The opinion of the court was delivered by: HIGGINBOTHAM
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.
The ELIAS was owned by plaintiff Lidoriki Maritime Corporation, a Panamanian corporation having its principal place of business in Piraeus, Greece. The ELIAS was the only vessel owned by Lidoriki Maritime Corporation, the directors of the corporation reside in Greece and there is no ownership or interest in Lidoriki Maritime Corporation by U.S. citizens or residents. It has also been alleged that Eletson Maritime Corporation was the owner of the ELIAS. I find that Eletson Maritime Corporation was not an owner of the vessel and at most was at all times material hereto an agent for the owner of the ELIAS. The directors of Eletson Maritime Corporation are: Evangelos V. Korialos, John E. Karastomatis, Gregory B. Hadjieleftheriadis, Erric B. Kertsikoff, and A.B. Hadjieleftheriadis, all of 1 Makras Stoas, Piraeus, Greece.
There is no ownership of interest in Eletson Maritime Corporation by United States citizens or residents. It has also been alleged that plaintiff Gregory B. Hadjieleftheriadis is one of the owners of the tank vessel ELIAS. There is no evidence of record to indicate that he was in fact the owner of the ELIAS. At all times material to this action, he was an individual citizen of Greece, residing in Greece.
The instant case is one of several wherein seamen on foreign flagships who, having signed agreements providing for their cases to be tried by the laws of another country, would prefer to have their claim adjudicated by a federal court applying either the Jones Act or the general maritime law of the United States. The courts have been unanimous in holding that a foreign seaman does not have a cause of action against a foreign shipowner under either the Jones Act or the general maritime law of the United States, in factual situations similar to the present. See Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. 571, 73 S. Ct. 921, 97 L. Ed. 1254 (1953) and Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company, 358 U.S. 354, 79 S. Ct. ...