United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
GULF COPPER & MANUFACTURING CORPORATION Plaintiff.
M/V LEWEK EXPRESS, her apparel, equipment, engines, freights, tackle, etc., in rem Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. EDISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Gulf Copper & Manufacturing
Corporation ("Gulf Copper") and Intervening
Plaintiff Gulf Marine Fabricators, LP's ("Gulf
Marine") Opposed Joint Motion for Interlocutory Sale
("Motion for Interlocutory Sale"), which seeks to
force the sale of the M/V LEWEK EXPRESS (the
"Vessel"). See Dkt. 47. After reviewing
the motion, responses, and reply, as well as the applicable
law, the Court concludes that the Motion for Interlocutory
Sale should be GRANTED.
Copper filed this lawsuit on January 29, 2019, seeking to
recover $442, 255.00 for berthing, mooring, and related
services it provided to the Vessel, a pipe-lay ship, through
the end of January 2019. At Gulf Copper's request, the
Court arrested the Vessel and appointed Gulf Copper
notice of the Vessel's arrest in the Galveston Daily
News, Gulf Marine and Trevaskis Limited
("Trevaskis") intervened in the lawsuit to assert
their respective claims against the Vessel. Gulf Marine
asserted a claim for $578, 743.76 arising from unpaid
dockage, mooring, and towage fees. Trevaskis asserted a claim
to three pieces of pipe-lay equipment currently onboard the
Vessel. The pipe-lay equipment-Reel System IV, 60 MT 3 track
tensioner, and 200 MT PLET Launch Frame-is all specifically
designed to assist the Vessel in furtherance of its
Gulf Marine and Trevaskis appeared in the suit, "the
purported owner of the Vessel, Ocean Lion Shipping Ltd.
('Ocean Lion'), made a limited appearance ... and
filed its Verified Statement of Right or Interest, claiming
to be the 'true and bona fide owner of the Vessel."
Dkt. 47 at 3 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Ocean Lion has represented to the parties and the Court its
desire and continuing efforts to secure release of the
Vessel. However, suitable progress has not occurred; thus,
Gulf Copper and Gulf Marine filed the Motion for
Interlocutory Sale, seeking to sell the Vessel pursuant to
Rule E(9) of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and
Maritime Claims ("Admiralty Rules").
grounds for interlocutory sale, Gulf Copper and Gulf Marine
contend: (1) the Vessel is already in a deteriorated
condition (i.e., it is unmanned, laid up, and suffers from
water intrusion) and it is likely to worsen if it continues
to be held in detention; (2) the Vessel has incurred
excessive custodial care expenses to date and is expected to
incur additional expenses in the future (i.e., custodial fees
accrue at a rate $4, 114.00 per day); and (3) Ocean Lion has
unreasonably delayed securing release of the Vessel, whether
by bond or otherwise (i.e., the Vessel has been under arrest
for more than four months). See Dkt. 47.
response to the Motion for Interlocutory Sale, Ocean Lion
does not contend that a sale is inappropriate under Rule E(9)
of the Admiralty Rules. Rather, Ocean Lion merely argues that
any sale should be delayed for 45 days to allow it additional
time to try and secure the Vessel's release. See
Dkt. 51. Similarly, Trevaskis does not oppose Gulf
Copper's and Gulf Marine's right to seek the sale of
the Vessel. Instead, Trevaskis specifically argues that the
Vessel should not be sold while its pipe-lay equipment is
still affixed to the ship because, in Trevaskis's
opinion, its pipe-lay equipment is not an appurtenance to the
Vessel. See Dkt. 50.
Court addresses the sale and appurtenance issues in turn.
Admiralty Rules provide the methods by which the owner of an
arrested vessel may exercise its due process rights to vacate
the arrest or to substitute some other security in the place
of the property. While the property is arrested, there are
three scenarios listed in the Admiralty Rules that justify an
interlocutory sale of the property:
(A) the attached or arrested property is perishable, or
liable to deterioration, decay, or injury by being detained
in custody pending the action;
(B) the expense of keeping the property is excessive or
(C) there is an unreasonable delay in securing release of the