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MANHATTAN TANKERS, INC. v. DOLE

October 31, 1984

MANHATTAN TANKERS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ELIZABETH H. DOLE, Secretary of Transportation and ADM. JAMES S. GRACEY, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, Defendants, and OGDEN CHALLENGER TRANSPORT, INC., Intervenor-Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 INTRODUCTION

 This matter comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff owns an oil tanker, the MANHATTAN, built in the United States for use in the U.S. coastwise shipping trade. It brought this action challenging the decision of the Coast Guard permitting the entry of a vessel, owned by the intervenor-defendant, into the coastwise trade under the Wrecked Vessel Statute, 46 U.S.C. § 14. In an earlier Opinion, this Court determined that the plaintiff, Manhattan Tankers, a competitor of the intervenor-defendant, has standing to bring this suit. Manhattan Tankers, Inc. v. Dole, 587 F. Supp. 473 (D.D.C. 1984).

 After considering the cross motions for summary judgment, supporting and supplemental memoranda, and oral argument, the Court has decided, for the reasons set forth in this Opinion, to deny the plaintiff's motion, and to grant the joint motion of the defendants and intervenor-defendant for summary judgment. The Court has today issued an Order consistent with this Opinion.

 BACKGROUND

 A. The Statute and the Legislative History.

 The plaintiff challenges the Coast Guard's documentation of a vessel now owned by the intervenor-defendant, Ogden Challenger Transport ("Ogden"). The Coast Guard registered the ship pursuant to the Wrecked Vessel Act, 46 U.S.C. § 14. That statute was enacted in 1915, and it was similar to a predecessor statute in effect from 1852 to 1906. In essence, the statute provides for registration of foreign-built vessels which have wrecked in U.S. waters, and have been substantially rebuilt by U.S. repairmen. In complete text, the statute reads:

 
The Commissioner of Customs may issue a register or enrollment for any vessel wrecked on the coasts of the United States or her possessions or adjacent waters, when purchased by a citizen or citizens of the United States and thereupon repaired in a shipyard in the United States or her possessions, if it shall be proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner, if he deems it necessary, through a board of three appraisers appointed by him, that the said repairs put upon such vessels are equal to three times the appraised salved value of the vessel: Provided, That the expense of the appraisal provided for shall be borne by the owner of the vessel: Provided further, That if any of the material matters of fact sworn to or represented by the owner, or at his instance, to obtain the register of any vessel are not true, there shall be a forfeiture to the United States of the vessel in respect to which the oath shall have been made, together with tackle, apparel, and furniture thereof.

 46 U.S.C. § 14.

 
The burden of the objections to Section 4136 made by the Commissioner of Navigation . . . was that his bureau had a limited clerical force, incapable of giving the proper investigation to the important subject involved, and that the committees of Congress could examine more thoroughly into each case as it presented itself.

 S. Rep. No. 816, 63d Cong., 2d Sess. 2 (1914).

 After the 1906 repeal, Congress itself took over the registration of eligible wrecked vessels through special legislation on a case-by-case basis. But after a few years, the Senate Commerce Committee concluded that the repeal had adversely affected American shipyards, and in 1915 the statute was enacted as it appears today. See 46 U.S.C. § 14. This new statute, however, contained some changes from the earlier one. Congress was still aware of the burdens involved in administering the statute, so the new act provided for an independent board of appraisers to relieve the administering agency from becoming entangled in complex registration proceedings. To reduce the costs to the government, the act required the applicant to cover the expenses of the appraisal. Congress also provided a new safeguard on the face of the statute -- a penalty of forfeiture if the applicant makes any false representations to the board.

 In 1979, the House of Representatives undertook consideration of a bill which would have eliminated the registry provisions permitting certain foreign-built vessels to enroll for, inter alia, the U.S. coastwise trade. See 125 Cong. Rec. H7972 (1979) (House consideration of H.R. 1196). The Senate substituted a different measure, which still allowed documentation under the Wrecked Vessel Statute (46 U.S.C. § 14). The Senate bill also delegated the responsibility for vessel documentation to the Coast Guard. See 126 Cong. Rec. at S15949 (1980) (remarks of Senator ...


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