Hybrid Semi-Submersible Drilling Rig/Spar Not a Vessel

Two buoys in port waterPlaintiffs filed suit against the ATP Titan in rem asserting a maritime lien for unpaid costs and services. Defendant, the ATP Titan filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the ATP Titan was not a vessel, but a floating production platform, thus depriving the Court of in rem jurisdiction over the ATP Titan. The question before the court was whether the ATP Titan was a vessel.

The ATP Titan was a triple-column, deep-draft floating production facility. Although it was buoyant, it was securely moored to the floor of the outer continental shelf by twelve moorings connected to mooring piles embedded into the sea floor. It had no means of self-propulsion but could reposition itself over wells by manipulating its mooring lines. The ATP Titan was considered a hybrid semi-submersible/spar. It combined the mobility of a semi-submersible drilling rig with the stability of a three-column spar. Courts have previously held that semi-submersible drilling rigs are generally considered vessels, unlike production platforms or spars. The question before the Court was whether the ATP Titan’s capacity for movement distinguished it from spars.

The Court found that despite the ATP Titan’s design allowing it to shift laterally and to be moved, that it did not serve a waterborne transportation function in any practical sense. The Court reasoned that the fact that the ATP Titan could be moved did not qualify it as a vessel, given the enormous expense associated with its relocation and the extent to which it was securely attached to the floor of the outer continental shelf. Ultimately, the Court concluded that the ATP Titan resembled much more closely the spars previously found by courts to be non-vessels.

In light of the finding that the ATP Titan was not a vessel, the Court held that Plaintiffs did not meet their burden in demonstrating that the Court could exercise in rem admiralty jurisdiction over the ATP Titan and that it therefore must be dismissed from the case.

Warrior Energy Services Corp., et al. v. ATP Titan, 2013 WL 1739378; (E.D. La. 2013).