Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Administrative Law Judge Norman Kline ended the dispute between the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) and South Carolina Maritime Services, Inc.
Maritime Services, operator of cruise-to-nowhere vessel M/V Tropicana, filed a complain against the SCSPA in October. It was seeking an investigation by the FMC regarding
its claim by the SCSPA to refuse Maritime Services a berth for its vessel at state-owned docking facilities, while at the same time allowing Carnival Cruise Line to operate similar cruises
, was discriminatory and in violation of the Shipping Act of 1984.
In dismissing the complaint, Kline cited the recent decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the SCSPA to be an arm of the state, and therefore entitled to immunity from private lawsuits under the 11th Amendment. He also noted the federal Johnson Act leaves the regulation of certain gaming vessels up to the states.
In reaching his decision, Kline relied on the 1996 Supreme Court decision Seminole
Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, as precedent. The case held that Congress could not abrogate state sovereign immunity from private suits under the Constitution.