Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n v. Aubry

Decision Date01 March 1989
Docket NumberNo. CV 88-0848-AWT.,CV 88-0848-AWT.
Citation709 F. Supp. 1516
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California
PartiesPACIFIC MERCHANT SHIPPING ASSOCIATION, a nonprofit California corporation; American Institute of Merchant Shipping, an unincorporated trade association; Offshore Marine Service Association, a nonprofit Louisiana corporation; Western Oil & Gas Association, a nonprofit California corporation; and Clean Seas, an unincorporated cooperative association, Plaintiffs, v. Lloyd W. AUBRY, Jr., Labor Commissioner, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Department of Industrial Relations, State of California, Defendant, Tidewater Marine Service, Inc. and Western Boat Operations, Inc., Intervenors.

Musick, Peeler & Garrett, a Law Partnership including Professional Corporations, Los Angeles, Cal., Richard J. Simmons, P.C., Thomas E. Hill, Los Angeles, Cal., Bright & Powell, Gary M. Bright, Carpinteria, Cal., for plaintiffs.

Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, H. Thomas Cadell, Chief Counsel, Ramon Yuen-Garcia, San Francisco, Cal., for defendant.

Sheldon A. Gebb, Bill E. Schroeder, Michael M. Johnson, McCutchen, Verleger & Shea, Los Angeles, Cal., for intervenors.

Frank J. Artusio, Anticouni & Anticouni, a Professional Corp., Santa Barbara, Cal., amicus curiae.


TASHIMA, District Judge.


This case raises a novel issue of federal admiralty law: Whether California can apply its overtime pay provisions to seamen and to maritime employees employed on vessels situated primarily on the high seas.

Plaintiffs and intervenors seek declaratory and injunctive relief that California's labor laws are preempted by federal admiralty law and the United States Constitution insofar as they purport to regulate the wages, hours and working conditions of maritime employees whose work situs is a vessel normally situated on the high seas and seamen who work both on the high seas and within the territorial zone. Defendant is the California State Labor Commissioner (Labor Commissioner). He is in charge of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Department of Industrial Relations, State of California (DLSE).

The matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Although there is some quibbling, essentially the parties agree upon the material facts and that only issues of law are involved.

A. Terminology

At issue in this case is whether "seaman" can take advantage of California's overtime compensation provisions. The term "seaman" is differently defined for different purposes. General maritime law defines "seamen" broadly to include individuals whose performance on board a vessel contributes to the functioning of the vessel, accomplishment of its mission or to the operation or welfare of the vessel. See 46 U.S.C. § 10101(3); Norris, The Law of Seamen, §§ 2.1, 2.3, 2.10 (4th ed. 1985); Norman v. Aubrey Burke & Assoc., 585 F.Supp. 494 (E.D.La.1984).

In contrast, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., defines "seamen" much more narrowly for purposes of exemption from federal overtime provisions. 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(6). Under the FLSA, a "seaman" is an individual who performs service "primarily as an aid in the operation of such vessel as a means of transportation, provided he performs no substantial amount of work of a different character." 29 C.F.R. § 783.31. For enforcement purposes, the federal Wage and Hour Administrator's position is that work of a different character is "substantial" if it occupies more than 20 percent of the time worked by an employee during any given workweek. Id. at § 783.37. However, the term "seaman" covers all types of crewmembers including, for example, sailors, engineers, radio operators, firemen, pursers, surgeons, cooks and stewards. Id. at § 783.32.

Those employees who are exempt under the FLSA will be referred to as "seamen." Those employees who fall within the general admiralty definition but not under the FLSA exemption, will be referred to as "maritime employees." However, it should be noted that all of these employees work in situations covered by admiralty law, i.e., on vessels on navigable waters. See 14 Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedures: Jurisdiction 2d § 3671, p. 412 (cases cited therein); In re Paradise Holdings, Inc., 619 F.Supp. 21, 22 (C.D.Cal. 1984),1 aff'd, 795 F.2d 756 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1008, 107 S.Ct. 649, 93 L.Ed.2d 705 (1986).

For territorial purposes, "navigable waters" are divided into three zones. The zone inland from a nation's shores is referred to as the inland or internal waters zone. These waters (e.g., bays and inlets) are subject to the complete sovereignty of the coastal nation. The second zone, measured seaward from the nation's coast, is comprised of a three-mile belt known as the marginal or territorial sea. A coastal nation may exercise extensive control over the territorial zone, but cannot deny the right of innocent passage to foreign nations. The third zone lies beyond the territorial sea and is referred to as the "high seas." This zone consists of international waters that are not subject to the dominion of any nation. See United States v. Alaska, 422 U.S. 184, 196-97, 95 S.Ct. 2240, 2249-50, 45 L.Ed.2d 109 (1975).

Most of the rights and obligations of shipowners and seamen have been codified in 46 U.S.C. § 2101, et. seq. (the Shipping Act). The Act divides shipping routes into three categories — foreign, intercoastal and coastwise voyages. Foreign voyages consist of voyages between ports in different countries. 46 U.S.C. § 10301(a)(1). Intercoastal voyages consist of voyages between ports on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. 46 U.S.C. § 10301(a)(2). Coastwide voyages consist of voyages between ports in different states (except adjoining states). 46 U.S.C. § 10501(a). In addition, the United States Coast Guard defines coastwise vessels as those "normally navigating the waters of any ocean or the Gulf of Mexico 20 nautical miles or less offshore." 46 C.F.R. § 70.10-13. See, e.g., Sewell v. M/V Point Barrow, 556 F.Supp. 168 (D.Alaska 1983) (seamen on vessels engaged in offshore test drilling operations on high seas employed on coastwise vessels).

The crewmembers whose claims precipitated this action were not on "voyages" that fall under any of these three categories. Their vessels either stayed on the high seas surrounding the oil rigs or "voyaged" between one port and the oil rigs. Therefore, a number of wage provisions in the Shipping Act do not apply to the affected crewmembers.

The vessels are, however, covered by a number of other Shipping Act provisions, as well as Coast Guard regulations. For example, some provisions limit the number of hours a crewmember can work to no more than 12 of 24 hours at sea and require a seagoing crew to be divided into at least two watches. 46 U.S.C. § 8104. In addition, all seamen and maritime employees are covered by a wide range of "protection and relief" statutes that govern, for example, health, taxes and attachment of wages. 46 U.S.C. §§ 11101-11112.

B. The Parties

Plaintiffs Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, American Institute of Merchant Shipping, Offshore Marine Service Association and Western Oil & Gas Association are maritime trade associations that collectively represent over one hundred maritime employers, including plaintiff Clean Seas and Intervenor Tidewater Marine, Inc. The plaintiff trade associations often represent their members before local, state and federal legislative bodies, and initiate proceedings in state and federal courts to protect the interests of their members. Many of the plaintiff trade associations' members maintain business offices in California and provide maritime employment on American flag vessels to California residents, as well as to residents of other states. The maritime employers own and operate a variety of vessels registered pursuant to federal law. These vessels engage in foreign, intercoastal and coastwise voyages.

Most of the employees who are the subject of this action were or are employed by Clean Seas. Clean Seas is an unincorporated, cooperative association formed by several major oil companies. It contains and cleans up marine oil spills. It also performs other maritime activities to fulfill federal environmental protection requirements. In order to perform its duties, Clean Seas operates three American flag vessels under the names of Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean II and Mr. Clean III. Mr. Clean and Mr. Clean II are "bareboat charter" vessels. Mr. Clean III is owned by Clean Seas. Mr. Clean II is a 138 foot marine vessel moored in Port San Luis Harbor, California, about one-quarter mile from the shore. It remains moored approximately 90% of the time. The owners of Mr. Clean II contracted with Clean Seas to provide the vessel and its operating crew, and to operate the vessel pursuant to Clean Seas needs. Most of Mr. Clean II's duties involve control and cleanup of oil spills and related environmental discharge control work in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Mr. Clean III is a 181 foot, 292 gross ton ocean-going vessel permanently stationed on the high seas over the Pedernales and Arguello oil fields on the Outer Continental Shelf.2 These oil fields are located four to ten nautical miles off the California coast and contain four oil drilling and production platforms. Each of these platforms is located six to seven nautical miles off the California coast. Except when on active duty, Mr. Clean III remains tied to a buoy anchored to the seabed approximately seven nautical miles off the California coast. Since June, 1986, Mr. Clean III has been on station, except during two months of extended repairs, and during occasional visits to port for minor repairs, resupply or the annual Coast Guard inspections. Crewmembers assigned to Mr. Clean III travel by helicopter from the Santa Barbara Airport to the vessel at the beginning of their service and...

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