George H. Revercomb, Judge.
This matter is before the Court upon plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs are five labor organizations which represent, inter alia, officers and seamen who work aboard commercial shipping vessels registered under the flag of the United States. As a general rule, all officers serving on U.S. flag vessels must be citizens of the United States. 46 U.S.C. sec. 8103(a). Unlicensed seamen on U.S. flag vessels must be either citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Id. sec. 8103(b). Plaintiffs brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief, contending that defendants, the Secretary of Transportation and the Commandant of the Coast Guard, violated section 8103 in waiving the U.S. citizenship requirements for eleven Kuwaiti oil tankers which were registered under the United States flag in 1987 (the "reflagged tankers"). The object of the reflagging was to bring the tankers under the protection of the U.S. Navy as they passed through the Persian Gulf. The reflagged tankers were initially exempt from the citizenship requirements because, as the Coast Guard informed the Kuwait Oil Tanker Company, former 46 U.S.C. section 8103(b) permitted "the use of non U.S. citizen crewmembers while each vessel is engaged on a foreign voyage and does not call at a U.S. port." Kuwaiti Tankers: Hearings before the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. 148 (1987) ("Kuwaiti Tanker Hearings").
In the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Anti-Reflagging Act of 1987, Pub. L. 100-239, 101 Stat. 1778 (1988) (the "Anti-Reflagging Act"), Congress amended 46 U.S.C. section 8103(b) to remove this this so-called foreign voyage exception to the manning requirements. On February 9, 1988, two days before the Anti-Reflagging Act was to take effect, Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci requested, pursuant to the Act of December 27, 1950 (the "1950 Act"), Pub. L. 81-891, sec. 1, 64 Stat. 1120, 46 App. U.S.C. note prec., sec. 1, that the citizenship requirements be waived for the reflagged tankers. The 1950 Act requires the Coast Guard to waive compliance with "the navigation and vessel inspection laws . . . upon the request of the Secretary of Defense to the extent deemed necessary in the interest of national defense by the Secretary of Defense." In accordance with the statute, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral P.A. Yost issued the requested Waiver for a one-year period that same day.
Plaintiffs contend that defendants had no authority to waive the citizenship requirements because the language of the 1950 Act does not authorize such a waiver. Instead, plaintiffs assert, the exclusive means of waiving manning requirements are those described in 46 U.S.C. section 8103. Moreover, plaintiffs contend, any fair reading of the Anti-Reflagging Act and its legislative history proves that Congress intended to ensure that the reflagged tankers be manned by U.S. citizens. Amici curiae, thirteen members of the House of Representatives, join plaintiffs' arguments and note that when it took up the legislation that was to become the Anti-Reflagging Act, Congress considered and rejected the very same justification that the Secretary of Defense later relied on to request a waiver under the 1950 Act. Amici also argue that using American crews would better serve the national defense and would strengthen the U.S. Merchant Marine.
The first sentence of the 1950 Act provides:
The head of each department or agency responsible for the administration of the navigation and vessel-inspection laws is directed to waive compliance with such laws upon the request of the Secretary of Defense to the extent deemed necessary in the interest of national defense by the Secretary of Defense.
The issue is whether the phrase "navigation and vessel-inspection laws" encompasses vessel manning laws. In context, "navigation and vessel-inspection laws" is a broad, general description of laws administered by the Coast Guard that must be read expansively. The legislative history and prior administrative interpretation of the 1950 Act reveal that manning requirements are an integral part of the "navigation and vessel-inspection" laws. For example, section 2 of the Act of March 31, 1947, Pub. L. 80-27, 61 Stat. 33, conferred authority on the Commandant of the Coast Guard to waive compliance with the navigation and vessel inspection laws except as to "those sections of the navigation and vessel-inspection laws requiring the employment of American citizens as officers and crew members . . . ." The Coast Guard's waiver authority was extended to authorize limited waivers of citizenship requirements in the Act of July 31, 1947, Pub. L. 80-293, 61 Stat. 685. Prior to its expiration, the waiver authority was extended by the Act of February 27, 1948, Pub. L. 80-243, 62 Stat. 38, and again by the Act of June 30, 1950, Pub. L. 81-591, 64 Stat. 309. Finally, in the 1950 Act, the waiver authority of the Commandant of the Coast Guard was made permanent and the authority to request waivers was conferred on the Secretary of Defense. The 1950 Act contains no language excluding citizenship requirements from the waiver authority. Consistent with the broad authority granted by the 1950 Act, the Coast Guard has waived citizenship requirements under the authority of the 1950 Act since at least 1966. See Declaration of Commander Joseph A. Steen and supporting exhibits, appended to defendants' Post-Hearing Brief.
Moreover, a question propounded to the Coast Guard by the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries -- the same Committee which reported out the Anti-Reflagging Act -- indicates that the Committee was apprised that the Coast Guard was regularly waiving compliance with the vessel manning laws:
QUESTION. WHAT GIVES THE COAST GUARD THE RIGHT (OR DUTY) TO WAIVE VESSEL MANNING LAWS UNDER THE ACT OF DECEMBER 27, 1950?
Answer. The Coast Guard considers the vessel manning laws an integral part of the navigation and vessel inspection laws. The Coast Guard is, therefore, directed by the Act of December 27, 1950, to waive compliance with these laws upon request of the Secretary of Defense to the extent deemed necessary in the interest of national defense. However, in this case, no waiver of manning laws was requested.