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Naiad Maritime Co. v. Pacific Gulf Shipping Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 8, 2016

NAIAD MARITIME CO., Plaintiff,
v.
PACIFIC GULF SHIPPING COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Naiad Maritime Company (“Naiad”) filed this maritime in rem action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333 and Supplemental Rules B and E of the federal Admiralty Rules. Naiad seeks to garnish property owned by defendant Pacific Gulf Shipping (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (“PGS Singapore”) based on a judgment rendered against co-defendant Pacific Gulf Shipping Co., Ltd. (“PGS Marshall Islands”) in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. (ECF No. 1.) Naiad asserts that PGS Singapore is the alter ego of co-defendant PGS Marshall Islands and, thus, that Naiad is entitled to attach PGS Singapore's assets located in this district.

         Now pending before this Court is Naiad's Motion for Issuance of Request[1] for International Judicial Assistance to Marshall Islands and Pakistan (“Naiad's Motion”) (ECF No. 34). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Naiad's Motion (ECF No. 34) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Naiad is a Greek corporation and the owner of M/V Marylisa V (“Marylisa” or the vessel). (Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at ¶¶ 4-5.) Pacific Gulf Shipping Co., Ltd. (“PGS Marshall Islands”) is a maritime charterer incorporated under the laws of and with corporate office in the Marshall Islands. (Id. at ¶ 5.) PGS Marshall Islands chartered the Marylisa to transport palm kernel shells from Penang, Indonesia. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at ¶¶ 4, 5, 9.) The cargo allegedly caused damage to Naiad's vessel, leading Naiad to initiate arbitration proceedings against PGS Marshall Islands in London; these proceedings are ongoing. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-11; ECF No. 23-1 at 13.)

         In conjunction with the arbitral proceedings, Naiad obtained a default judgment against PGS Marshall Islands in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on September 15, 2016.[2] (ECF No. 25 at 4.)

         Naiad filed suit in this Court seeking to attach property to satisfy the Delaware judgment. (ECF No. 23-1 at 2.) On December 16, 2016, this Court issued a Writ of Maritime Garnishment against co-defendant Pacific Gulf Shipping (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (“PGS Singapore”) to garnishee Yara North America, Inc. (“Yara”). (ECF No. 8.) As set forth in the original Complaint which led to the Writ, Naiad alleges that PGS Singapore is the alter ego of PGS Marshall Islands, making its property subject to garnishment to satisfy the Delaware judgment.[3] (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 13-16.) Garnishee Yara is in possession of approximately $31, 000 in funds owed by Yara to PGS Singapore. See ECF No. 19.

         On January 18, 2017, counsel for PGS Singapore entered a restricted appearance on behalf of PGS Singapore only[4] and filed a Motion to Vacate Attachment (ECF No. 23), asserting that plaintiff failed to make an adequate showing under Supplemental Rule E(4)(f) of the Admiralty Rules of Naiad's entitlement to the attachment of the funds in Yara's possession. (ECF No. 23-1 at 2.) Specifically, PGS Singapore asserts that Naiad has failed to support its bare allegation that PGS Singapore and PGS Marshall Islands are alter egos of each other. (Id.)

         During a teleconference held on January 19, 2017, a briefing schedule was set to address PGS Singapore's Motion. (ECF No. 24.) This Court then conducted a Motions Hearing on January 24, 2017, during which the Court concluded that the Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 23) would be “held in abeyance pending the parties' completion of limited discovery regarding plaintiff's allegation that [PGS Marshall Islands] and [PGS Singapore] are corporate alter egos.” (ECF No. 30.) A second Motions Hearing is scheduled to be held on March 1, 2017. (Id.)

         On January 31, 2017, counsel for PGS Singapore notified the Court that the parties were unable to resolve certain differences regarding the scope of the “limited discovery” contemplated by this Court's Order. (ECF No. 31.) The Court then conducted an off-the-record teleconference on February 3, 2017, during which the Court concluded, pertinent to the pending Motion, that the Court's discovery order (ECF No. 30) applied to PGS Singapore only; thus, Naiad could not pursue discovery from PGS Marshall Islands-which, the parties seemed to agree, is beyond this Court's jurisdiction-and non-party Kopak Shipping Company (“Kopak”).

         Naiad filed the pending Motion for Issuance of Request on February 5, 2017.[5]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Letters rogatory “are the means by which a court in one country requests the court of another country to assist in the administration of justice” by conducting some form of factual discovery. United States v. Rosen, 240 F.R.D. 204, 215 (E.D. Va. 2007). “Federal courts have both statutory and inherent authority to issue letters rogatory, regardless of whether the case is civil or criminal.” Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1781; United States v. Staples,256 F.2d 290, 292 (9th Cir. 1958), United States v. Steele,685 F.2d 793, 802 (3d Cir. 1982)). Some “[c]ourts have required that ‘some good reason [ ] be shown by the opposing party for a court to deny an application for a letter rogatory.'” Brey Corp. v. LQ Mgmt., L.L.C., AW-11-718, 2012 WL 3127023, at *3 (D. Md. July 26, 2012) (quoting DBMS Consultants Ltd. v. Computer Assoc. Int'l., Inc.,131 F.R.D. 367, 369 (D.Mass. 1990)). At the same time, “letters rogatory should be issued only ...


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