SAMRAT CONTAINER LINES, INC. v. SAFEWATER LINES INDIA PVT. LTD. et al
OPINION & ORDER denying 25 Motion to Vacate ; denying 25 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Stanley R. Chesler on 2/18/15. (sr, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
SAMRAT CONTAINER LINES, INC.,
SAFEWATER LINES INDIA PVT, LTD.
Defendant and Garnishees. :
Civil Action No. 14-6110 (SRC)
OPINION & ORDER
CHESLER, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on the motion to vacate the attachment and dismiss
the Complaint by Defendant Safewater Lines India Pvt. Ltd. (“Safewater”). For the reasons
stated below, the motion will be denied.
Plaintiff SAMRAT Container Lines, Inc. (“SAMRAT”) filed a Complaint in this Court
on October 1, 2014, as well as motions for issuance of process of maritime attachment and
garnishment and for appointment for service of writs of maritime attachment and garnishment.
The Court granted these motions, and the writs were issued. Defendant entered a limited
appearance, pursuant to Supplemental Admiralty Rule E(8), for the sole purposes of getting the
attachment vacated and the Complaint dismissed. Defendant filed the instant motion, seeking
such relief, on two grounds: 1) Defendant may be found within this District; and 2) the dispute at
issue is not a maritime claim. On December 18, 2014, the Court held oral argument on the
motion and Ordered supplemental briefing on two issues: 1) whether Defendant could be found
in this District for the service of process; and 2) whether the Complaint properly fell within this
Court’s maritime jurisdiction.
Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims to the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the “Supplemental Rules”) sets forth the process by which a
party can attach another party’s assets. The rule provides:
If a defendant is not found within the district when a verified complaint praying
for attachment . . . [is] filed, a verified complaint may contain a prayer for process
to attach the defendant’s tangible or intangible personal property -- up to the
amount sued for -- in the hands of garnishees named in the process. . . . The court
must review the complaint and affidavit and, if the conditions of this Rule B
appear to exist, enter an order so stating and authorizing process of attachment
Fed. R. Civ. P., Adm. Supp. Rule B(1). Plaintiff obtained an attachment in this Court pursuant to
Rule B. Rule E of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims provides
the procedure for a Defendant to vacate this attachment:
(f) Procedure for Release from Arrest or Attachment. Whenever property is
arrested or attached, any person claiming an interest in it shall be entitled to a
prompt hearing at which the plaintiff shall be required to show why the arrest or
attachment should not be vacated or other relief granted consistent with these
Fed. R. Civ. P., Adm. Supp. Rule E(4)(f). Defendant has sought to vacate the attachment
pursuant to this Rule. “To avoid vacatur of attachment, it is the plaintiff’s burden to show” that
Defendant may not be found within this District. Vitol, S.A. v. Primerose Shipping Co., 708
F.3d 527, 541 (4th Cir. 2013).
Plaintiff has carried this burden, as the present record contains no evidence that
Defendant may be found within this District. SAMRAT contends that Defendant, at the time of
service, was not present in this District. In its supplemental briefing, Defendant offered an
affidavit with documents which, in a nutshell, show that an entity named “Safewater Lines (I)
PVT LTD” is registered in New Jersey and has an agent for service of process here. The obvious
problem is that “Safewater Lines (I) PVT LTD” is not the same name as that of Defendant
Safewater Lines India Pvt. Ltd. Defendant has offered nothing which supports its claim that an
entity with the precise name “Safewater Lines India Pvt. Ltd.” is present within the District. Nor
has Defendant offered authority for the proposition that a similarly named entity is close enough
for these purposes. The present record contains no evidence that Defendant may be found within
this District. Plaintiff has shown that Defendant may not be found within this District; there is
no basis to vacate the attachment pursuant to Supplemental Rule E.
Defendant next argues that this Court lacks admiralty jurisdiction over this case, because
the contract at issue is not wholly maritime in nature. This argument runs afoul of Supreme
Court authority on this issue. In the key case on this issue, Norfolk Southern Ry. v. James N.
Kirby, Pty Ltd., 543 U.S. 14, 24 (2004), the Supreme Court held:
To ascertain whether a contract is a maritime one, we cannot look to whether a
ship or other vessel was involved in the dispute, as we would in a putative
maritime tort case. Nor can we simply look to the place of the contract’s
formation or performance. Instead, the answer depends upon the nature and
character of the contract, and the true criterion is whether it has reference to
maritime service or maritime transactions.
Id. (citations omitted).1 The Court further stated that it focused the “inquiry on whether the
principal objective of a contract is maritime commerce.” Id. at 25. Thus, a contract which has a
principal objective of maritime commerce is a maritime contract. Norfolk specifically provides
Defendant relies almost entirely on a 1946 Second Circuit case, W. E. Hedger Transp.
Corp. v. Ira S. Bushey & Sons, Inc., 155 F.2d 321 (2d Cir. 1946). Defendant has overlooked the
controlling authority of Norfolk.
that, even when a contract has elements which are performed on land, the key question is
whether the principal objective is maritime commerce. Id. at 24.
There is no dispute that the parties in the present case are both involved in the ocean
shipping business. Defendant’s brief states that it provides its customers with “ocean shipping”
services. (Def.’s Br. 4.) The Complaint alleges breach of a contract.2 The Complaint alleges
that this contract provided, inter alia: “Safewater then would place the cargo with an ocean
carrier, which issued an ocean bill of lading identifying Safewater as the shipper, and Samrat as
the consignee.” (Compl. ¶ 10(b).) The Complaint alleges a contract with a principal objective of
maritime commerce. This Court is satisfied that the Complaint sufficiently alleges a contract
with a principal objective of maritime commerce. Under Norfolk, this Court has admiralty
jurisdiction over this Complaint.
Plaintiff has carried its burden of showing that the attachment should not be vacated. The
motion to vacate the attachment and dismiss the Complaint will be denied.
For these reasons,
IT IS on this 18th day of February, 2015
ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to vacate the attachment and dismiss the Complaint
(Docket Entry No. 25) is DENIED.
s/Stanley R. Chesler
STANLEY R. CHESLER
United States District Judge
On this motion, the Court looks to the facts alleged in the Complaint. It is worth noting,
however, that Defendant’s moving brief devotes four pages to its version of the facts. (Def.’s Br.
5-8.) The facts, as alleged by Defendant, are all about transactions between the parties involving
ocean shipping of cargo.
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