Rota Terminal & Transfer Co. Inc. has asked the federal court to deny Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto’s motion to bar any more parties from intervening in his lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog and the owners/operators of cargo ship M/V Luta.
Rota Terminal, through counsel Janet H. King, said Yamamoto attempts to mix together lien claimants and owners of M/V Luta for the purposes of imposing a filing deadline against intervenors.
King asserted that the only deadline mentioned in the NMI Admiralty Local Rules and supplemental rules for maritime lien claimants to file a complaint in interventions is one to be “fixed by the court,” and because the District Court has not yet fixed the deadline, the complaint filed by Rota Terminal is timely and Yamamoto’s motion for default should be denied.
King said parties with ownership interests are distinct from parties with claims against M/V Luta.
She said deadlines for parties with ownership interests in the ship do not apply to parties with claims against the vessel.
While it may be true that persons claiming an ownership interest in the ship were required to file a statement of interest within 10 days, the same deadline does not apply to persons with claims against the vessel, King said.
She said Yamamoto’s own notice of arrest draws a distinction between the two, and specifies that the 10-day deadline applies to owners, while a “time fixed by the court” applies to maritime lien claimants.
King said Rota Terminal has complied with LAR E(11), the only local admiralty rule expressly referencing the intervenors.
King said LAR E(11)(a) states “when a vessel or other party has been arrested, attached, or garnished, and is in the hands of the Marshal or substitute custodian, anyone having a claim against the vessel or property is required to present the claim by filing an intervening complaint and obtain a warrant of arrest, and not by filing an original complaint, unless otherwise ordered by a judicial officer.”
The LAR, she said, does not require lien claimants to file a statement of interest or an answer.
Rota Terminal is claiming that M/V Luta owes the company a total of $165,766 in services, costs, fees, and interest.
King stated in the complaint of intervention that Luta Mermaid LLC president Abelina T. Mendiola and officers of Rota Terminal entered into an oral agreement by which Rota Terminal agreed to supply necessities to M/V Luta in exchange for compensation.
From March 17, 2016, to Oct. 31, 2016, Rota Terminal provided necessaries to M/V Luta such as stevedoring services, agency services, notice of arrival clearances, vessel clearances, cargo clearances, government clearances, cargo booking services, and administrative services.
King said payment of the invoices totaling $110,511 is now due and owing.
Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto has asked the court to enter a default judgment against any parties who have not filed statements of interest or intervened in his lawsuit.
In Yamamoto’s motion, attorney George Lloyd Hasselback said since the notice requirements have been met and the time for filing a claim has expired, the District Court should enter a default judgment against any parties who have not appeared or intervened.
U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood has that M/V Luta be sold for a minimum bid of $550,000.
Three groups have already intervened in Yamamoto’s lawsuit. They are former captain of M/V Luta and six crew members, Long Consulting LLC, and Norton Lilly International.
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.
After Yamamoto filed the lawsuit last Oct. 25, the U.S. Marshal Service seized the ship. The National Maritime Services was then appointed as custodian of the vessel.