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Court gives Port of Palm Beach custody of abandoned cargo ship

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 11:31 AM EDT
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There is more turmoil between the Port of Palm Beach and its former tenants, Teeters Agency and Monarch Shipping Company.

WPTV first reported earlier this month that hundreds of vehicles, as well as crates of goods that were supposed to be shipped to Haiti, were abandoned by the shipping companies at the port, according to officials.

The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022.
The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022.

Customers then called WPTV, saying they've been trying to get their belongings back, as well as the money they paid for the services. However, they haven't heard back from the shipping companies.

Nicolas Debel is among the many who is getting his vehicle back at the Port of Palm Beach Tuesday – after it was supposed to be shipped to Haiti through Monarch Shipping but it never did.

“More money, more expenses, more everything,” said Debel. “What I can remember, I gave him those three cars. They are supposed to go to Haiti to receive those cars. I called there and it never happened.”

Debel tells WPTV he has paid well over $2,000 for the services to store the vehicles on the leased property and to have it shipped to the island nation. He became aware they never arrived nor left when his relatives in Haiti told him they hadn't arrived and that Monarch Shipping in Haiti closed down.

“Now, they give me those cars, fortunately with no money. They are telling me I have to go to file some claim,” said Debel.

The Port of Palm Beach's general counsel filed an emergency motion on May 6 to temporarily prohibit Teeters Agency & Stevedoring and Monarch Shipping Company from having any control of the items such as removing, selling, or disposing of personal property like generators, tractors, forklifts, and other equipment that could have significant value.

However, a judge did not grant the motion.

According to John Fumero, general counsel for the Port of Palm Beach, the defendant came onto port property and proceeded to clear out the remaining equipment and was apparently subjected to the port’s liens.

“Unfortunately this weekend, we became aware of the fact that Teeters representatives were entering the property and removing equipment that had value. Generators, forklifts and things of that nature,” said Fumero.

Fumero said the port is losing money due to maintenance of the Monarch Countess, a 360-foot cargo ship. On Monday, the court issued an order arresting the Countess and appointing the port as her custodian.

“That ship is not operable and is taking on water. The port has to install a pump in the ship, to keep it afloat,” said Fumero. “That ship needs to be towed away and sold.”

The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022.
The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022.

As WPTV first reported earlier this month, the Port of Palm Beach has filed a lawsuit against Teeters Agency & Stevedoring and Monarch Shipping Company in an effort to evict them from the property.

A spokesperson for the port said that over the last year, the shipping companies have not paid their leasing fees and tariffs to use the port and are "presently insolvent" and "have abandoned the leased premises."

According to Fumero, the port has repeatedly requested that Teeters provide the names and contact information for all affected customers, along with the backup documentation supporting each customer's respective ownership in their property. Teeters has not responded with the requested information. As hundreds of customers are starting to get their belongings – what do they do to get their hundreds to thousands of dollars back?

“Claims that a Teeter’s customer has, will need to be filed against Teeter’s in a court of law,” said Fumero.

WPTV has attempted to contact Monarch and Teeters for their side of the story, but has not heard back.

“If they just came, to give the money I spent for those cars to be shipped. That would be helpful,” said Debel.

For more information about the cargo recovery process, click here or call 561-383-4141.

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