Shipbuilders Council, Pasha challenge rebuilt Matson ship
The Shipbuilders Council of America and Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines have filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to prevent a recently converted Matson Navigation Co. ship from sailing between California and Hawaii or in other domestic trades.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, does not name Matson as a defendant, but is filed against the Coast Guard and its National Vessel Documentation Center.
It asks the court to enjoin Matson's ship Mokihana 'from engaging in the United States coastwise trade' and 'enjoin the Coast Guard from issuing a further coastwise endorsement to the Mokihana.'
The rebuilt ship recently re-entered Matson's Hawaii service following modification at a shipyard in China and at Atlantic Marine Alabama in Mobile that added car decks to the aft of the ship and will allow it to carry 1,200 autos in addition to the ability to carry 1,000 containers.
Matson was issued a coastwise endorsement by the documentation center, but the Shipbuilders Council and Pasha say that was done improperly because too much of the conversion work was done in China and that the ship is now in violation of the Jones Act and rules governing rebuilding.
Matson said its legal department is currently reviewing the complaint, but that “we think that the Coast Guard ruling at issue in the lawsuit is correct and that the allegations in the complaint are wrong.”
The suit asks the court to declare illegal the Coast Guard's issuance of a certificate of documentation with a coastwise endorsement to the Mokihana. It also alleges that the vessel work amounted to a “rebuilding outside the United States that resulted in the loss of eligibility to engage in the coastwise trade.”
The Shipbuilders Council and Pasha said a ship must be deemed rebuilt when work is performed on more than 10 percent of the steelwork of a ship. They added that the Coast Guard and its documentation center made several errors when calculating the work that was done during the rebuilding ' that they should have counted steel removed as well as steel added to the ship and that work done in both the United States and in China should have been included in the calculation. They specifically noted that addition of a major component in China alone, a deck weighing more than 1.5 percent of the ship's steel weight, made the vessel rebuilt foreign.
The Shipbuilders Council said its 36 members, who own more than 100 shipyards, had sufficient capacity to do the work done to the Mokihana in China and that 'unless reversed the Coast Guard's action will seriously and adversely affect the interest of U.S. shipyards.'
Pasha Hawaii, the suit stated, built a pure car and truck carrier in Mississippi in 2005 and will compete with the converted Mokihana, a ship which 'will operate at substantial savings due to being rebuilt in a foreign shipyard.' Pasha Hawaii is a joint venture between The Pasha Group, a California-based automobile handling and logistics company, and Strong Vessel Operators LLC, a Connecticut-based ship owner and operator. ' Chris Dupin