Detention of bulker: "arbitrary and capricious"

gavel 340MAY 10, 2013 — The Antonis G. Pappadakis, a 73,538 dwt Maltese-flag bulk carrier detained by the Coast Guard in Portsmouth, Va. after pollution allegations, could soon be released.

When the Coast Guard demanded a $3 million surety bond for release of the ship, which is managed by Kassian Maritime Navigation of Greece, the vessel owner, Angelex Ltd. filed suit April 25 in Virginia Eastern District Federal Court in Norfolk seeking a “reasonable bond” and saying “the Coast Guard’s demands are unreasonable, insatiable, arbitrary, and capricious.”     

Yesterday, the Court issued an order to release the ship on the posting of a $1.5 million bond to cover any penalties or fines ultimately assessed for any violations under the "Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships."

Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar found that the federal government had acted "arbitrarily and capriciously, in violation of due process and in violation of the Constitution of the United States" in the detention of the ship, reports the Virginian Pilot.

"In more than thirty years on the bench, this Court can recall seeing no greater disregard for due process, nor any more egregious abdication of the reasonable exercise of discretion," Judge Doumar wrote in a 16-page opinion accompanying the order.

The court, however, stayed the injunction for a day at the request of the Coast Guard, so that it can appeal the order.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that, as a condition of the bond, Angelex must keep six of the 21 crew members in the Eastern District of Virginia for no more than a month.

They are to be detained with material-witness status so that their depositions may be taken, the order states.

The captain of the ship may leave the port, on the condition that the owner, at its expense, bring him back to Virginia to face any civil or criminal proceedings. The judge specified that the Coast Guard must choose to pursue either a criminal or civil case, but not both.

"All parties to this action shall take all actions necessary to immediately release" the ship from arrest and let it leave the port once the bond has been posted, the order states.

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