On April 9, 1974 the tank vessel ELIAS was involved in a series of explosions and fires at the Arco Refinery, Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania on the Delaware River. As a result of the explosions and fires aboard the ELIAS, 42 suits were filed, all of which have been consolidated with the undersigned as related cases. Thirty six suits have been filed in behalf of the surviving crew members or the representatives of those who were killed in this tragic accident.
I. STATEMENT OF FACTS
In response to the suits filed by the crew members or their representatives, the owner and two alleged owners of the ELIAS have filed a "Motion in Support of Application of Greek Law to Crew Members' Claims and/or Dismissal of Crew Members' Claims on the Basis of Forum Non Conveniens." In substance, the ship owners are alleging that the crew members and their survivors do not have a cause of action either under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 688, or the general maritime law of the United States. To the extent that the crew members are filing a direct claim against the shipowner under either the Jones Act or the general maritime law of the United States, I find that the shipowner's motion for dismissal should be granted on grounds of forum non conveniens.
The motion of the shipowner has been responded to by counsel for the crew members or their survivors with most artful pleadings. Thus many alleged facts, while not being specifically denied, are left in limbo by counsel who purportedly do not have adequate knowledge concerning the truth of the allegations. (See responses of litigants represented by Freedman, Borowsky and Lorry to paragraphs 12-15, 17, 19-33, and by Pechner, Sacks, Dorfman, Rosen & Richardson to paragraphs 15, 17, 19-31.) The shipowners filed an affidavit by counsel verifying the accuracy of the allegations upon which the motions for dismissal were filed.
Upon reviewing the pleadings at this stage, I find that the ELIAS was a Greek tank vessel, it flew a Greek flag and its home port was in Piraeus, Greece. None of the crew members of the ELIAS were American citizens. The crew consisted of 22 Greeks, 4 Turks, 2 Cypriots, 2 Ethiopians, 2 Indians, 1 Egyptian, and 1 Brazilian. All of the officers of the ELIAS were Greek nationals, including the captain, chief mate, second mate and third mate. Prior to joining the ELIAS, all of the crew members signed contracts of employment in Piraeus, Greece. These contracts provided that the Greek courts should have exclusive jurisdiction over any dispute arising from the crew members' employment aboard the ELIAS.
Most crew members of the ELIAS were members of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation, which had a collective bargaining agreement with the owner of the ELIAS.
This agreement contained the following provision:
[Chapter XVIII] Individual contracts of employment, on which the present Collective Agreement applies, shall be governed exclusively, as to any claim or right arising out of the seafarer's employment, including claims on account of illness or accident, by the provisions of the present Collective Agreement and Greek Law, and judged exclusively by the competent Greek Authorities and Greek Law Courts, resort to any foreign Courts and to any foreign Law being prohibited and expressly ruled out.