PORT CANAVERAL GETS $214,500 PENALTY FOR TUG FRANCHISE VIOLATIONS
U.S. Federal Maritime Commission Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas imposed a $214,500 penalty on Florida’s Port Canaveral for violating the 1984 Shipping Act with its exclusive tug arrangement with Seabulk International.
The judge ordered the Port Canaveral Authority (CPA) to also cease its operation of a “tug assist franchise system.”
“Vessels calling at the port shall be permitted to use the tug operator of their choosing and CPA shall not prohibit or restrict a vessel from using a tug operator in any way,” Rosas said.
The FMC started its investigation into Port Canaveral’s tug franchising practices in February 2002 after alleging the port had provided “undue or unreasonable preference and advantage to Seabulk,” while, since July 2000, ignoring repeated applications from Petchem and Tugz International to operate similar tug services in the port.
Rosas said the penalty for violations by Port Canaveral was “appropriate as a punitive measure with respect to the violations … and as a deterrent to future violations by CPA and other marine terminal operators.”
Port Canaveral and Seabulk (formerly Hvide Marine) contended that the 1984 Shipping Act did not give the FMC jurisdiction over tug services and that the Constitution’s 10th Amendment prohibits the commission from “intruding into local matters.”
The judge responded that the FMC has “consistently exercised subject jurisdiction over ports with respect to exclusive tug services, based on the rationale that a marine terminal operator fulfills a terminal function related to the receiving, handling, storing or delivery of property where it usurps the right of a carrier to choose its own tug operator and conditions access to its terminal facilities upon use of an operator selected by the port.”
Rosas also said the 10th Amendment does not preclude the FMC form upholding jurisdiction over state-run marine terminal operators.