United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
KATHERINE P. NELSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Cooper Marine &
Timberlands Corporation's “Verified Complaint for
Attachment Under Rule B and/or Rule C Arrest.” (Doc.
The Verified Complaint indicates that diversity, admiralty,
and supplemental jurisdiction are present pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1333, and 1367, respectively. (Doc.
1 at 1, ¶ 1). The undersigned has reviewed the Verified
Complaint (Doc. 1) and, as discussed below, questions whether
admiralty jurisdiction is present. Accordingly, on or before
Friday, March 16, 2018, CMT shall
brief the Court on this issue. The Court will withhold ruling
on CMT's Motion for Issuance of an Arrest Warrant and
Writ of Attachment (Doc. 4), Motion to Appoint a Substitute
Custodian. (Docs. 5), and Cooper Consolidated
LLC's Motion to Intervene (Doc. 7) pending a
determination as to this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1333.
The Verified Complaint
action arises out of a dispute regarding the storage of
roughly 40, 000 tons of coal. CMT's Verified Complaint
6. In August of 2017, at the request of the owners/operators
of the ocean going bulk vessel M/V GILLINGHAM, CMT entered
into an agreement for stevedoring services at CMT's
facility to transfer the coal from the M/V GILLINGHAM onto
the CMT dock to allow the coal to dry for a short period
after which time the coal was expected to be reloaded onto
the M/V GILLINGHAM for export.
7. The Agreement provided, among other terms, storage charges
of $1, 500 per day and all other costs related to the coal.
CMT was told that the coal would be ready for reloading on
the M/V GILLINGHAM for overseas shipment within a matter of
days, once the excessive moisture content in the coal which
caused a stability concern, was confirmed by testing to be
within the approved level for transit.
8. The owners/operators of the M/V GILLINGHAM paid CMT for
the stevedoring services and the initial storage but when the
moisture content of the coal did not meet the specifications
for the coal to be shipped overseas, the M/V GILLINGHAM
sailed from Mobile, leaving the coal on the CMT dock.
9. At that point, Bellmari contracted with CMT to be
responsible for the storage and related charges and agreed to
procure a substitute vessel to complete the shipment to its
10. On November 20, 2017, CMT invoiced Bellmari for storage
of its coal from October 7 through November 30, 2017, which
was paid by Bellmari. Bellmari was told that the coal would
have to be moved from the dock if not shipped in the
immediate future at Bellmari's expense.
11. When no vessel was provided by Bellmari to take the coal,
CMT had the coal moved from its dock for storage at a
different location on its terminal at the cost of $126,
387.96. Although demand has been made on Bellmari to pay
those costs, that invoice remains outstanding. Bellmari has
also refused to pay the storage charges from December 1, 2017
through the present date, at the rate of $1, 500 per day.
Copies of statements from CMT to Bellmari for December and
January storage and the cost to move the coal from its dock
are attached hereto as Exhibit A.
12. Because of the refusal of Bellmari to remove its coal
from CMT's facility, the coal will have to be moved a
second time in the immediate future to another location on
its terminal at an additional cost.
(Doc. 1 at 2-3). The Verified Complaint contains claims for
breach of maritime contract, unjust enrichment, suit on open
account, Rule B attachment, and Rule C arrest of cargo. (Doc.
1 at 4-8). CMT has not provided a copy of the contract(s) at
issue. The dispute detailed in the Verified Complaint centers
on Bellmari's alleged failure to pay for storage
Jurisdiction Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333
Court has an “independent duty to ensure admiralty
jurisdiction exists before applying admiralty law.”
Doe v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc.,394 F.3d 891,
899-900 (11th Cir. 2004)(internal citations
omitted). The undersigned has reviewed the Verified
Complaint and questions whether the contract ...