Custodian: Yamamoto, intervenors ignoring court orders


The court-appointed custodian of cargo ship M/V Luta, National Maritime Services, has asked the court to enforce its previous orders requiring Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto and the intervenors in Yamamoto’s lawsuit to pay the company $124,879 in custodial services before the vessel is released.

NMS counsel Sean E. Frink said Yamamoto should pay NMS $101,223, while the boat’s crew should be required to pay at the very least $7,058.

Frink said that Long Consulting and Norton Lilly should be required to pay $11,531 and $5,065, respectively, before their interests in M/V Luta is released.

He pointed out that a court order had stated that all parties in Yamamoto’s lawsuit are responsible to share in paying the custodian, in proportion to the value of their claims from the time of the vessel’s arrest.

Frink said that NMS has been transparent about its expenses by twice filing detailed invoices for the months of October, November, December in 2016 and for January in 2017.

Frink said all of the parties have been provided an explanation of how NMS’ fees and costs were calculated and applied.

Yet, the lawyer pointed out, despite the court’s order, and despite now having complete access to NMS’ contract terms and NMS’ fees and costs, not one party has provided any sort of objection to any particular fee or cost incurred or estimated by NMS.

Frink said not one party has objected to the court’s proposed apportionment schedule.

Frink said the parties instead, in response to NMS’ second payment request, provide general objections without providing any evidence as to the alleged unreasonableness.

He said the parties attempt to settle with each other without apparently allowing for (except apparently for the crew members) any sort of offset in order to ensure NMS is paid for their share of its services before the vessel is released.

“In other words, they ask the court to ignore its prior orders regarding ensuring that NMS will be paid in full before the vessel is released,” Frink added.

Yamamoto is suing Lt. Gov. Victor 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.

After Yamamoto filed the lawsuit last Oct. 25, the U.S. Marshal Service seized the ship. NMS was then appointed as custodian of the vessel.

Aside from the crewmembers, Long Consulting and Norton Lilly, two others—Rota Terminal and Transfer Co. and the Commonwealth Ports Authority—intervened in the lawsuit to collect payment of services from Luta Mermaid LLC, the owner of M/V Luta.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood has ordered the vessel to be sold for a minimum of $550,000 on Feb. 8, 2017, at 10am.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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