v. Obando" on Justia Law

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The M/V Deep Blue purchased fuel from a supplier, the supplier purchased the fuel from an affiliate, and the affiliate subcontracted with Radcliff. Radcliff subsequently asserted a maritime lien on the Deep Blue in a bid to recover directly from the ship, giving rise to this litigation. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that Radcliff did not have a lien on the Deep Blue. Instead, a lien had arisen in favor of the global fuel supplier, and was duly assigned to ING Bank, an intervenor in the suit. View "Barcliff, LLC v. M/V Deep Blue" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of relief in an action brought by SCL Basilisk against Thorco for an order requiring the posting of a security by Agribusiness Savannah, Agribusiness United, Agribusiness United DMCC, and Sonada, in aid of a pending international arbitration in London, United Kingdom. The underlying petition arose out of a commercial dispute between the parties over the performance of a charter agreement. The court held that the relief sought by plaintiffs was not authorized by Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions, Georgia law, or principles of maritime law. View "SCL Basilisk AG v. Agribusiness United Savannah Logistics LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), which criminalizes an individual's possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance while on board a covered vessel. The court held that defendants' ship fit within the MDLEA's broad definition of a "vessel without nationality" because a designee of the U.S. Secretary of State has certified, and thereby "proved conclusively," that Guatemala had not "affirmatively and unequivocally" asserted that the ship was of Guatemalan nationality. The court explained that, under the clear terms of the MDLEA, that certification put the crime within the territorial coverage of the statutory prohibition, and the executive branch thereby effectively assumed responsibility for any diplomatic consequences of the criminal prosecution. The court held that defendant's remaining arguments were without merit. View "United States v. Lopez Hernandez" on Justia Law

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In an in rem admiralty proceeding involving the wreckage of Spanish galleons, Fleet-Queens recovered approximately four hundred gold coins, among other treasures, from an area that Gold Hound had allegedly been salvaging while acting as a subcontractor for Fleet-Queens. Gold Hound filed suit claiming that this discovery was made using its proprietary maps and software, seeking to intervene in the in rem action to assert a maritime lien over some of these artifacts and to assert state law claims. The district court denied the motion to intervene and concluded that Gold Hound was not entitled to a maritime lien. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court properly determined that it had and continues to have subject-matter jurisdiction over the res; Gold Hound should be granted leave to intervene in this proceeding to assert its in rem claims; and, on remand, the court deferred to the district court's discretion to determine whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Gold Hound's state law claims. The court vacated the district court's denial of Gold Hound's motion to intervene and its denial of Gold Hound's claim to a maritime lien and remanded, because the court could not decide on the record whether Gold Hound may succeed because basic facts remain in dispute. View "Salvors, Inc. v. Unidentified Wrecked & Abandoned Vessel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a marine salvor, filed this action in rem against the Blacksheep, seeking a salvage award for services he provided to the yacht. The district court entered judgment against plaintiff, finding that he failed to show that his services were necessary to the rescue of the Blacksheep. The court concluded, however, that a claim for a salvage award does not require such a showing. In this case, the district court's findings and some facts from the record could support the conclusion that plaintiff's action contributed to saving the Blacksheep where he deployed his high-capacity dewatering pump; dove below the ship where he successfully pushed the propeller shaft twelve inches closer to its intended position; and applied packing material to prevent further flooding. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Girard v. M/V "Blacksheep"" on Justia Law

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Defendants Wilchcombe, Rolle, and Beauplaint appealed their convictions for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana while on board a vessel subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Rolle also appeals his conviction for failing to obey a lawful order to heave to his vessel of which he was the master, operator, and person in charge. The court rejected Wilchcombe’s and Rolle’s arguments that the court's interpretation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70503(a) and (b), and 70506(a), violates due process; the statement of no objection (SNO) in this case was sufficient to inform the United States that the Bahamian Government consented to the United States’ exercise of jurisdiction over Rolle’s vessel; while the evidence presented at trial suggests that the Coast Guard may have incorrectly informed the Bahamian Government about the registration documents provided by Rolle to the Coast Guard, there are multiple reasons why this inconsistency does not lead the court to fault the district court’s decision to exercise jurisdiction over defendants; the evidence is sufficient to sustain Wilchcombe’s convictions for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute under the MDLEA; the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant a mistrial as to Beauplant and Rolle; the district court properly denied Beauplant's motion to dismiss; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by permitting a DEA agent to testify regarding Beauplant's prior 2010 arrest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Wilchcombe" on Justia Law