‘Payment of NMS’ services should come from ship’s sale’

The former captain and six other crewmembers of cargo ship M/V Luta have no funds to pay for the vessel’s custodial services as they have not been paid their wages for months now.

Capt. Michael Brochon and the six crewmembers, through counsel David G. Banes, asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI that their share of custodial costs should come from the sale of M/V Luta.

They also asked the court to determine the reasonableness of the fees.

The seven have intervened in Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto’s lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog and the owner/operators of the vessel to collect $199,147.77 in unpaid wages.

Their latest court filing is a partial objection to a court order apportioning custodial fees.

Last Dec. 22, U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood denied the request of M/V Luta custodian, National Maritime Services Inc., to order Yamamoto to immediately pay $72,462.33 for custodian services from October to December 2016.

Tydingco-Gatewood ruled that all parties are responsible to share in advancing funds to the U.S. Marshal Service in proportion to the value of their claims on the vessel.

NMS, through counsel Sean E. Frink, asked the court to require Yamamoto to pay it $72,462.33 for custodian services from October to December 2016. It requested the court to hold only Yamamoto liable to pay the entire amount.

Yamamoto, through counsel Lloyd Hasselback, however, argued that he should only have to pay his portion of custodial fees and expenses, in proportion of the value of his claim against M/V Luta.

Yamamoto is suing Lt. Gov. Hocog and the owner/operators of M/V Luta for allegedly refusing to pay back the $3.4 million that he put up for the vessel.

He asked the court last week not to issue an order requiring immediate payment of custodian services for the ship solely by him.

Yamamoto asserted that all intervenors in this lawsuit should also share payment of the custodian fees.

After Yamamoto filed the lawsuit last Oct. 25, the U.S. Marshal Service seized M/V Luta. NMS was subsequently appointed as custodian.

Two companies also joined as intervenors in the lawsuit to collect payment of various services.

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Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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