Luta sale is stayed


The public auction for cargo ship M/V Luta, originally set for Wednesday, Feb. 8, will not push through.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood stayed the sale of M/V Luta for 60 days.

She announced the 60-day stay of the sale during a motions hearing last Tuesday, according to the minutes of the proceeding.

Japanese investor Takahisa 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 and appointed National Maritime Services as custodian of the vessel.

Aside from the ship’s 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.

Last Jan. 9, Tydingco-Gatewood ordered the sale of M/V Luta in the minimum bid amount of $550,000 on Feb. 8, 2017, citing the vessel’s expensive upkeep and the delay in securing its release.

At the hearing on Tuesday, National Maritime Services counsel Sean Frink informed the court that only Yamamoto paid the custodial services, now amounting to $124,878. Yamamoto initially paid $30,000.

In an order on Wednesday, Tydingco-Gatewood set a post-arrest hearing for Feb. 10, 2017. The judge said she anticipates that the focus of the hearing will be on the issue whether the arrest of M/V Luta was unreasonable.

Tydingco-Gatewood said Hocog’s motion to dismiss Yamamoto’s complaint will not be heard on Feb. 10. The judge said she will issue a separate order, either deciding the motion on the briefs or setting it for a hearing.

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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