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Seaboard Marine Ltd., Inc. v. Trinpak Packaging Co. Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

September 26, 2019




         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Defendant Bodin Oil Recovery, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on June 18, 2019 (ECF No. 93) ("Motion"). Plaintiff Seaboard Marine Ltd., Inc. filed a Response in Opposition on July 2, 2019 (ECF No. 96) ("Response"), and Bodin Oil Recovery, Inc. filed a Reply on July 10, 2019 (ECF No. 99) ("Reply"). The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, all supporting and opposing submissions, and the record as a whole. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion (ECF No. 93) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This matter arises from a pro forma marine bill of lading bearing booking number 3748683 A (ECF No. 1-2) ("Bill of Lading" or "Bill"), which was issued for the overseas transport of two containers of used motor oil. The Bill of Lading lists the names of three corporations: Seaboard Marine Ltd., Inc., Trinpak Packaging Co. Ltd., and Bodin Oil Recovery, Inc (id.). Seaboard Marine Ltd., Inc., is the Florida trade name for Seaboard Marine Ltd., a foreign corporation engaged in the business of transporting goods internationally by water (ECF No. 105 at 2 ¶ 1)- Trinpak Packaging Co. Ltd. is a foreign corporation engaged in the business of selling and exporting petrochemical products including used motor oil (id. at ¶ 4). Bodin Oil Recovery, Inc. is a Louisiana corporation engaged in the business of used oil recycling (id. at ¶ 5). The Bill identifies Seaboard Marine Ltd., Inc. (hereinafter "Seaboard") as the carrier, Trinpak Packaging Co. Ltd. ("Trinpak") as the shipper, and Bodin Oil Recovery, Inc. ("Bodin Oil") as the consignee (ECF No. 1-2). The Bill is unsigned by any party (id.). The Terms and Conditions to the Bill of Lading require that consignees and shippers, both classified as "Merchants" under the Bill, must be held jointly and severally liable to the carrier for the payment of all charges and for the performance of all obligations under the Bill (id. at 2). The Bill requires that "Merchants" must "pack[] [cargo] in a manner adequate to withstand the ordinary risks of Carriage, " and that they shall be held liable for "all loss or damage of any kind whatsoever, including but not limited to, contamination, soiling, detention and demurrage before, during and after the Carriage of property" (id. at 5).

         On June 25, 2014, Trinpak sent Bodin Oil a proposal via email for the sale of used oil by Trinpak to Bodin Oil, memorializing a prior phone call (ECF No. 62-7 at 6). Bodin Oil did not respond to this proposal. On July 7, 2014, Trinpak booked transportation with Seaboard Trinidad, Ltd. ("Seaboard Trinidad"), a Trinidadian corporation and Seaboard's agent, in order to ship oil overseas (ECF No. 93-3 at 6-7). Trinpak alone arranged for all of the shipping of the cargo (ECF No. 107-1 at 24:14). The booking slip provided to Seaboard Trinidad by Trinpak does not identify Bodin Oil, as consignee or otherwise (id.). Trinpak sent an invoice for $20, 224.00 to Bodin Oil on July 9, 2014, addressing its June 25, 2014 sale proposal (ECF No. 62-7 at 7). Bodin Oil did not respond to or pay the amount listed on Trinpak's invoice (ECF No. 105 at 3 ¶ 9). To date, Bodin Oil has never purchased used oil from Trinpak (id. at ¶ 10).

         On July 18, 2014, Seaboard issued the Bill of Lading based on information it obtained from Seaboard Trinidad (ECF No. 1-2; ECF No. 105 at 3 ¶ 12). The Bill identifies for shipment two containers of used motor oil, including container number SMLU 2604408 which was loaded with one Flexibag (a large reinforced bag designed to carry liquids in bulk) containing 6, 400 gallons of used motor oil ("the Container") (ECF No. 1-2). Prior to creation of the Bill, Seaboard had no communication with any representative from Bodin Oil, nor did it possess any documentation stating that Bodin Oil was the owner or importer of the cargo (ECF No. 93-1 ¶ 2).

         The Container was loaded aboard the M/V Sandwig at the Port of Point Lisa, Trinidad, which departed on July 18, 2014 for Kingston, Jamaica, with a final destination of Louisiana (ECF No. 105 at 3 ¶ 18). During the voyage, the ship's crew noticed what it identified as oil in the hold of the vessel where the Container was held prior to the ship's arrival in Kingston (id. at ¶ 19). Upon arrival in the transshipment port in Kingston, the container leaking motor oil was discharged from the vessel, and the leaked motor oil was cleaned up. Bodin Oil never purchased any of the oil from Trinpak that was on the vessel (ECF No. 93-3 at 16).

         Seaboard Freight and Shipping Jamaica, Ltd. ("Seaboard Jamaica"), another agent of Seaboard's, engaged the services of Morgan Marine and P & I Services ("Morgan Marine") to investigate the source of the oil in the hold of the ship, who issued a "Final Damage Report for the Incident Onboard the MV Sandwig" (ECF No. 93-3 at 15-25) ("Damage Report" or "Report"). The Damage Report certified that, upon completion of inspection of the drained Flexibag and Container at issue, the Morgan Marine appointed surveyor and accompanying team were "not able to pin point the exact source of the spillage with a high level of accuracy" (id. at 16). The Damage Report first notes that its preliminary investigation revealed that there were several containers in the bay with oil-based products (id. at 17). The Report further explains that after the vessel arrived in Kingston on July 21, 2014, Morgan Marine conducted its preliminary survey (id. at 18). Morgan Marine determined that based on the color and aroma of the leaked oil, it was assumed that the leak came from one of the two containers listed on the Bill of Lading, which were a part of eight containers total in the lower holds of the vessel (id. at 19). The Report states that a joint inspection with Seaboard's representative was conducted the next day, which led Morgan Marine to confirm that there was oil under the relevant Container; nonetheless, it notes that there were no punctures or holes in any of the container panels, indicating that a foreign item may have penetrated one of the panels (id. at 22). An inspection of the Container and Flexibag occurred the following day, which led Morgan Marine to report that "[t]here was no sign or cause for the leakage of the bag" and "the joint team could not locate any area on the Flexibag from which the oil escaped" (id. at 23-24). Specifically, the Report states that "[t]he Flexibag was removed from the container and inspected, still no sign of the source of leakage observed. The surveyor and the other members of the joint team could not locate any area on the Flexibag from which the oil escaped. A further inspection was made of the container, floor panel but the area remained clean and without any sign of damage" (id. at 24). The Report concludes the following:

It was the view of the surveyor that these Flexitanks were not for the transportation of Petroleum products however there was no information located on the Manufacturer's webstate [sic] to support these claims.
The surveyor could not assess the information as to whether certified personnel stack and stowed the Flexitank used in the operation. It has been noted that a number of the damages which occurred with these bags are due to human errors.
After a thorough inspection of the Flexitank the surveyor did not identify the source of the leak.
The surveyor however is bias to believe the source may have been the bag's valve.
It is the recommendation of the surveyor to have the Flexitank be inflated to identify the leak, if any.

(id. at 25). No follow-up report, if it exists, has been made a part of the record.

         On February 10, 2015, Seaboard Jamaica's Chief Accountant, Michael Tyrek, sent a letter to Mr. Chehade M. Boulos of Trinpak, seeking $156, 842.65 for cleanup and other fees related to the oil spill (ECF No. 93-3 at 9-10). The letter does not indicate that it was sent to anyone at Bodin Oil. The record does not show that Trinpak ever paid Seaboard (or Seaboard Jamaica) any portion of the sought fees, or otherwise responded to this letter.

         Over three years later, on June 12, 2018, Seaboard's Vice President and General Counsel, Stephen C. Irick, Jr., sent a letter to Trinpak and Bodin Oil, demanding immediate payment of a slightly less amount of $156, 219.62 for the oil leak (ECF No. 93-3 at 11-13). Again, there is no record evidence of any payment or response to this letter by either Trinpak or Bodin Oil.

         One month later, Seaboard filed the underlying suit in this Court against both Trinpak and Bodin Oil on July 12, 2018, alleging claims of contractual indemnity and breach of contract against each Defendant (ECF No. 1). Specifically, Seaboard alleges that Defendants failed to properly describe the cargo, failed to comply with applicable laws, regulations, and requirements as mandated by the authorities, and did not adequately pack the cargo. Trinpak failed to answer the Complaint and a Clerk's Default was entered against it (ECF No. 25). Pursuant to the Court's Order on Default Judgment Procedure (ECF No. 26), Seaboard filed a Notice of Joint Liability (ECF No. 31), submitting that Trinpak and Bodin Oil are jointly and severally liable and that Bodin Oil's liability must be resolved before Seaboard can move for an entry of default final judgment against Trinpak. Accordingly, Bodin Oil is the only remaining Defendant. Bodin Oil filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment on June 18, 2019 (ECF No. 93), which is ripe for adjudication.

         II. ...

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