• Aquavita International S.A. v Pantelis (The), 2015 FC 180
  • January 8, 2016 | Authors: Dionysios Rossi; Graham Walker
  • Law Firm: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Vancouver Office
  • In this decision, the Federal Court interpreted its jurisdiction over maritime law to include redelivery of a vessel with excessive bunkers. The plaintiff Aquavita International S.A. ("Aquavita"), the sub-sub-time charterer of the defendant vessel, the M/V "Pantelis," alleged that it owned bunkers that remained on board when the vessel was redelivered to its disponent owners and that the bunkers were misappropriated by the defendants. The plaintiffs brought an action for unjust enrichment and conversion, framed both in rem and in personam, and arrested the Pantelis.

    The defendants brought a motion to strike the action pursuant to Rule 221 of the Federal Courts Rules on the basis that the Federal Court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter. The defendants submitted that the plaintiff was not entitled to rely on paragraph 22(2)(m) of the Federal Courts Act, RSC 1985, c F-7, which grants jurisdiction to the Federal Court over "any claim in respect of goods, materials or services wherever supplied to a ship for the operation or maintenance of the ship, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, claims in respect of stevedoring and lighterage." The defendants argued that the plaintiff was not a bunker supplier, so its claim was based on a contractual obligation.

    On the question of jurisdiction, Justice Harrington did not determine whether or not the plaintiff's claim fell under paragraph 22(2)(m), instead relying on subsection 22(1) of the Federal Courts Act to ground the Court's jurisdiction. Justice Harrington cited the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in ITO-International Terminal Operators Ltd v Miida Electronics Inc., [1986] 1 SCR 752 ("ITO"), wherein the Court had "specifically held that the claim did not fall within subsection 22(2), but rather fell within subsection 22(1) which for this purpose is more or less coextensive with Parliament's jurisdiction over "navigation and shipping" under subsection 91(10) of the Constitution Act, 1867." Justice Harrington held that what was at issue in the present case was "fuel on board the ship, which fuel was allegedly used to propel her over the ocean blue" and that "[n]othing could be more maritime."

    Accordingly, Justice Harrington dismissed the motion to strike, noting that while he had "no hesitation in holding that [the Federal Court] had jurisdiction to decide this action on its merits," this decision was only a determination that it was not "plain and obvious" that the plaintiff does not have a cause of action.