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TITLE 46 - SHIPPING

SUBTITLE III - MARITIME LIABILITY

CHAPTER 309 - SUITS IN ADMIRALTY AGAINST THE UNITED STATES



Table of Contents:

Sec. 30901. Short title

Sec. 30902. Definition

Sec. 30903. Waiver of immunity

Sec. 30904. Exclusive remedy

Sec. 30905. Period for bringing action

Sec. 30906. Venue

Sec. 30907. Procedure for hearing and determination

Sec. 30908. Exemption from arrest or seizure

Sec. 30909. Security

Sec. 30910. Exoneration and limitation

Sec. 30911. Costs and interest

Sec. 30912. Arbitration, compromise, or settlement

Sec. 30913. Payment of judgment or settlement

Sec. 30914. Release of privately owned vessel after arrest or attachment

Sec. 30915. Seizures and other proceedings in foreign jurisdictions

Sec. 30916. Recovery by the United States for salvage services

Sec. 30917. Disposition of amounts recovered by the United States

Sec. 30918. Reports

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Sec. 30901. Short title

This chapter may be cited as the "Suits in Admiralty Act".

Sec. 30902. Definition

In this chapter, the term "federally-owned corporation" means a corporation in which the United States owns all the outstanding capital stock.

Sec. 30903. Waiver of immunity

(a) In General. - In a case in which, if a vessel were privately owned or operated, or if cargo were privately owned or possessed, or if a private person or property were involved, a civil action in admiralty could be maintained, a civil action in admiralty in personam may be brought against the United States or a federally- owned corporation. In a civil action in admiralty brought by the United States or a federally-owned corporation, an admiralty claim in personam may be filed or a setoff claimed against the United States or corporation.

(b) Non-Jury. - A claim against the United States or a federally- owned corporation under this section shall be tried without a jury.

Sec. 30904. Exclusive remedy

If a remedy is provided by this chapter, it shall be exclusive of any other action arising out of the same subject matter against the officer, employee, or agent of the United States or the federally- owned corporation whose act or omission gave rise to the claim.

Sec. 30905. Period for bringing action

A civil action under this chapter must be brought within 2 years after the cause of action arose.

Sec. 30906. Venue

(a) In General. - A civil action under this chapter shall be brought in the district court of the United States for the district in which -

(1) any plaintiff resides or has its principal place of business; or

(2) the vessel or cargo is found.

(b) Transfer. - On a motion by a party, the court may transfer the action to any other district court of the United States.

Sec. 30907. Procedure for hearing and determination

(a) In General. - A civil action under this chapter shall proceed and be heard and determined according to the principles of law and the rules of practice applicable in like cases between private parties.

(b) In Rem. -

(1) Requirements. - The action may proceed according to the principles of an action in rem if -

(A) the plaintiff elects in the complaint; and

(B) it appears that an action in rem could have been maintained had the vessel or cargo been privately owned and possessed.

(2) Effect on relief in personam. - An election under paragraph (1) does not prevent the plaintiff from seeking relief in personam in the same action.

Sec. 30908. Exemption from arrest or seizure

The following are not subject to arrest or seizure by judicial process in the United States:

(1) A vessel owned by, possessed by, or operated by or for the United States or a federally-owned corporation.

(2) Cargo owned or possessed by the United States or a federally-owned corporation.

Sec. 30909. Security

Neither the United States nor a federally-owned corporation may be required to give a bond or admiralty stipulation in a civil action under this chapter.

Sec. 30910. Exoneration and limitation

The United States is entitled to the exemptions from and limitations of liability provided by law to an owner, charterer, operator, or agent of a vessel.

Sec. 30911. Costs and interest

(a) In General. - A judgment against the United States or a federally-owned corporation under this chapter may include costs and interest at the rate of 4 percent per year until satisfied. Interest shall run as ordered by the court, except that interest is not allowable for the period before the action is filed.

(b) Contract Providing for Interest. - Notwithstanding subsection (a), if the claim is based on a contract providing for interest, interest may be awarded at the rate and for the period provided in the contract.

Sec. 30912. Arbitration, compromise, or settlement

The Secretary of a department of the United States Government, or the board of trustees of a federally-owned corporation, may arbitrate, compromise, or settle a claim under this chapter.

Sec. 30913. Payment of judgment or settlement

(a) In General. - The proper accounting officer of the United States shall pay a final judgment, arbitration award, or settlement under this chapter on presentation of an authenticated copy.

(b) Source of Payment. - Payment shall be made from an appropriation or fund available specifically for the purpose. If no appropriation or fund is specifically available, there is hereby appropriated, out of money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, an amount sufficient to pay the judgment, award, or settlement.

Sec. 30914. Release of privately owned vessel after arrest or attachment

If a privately owned vessel not in the possession of the United States or a federally-owned corporation is arrested or attached in a civil action arising or alleged to have arisen from prior ownership, possession, or operation by the United States or corporation, the vessel shall be released without bond or stipulation on a statement by the United States, through the Attorney General or other authorized law officer, that the United States is interested in the action, desires release of the vessel, and assumes liability for the satisfaction of any judgment obtained by the plaintiff. After the vessel is released, the action shall proceed against the United States in accordance with this chapter.

Sec. 30915. Seizures and other proceedings in foreign jurisdictions

(a) In General. - If a vessel or cargo described in section 30908 or 30914 of this title is arrested, attached, or otherwise seized by judicial process in a foreign country, or if an action is brought in a court of a foreign country against the master of such a vessel for a claim arising from the ownership, possession, or operation of the vessel, or the ownership, possession, or carriage of such cargo, the Secretary of State, on request of the Attorney General or another officer authorized by the Attorney General, may direct the United States consul residing at or nearest the place at which the action was brought -

(1) to claim the vessel or cargo as immune from arrest, attachment, or other seizure, and to execute an agreement, stipulation, bond, or undertaking, for the United States or federally-owned corporation, for the release of the vessel or cargo and the prosecution of any appeal; or

(2) if an action has been brought against the master of such a vessel, to enter the appearance of the United States or corporation and to pledge the credit of the United States or corporation to the payment of any judgment and costs in the action.

(b) Arranging Bond or Stipulation. - The Attorney General may -

(1) arrange with a bank, surety company, or other person, whether in the United States or a foreign country, to execute a bond or stipulation; and

(2) pledge the credit of the United States to secure the bond or stipulation.

(c) Payment of Judgment. - The appropriate accounting officer of the United States or corporation may pay a judgment in an action described in subsection (a) on presentation of a copy of the judgment if certified by the clerk of the court and authenticated by -

(1) the certificate and seal of the United States consul claiming the vessel or cargo, or by the consul's successor; and

(2) the certificate of the Secretary as to the official capacity of the consul.

(d) Right To Claim Immunity Not Affected. - This section does not affect the right of the United States to claim immunity of a vessel or cargo from foreign jurisdiction.

Sec. 30916. Recovery by the United States for salvage services

(a) Civil Action. - The United States, and the crew of a merchant vessel owned or operated by the United States, or a federally-owned corporation, may bring a civil action to recover for salvage services provided by the vessel and crew.

(b) Deposit of Amounts Recovered. - Any amount recovered under this section by the United States for its own benefit, and not for the benefit of the crew, shall be deposited in the Treasury to the credit of the department of the United States Government, or the corporation, having control of the possession or operation of the vessel.

Sec. 30917. Disposition of amounts recovered by the United States

Amounts recovered in a civil action brought by the United States on a claim arising from the ownership, possession, or operation of a merchant vessel, or the ownership, possession, or carriage of cargo, shall be deposited in the Treasury to the credit of the department of the United States Government, or the federally-owned corporation, having control of the vessel or cargo, for reimbursement of the appropriation, insurance fund, or other fund from which the compensation for which the judgment was recovered was or will be paid.

Sec. 30918. Reports

The Secretary of each department of the United States Government, and the board of trustees of each federally-owned corporation, shall report to Congress at each session thereof all arbitration awards and settlements agreed to under this chapter since the previous session, for which the time to appeal has expired or been waived.




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