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MANHATTAN TANKERS, INC. v. DOLE

June 29, 1984

MANHATTAN TANKERS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ELIZABETH H. DOLE, et al., Defendants, and OGDEN CHALLENGER TRANSPORT, INC., Intervenor-Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 INTRODUCTION

 This case involves a challenge by the plaintiff, owner of the oil tanker MANHATTAN, to the action of the Coast Guard in permitting the entry of a competitor, the oil tanker OGDEN COLUMBIA (formerly the ARKAS), into the United States coastwise trade pursuant to the Wrecked Vessel Statute, 46 U.S.C. § 14. Before the Court is a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment, supplemental memoranda, and the entire record herein. After careful consideration, and for the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the plaintiff has standing to bring this lawsuit and the defendants' motion to dismiss must be denied. The Court will rule on the cross-motion for summary judgment following oral argument by the parties.

 BACKGROUND

 On March 31, 1982, the ARKAS, a foreign built ship then under Liberian flag, collided with a towboat on the Mississippi River, resulting in substantial damage to the tanker. In July of the same year, the ship was purchased by Avondale Shipyards, Inc. ("Avondale"), a subsidiary of the Ogden Corporation and at the time an affiliate of Ogden Challenger Transport. The purchase price, including bunkers (engine fuel), was $7.75 million. Within days, Avondale requested that the Coast Guard determine that the ARKAS was a wrecked vessel qualified for documentation for employment in the coastwise trade under the Wrecked Vessel Statute, 46 U.S.C. § 14, and the regulations promulgated thereunder, 46 C.F.R. § 67.19-9. Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 ("Jones Act"), 46 U.S.C. § 883, requires that vessels engaged in the transportation of merchandise in the coastwide trade be built and documented under the laws of the United States and owned by American citizens. The Wrecked Vessel Statute, set out in full infra, allows documentation for the coastwide trade of a vessel wrecked in U.S. waters provided that the vessel was purchased by a U.S. citizen and repaired in a U.S. shipyard if a determination is made that the cost of the repairs is at least three times the salved value of the vessel. On November 17, 1983, a Certificate of Documentation was issued entitling the ARKAS (by then renamed the OGDEN COLUMBIA) to be employed in the coastwide trade. The plaintiff asserts that the Coast Guard's decision to document the vessel should be set aside because, inter alia, the proceedings pursuant to which the decision was made were tainted with bias, plaintiff was denied a meaningful opportunity to participate in the proceedings, and the decision was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.

 THE PLAINTIFF HEREIN HAS STANDING

 The threshold issue before the Court is whether the plaintiff has standing to bring this lawsuit. The concept of standing invokes concerns of both constitutional and prudential dimension. Constitutionally,

 
Art. III requires the party who invokes the court's authority to "show [1] that he personally has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant," * * * [2] that the injury "fairly can be traced to the challenged action" and [3] "is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision" * * * *

 Autolog Corporation v. Regan, 235 U.S. App. D.C. 178, 731 F.2d 25, 28 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (quoting Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 454 U.S. 464, 472, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982) (citations omitted)).

 The plaintiff meets the standing requirements of Article III of the Constitution. It operates a vessel, the MANHATTAN, in the coastwide trade. The challenged Certificate of Documentation allows the OGDEN COLUMBIA to directly compete with plaintiff's vessel. Thus, it will suffer competitive harm because of the defendants' action. See Sea-Land Service, Inc. v. Dole, 232 U.S. App. D.C. 449, 723 F.2d 975, 977-78 (D.C. Cir. 1983).

 The prudential consideration relevant here is whether the plaintiff's complaint falls " arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question." Ass'n of Data Processing Service Orgs. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153, 25 L. Ed. 2d 184, 90 S. Ct. 827 (1970) (emphasis added). While standing vis-a-vis the "zone" test is a difficult concept, the case law indicates that any doubts must be resolved in favor of the litigant seeking to assert his rights. The "test requires some indicia-however slight-that the litigant before the court was intended to be protected, benefited or regulated by the statute under which suit is brought. '" Autolog, 731 F.2d at 29 (quoting Copper & Brass Fabricators Council v. Dep't of the Treasury, 220 U.S. App. D.C. 133, 679 F.2d 951, 952 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (emphasis added). This Court should "give broad compass to a statute's 'zone of interests' in recognition that this test was originally intended to expand the number of litigants able to assert their rights in court." Id. at 29-30.

 The statute at issue here reads:

 Wrecked Vessel Statute, 46 U.S.C. § 14. On its face, the statute seeks to protect the interests of American shipyards through its requirement that repairs be made in an American yard and amount to three times the vessel's salved value. And, it would seem to seek to protect the interests of American shipowners through its requirement that the wrecked vessel be ...


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