Court: Puerto Rico Port Authority immune from complaint
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA) is an arm of the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and entitled to sovereign immunity.
The decision, handed down July 8, reverses a 2006 ruling by the Federal Maritime Commission.
The dispute grew out of a decision in 1996 by the governor of Puerto Rico to redevelop San Juan’s waterfront and harbor by replacing cargo operations with a new convention center and cruise-ship terminals.
The PRPA cleared facilities along the San Juan harbor and waterfront and relocated shipping operations to other ports.
Three commercial marine terminal operators — Odyssea Stevedoring of Puerto Rico, the International Shipping Agency and San Antonio Maritime Corp. — filed separate complaints with the FMC, saying that PRPA’s marine terminal leasing practices violated the Shipping Act of 1984 because the authority:
' Failed to establish reasonable receiving, handling, storing or delivering practices.
' Gave other customers undue or unreasonable preferences.
' Unreasonably refused to deal or negotiate with them.
PRPA responded to the complaint by filing for summary judgment, arguing that the port authority was an arm of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and that it was immune from the suit.
By a 3-2 vote, a divided FMC disagreed and held that PRPA is not an arm of the commonwealth, and therefore was not entitled to sovereign immunity regulatory adjudication of privately filed complaints before the commission.
PRPA then appealed and in its decision last week, the Court of Appeals found the agency was “an arm of the commonwealth entitled to sovereign immunity.”
It remanded the complaints to the FMC with instructions to dismiss. ' Chris Dupin