from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
SMITH, OWEN, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge
23, 2008, nearly 300, 000 gallons of oil spilled into the
Mississippi River when a tugboat veered across the river,
putting the oil-filled barge it towed into the path of an
ocean-going tanker. The tugboat, the M/V MEL OLIVER, was
owned by American Commercial Lines ("ACL") but
operated by DRD Towing Company pursuant to a contractual
agreement between the companies. As the statutorily-defined
responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act
("OPA"), ACL incurred approximately $70 million in
removal costs and damages. The United States also incurred
approximately $20 million in removal costs and damages.
United States initiated this action in 2014, seeking a
declaration that ACL is liable for all removal costs and
damages resulting from the spill and to recover the costs
that it incurred. The United States moved for partial summary
judgment on its claims that ACL was not entitled to any
defenses to liability under OPA. The district court granted
that motion, and later entered final judgment ordering ACL to
pay the United States $20 million. ACL appealed. We AFFIRM.
2007, ACL, a marine-transportation company that operates a
fleet of barges and tugboats, contracted with DRD Towing,
another marine-transportation company, to operate some of its
tugboats. ACL and DRD entered into two charter agreements.
Under the "Master Bareboat Charter, " ACL chartered
several tugboats, including the M/V MEL OLIVER, to DRD for
one dollar per day. Under the "Master Fully Found
Charter, " DRD agreed to crew the tugboats and charter
its services back to ACL. Both agreements required compliance
with "all applicable laws and regulations [with] respect
to the registration, licensing, use, manning, maintenance,
and operation of the Vessel(s)."
OLIVER's crew consisted of Captain Terry Carver,
Steersman John Bavaret, and two deckhands. Captain Carver was
the only crewmember with a valid United States Coast Guard
Master of Towing Vessels license, which authorized him to
lawfully operate tugboats on the lower Mississippi River.
Steersman Bavaret held only an Apprentice Mate (Steersman)
license, which authorized him to serve as an apprentice mate
under the direct supervision of a properly licensed master.
He was not authorized to operate the vessel without
continuous supervision. See 46 C.F.R. §
10.107(b) (requiring that Steersman "be under the direct
supervision and in the continuous presence of a
master"); 46 C.F.R. § 15.401 (prohibiting mariners
from serving in any positions that exceed the limits of their
20, 2008, Captain Carver left the MEL OLIVER to go on shore,
leaving Steersman Baravet in control of the vessel. Two days
later, while- unbeknownst to ACL-Captain Carver was still on
shore, ACL directed the MEL OLIVER to tow an ACL barge, the
DM-932, to pick up fuel from a facility in Gretna, Louisiana.
At that time, Steersman Bavaret had worked for 36 hours with
only short naps, in violation of Coast Guard regulations.
See 46 U.S.C. § 8104(h) ("[A]n individual
licensed to operate a towing vessel may not work for more
than 12 hours in a consecutive 24-hour period except in an
emergency."); 46 C.F.R. § 15.705(d) (stating that
"a master or mate (pilot)" may not work "more
than 12 hours in a consecutive 24-hour period except in an
emergency"). Still under Steersman Bavaret's
control, the MEL OLIVER arrived at the Gretna facility around
2:00 p.m. on July 22, 2008. The DM-932 was loaded with fuel,
and the MEL OLIVER departed for its return trip, with the
fuel-filled barge in tow, at about 12:30 a.m. on July 23,
MEL OLIVER pushed the DM-932 along the Mississippi River, it
began travelling erratically. At about 1:30 a.m., it turned
to cross the path of an ocean-going tanker, the TINTOMARA,
owned by a third party. The TINTOMARA's pilot and the
Coast Guard's New Orleans Vessel Traffic Service staff
attempted to hail the MEL OLIVER by radio, but no one
answered. The TINTOMARA also sounded its alarm whistle.
Unable to change course, the TINTOMARA collided with the
DM-932. The DM-932 broke away from the MEL OLIVER and sank
downriver, spilling approximately 300, 000 gallons of oil
into the Mississippi River. Immediately after the collision,
a crewmember on the MEL OLIVER found Steersman Bavaret
slumped over the steering sticks and non-responsive.
the spill, the government prosecuted DRD, Captain Carver, and
Steersman Bavaret for criminal violations of federal
environmental law. DRD and Steersman Bavaret each pleaded
guilty to one count of violating the Ports and Waterways
Safety Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1232(b)(1), and one count of
violating the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), 33 U.S.C.
§ 1319(c)(1)(A). Captain Carver pleaded guilty to one
count of violating the Ports and Waterways Safety Act.
course of the criminal investigation, DRD admitted that it
knowingly allowed its crewmembers to work without appropriate
licenses or qualifications and to work more hours than were
permitted under Coast Guard safety regulations and that it
failed to report those "manning deficiencies" to
the Coast Guard, also in violation of Coast Guard
regulations. Captain Carver and Steersman Bavaret admitted to
knowing that Bavaret was not licensed to act as captain in
addition to the criminal prosecution, the government sued ACL
and DRD under OPA to recover clean-up costs resulting from
the spill. DRD promptly declared bankruptcy and later
dissolved its LLC. The government moved for summary judgment
against ACL on the issue of liability under OPA. The district
court granted summary judgment in favor of the government,
and later issued a final judgment ordering ACL to pay the
government $20 million. This appeal followed.
review a district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo, applying the same legal standards as the district
court. Robinson v. Orient Marine Co., 505 F.3d 364,
365 (5th Cir. 2007). Summary judgment is appropriate only
"if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Any ...