CNMI Judge Releases Cargo Vessel MV/Luta From Maritime Arrest

Lawsuit, counter-suit between Japanese investor, owners of vessel to continue

By Bryan Manabat

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 23, 2017) – At 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, District Court for the NMI designated Judge David O. Carter released MV Luta from maritime arrest.

He also discharged Takahisa Yamamoto from the show-cause hearing after the Japanese investor entered into a settlement agreement with the vessel’s custodian, National Maritime Services.

The written agreement from Yamamoto’s legal counsel George Hasselback was accepted by the court under seal. NMS earlier said Yamamoto owed $130,406.90 in custodial fees.

During the hearing, Judge Carter asked Luta Mermaid LLC attorney William M. Fitzgerald how his client would assume full control of the vessel after the release order.

Fitzgerald said the crewmembers were on stand-by, and that immediately upon the order of the vessel’s release they would look after the vessel.

He also disclosed that as soon as the order for the vessel’s release was issued they would go to the bank and withdraw payment for the crewmembers.

Fitzgerald said everybody worked hard to get the release done.

“Luta Mermaid gets the vessel back, and we finish this business of arrest,” he added.

However, he said, the litigation between Yamamoto and Luta Mermaid will continue.

“Yamamoto made certain claims, and the Mendiolas now have counter-claims against Yamamoto for making this arrest take place which is totally invalid, causing the ship to be tied up for three months and not in operation, and causing custodial fees to be incurred and various other problems — we will go after him for that,” Fitzgerald said.

Abelina Mendiola, Deron T. Mendiola and Fidel Mendiola are the officers of Luta Mermaid, the registered owner of MV Luta.

MV Luta crewmembers who were at the hearing in federal court on Wednesday said they were glad that the vessel had been released. They declined to comment further.

Represented by attorney David Baines, they earlier sued Luta Mermaid for unpaid salaries and wages amounting to $183,647.77.

Yamamoto, for his part, sued the Mendiolas and Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog for breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment. He said the defendants owe him $3.4 million.

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