Maritrans' Claim for Damages from OPA 90 Denied
Thursday, January 24, 2002
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled on December 21, 2001 that the double hull requirement of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 ("OPA") does not constitute a "taking" of Maritrans' petroleum barges. Maritrans is currently evaluating whether to take an appeal. OPA prohibits existing single-hull tank vessels from continuing operation through their useful life, mandating a phase-out schedule over a period of years.
In 1996, Maritrans filed a lawsuit alleging that the forced retirement of its predominantly single-hulled vessel fleet represents a "taking" under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits the taking of property by the government without just compensation. In 1998, the Court ruled that Maritrans' suit was only "ripe" with respect to vessels that had been sold, scrapped or rebuilt after enactment of OPA. Trial concluded in February 2001 with respect to eight of Maritrans' single-hull barges that had been sold, scrapped or rebuilt.
In its decision the Court essentially held that, even though OPA had deprived Maritrans of a substantial portion of the value of its vessels, Maritrans had been able to recoup its investment during the period from enactment of OPA until the OPA retirement date. Therefore the government's ban on further use constituted a non-compensible diminution in value, and not a "taking." Maritrans believes strongly that the forced retirement of Maritrans' vessels did in fact meet the legal test of a taking under the Fifth Amendment, and is evaluating the merits of an appeal.
Stephen A. Van Dyck, Chairman and CEO of Maritrans, said, "Naturally, we are extremely disappointed by this ruling. While a favorable outcome would have returned substantial value to our shareholders and provided additional funding for completion of our ongoing rebuild program, the Court's ruling will not adversely affect Maritrans' rebuilding program, our financial strength or our outlook for the future. This decision in no way affects the Company's present tender offer that we commenced on December 17, 2001. Additionally, this decision does not diminish our ability to generate substantial earnings going forward, and does not change our earnings outlook as we look ahead to 2002."