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U.S. Supreme Court

United States Navigation Co., Inc. v. Cunard S.S. Co., Ltd., 284 U.S. 474 (1932)

United States Navigation Co., Inc. v. Cunard Steamship Co., Ltd.

No. 296

Argued January 8, 11, 1932

Decided February 15, 1932

284 U.S. 474


1. The relation of the Shipping Act to carriers by water is substantially the same as the relation of the Interstate Commerce Act to carriers by land, and, owing to the close parallelism between the two, the construction of the Interstate Commerce Act, settled when the Shipping Act was passed, must be applied to the latter, unless, in particular instances, there be something peculiar in the question under consideration, or dissimilarity in the terms of the Act relating thereto, requiring a different conclusion. P. 284 U. S. 480.

2. Questions essentially of fact, and those involving the exercise of administrative discretion, which are within the jurisdiction of the Shipping Board are primarily within its exclusive jurisdiction, and private remedies must, in general, be sought from the Board before the jurisdiction of the courts can be invoked. P. 284 U. S. 481.

3. A steamship company, by its bill for an injunction under the Sherman and Clayton Acts, alleged that certain of its competitors were in a combination and conspiracy to exclude it from the business of carrying general cargo between the United States and certain foreign countries, and to monopolize such business themselves. The means alleged included: coercion of shippers by exaction of much higher rates from those who did than from those who did not agree to use the defendants' lines exclusively; giving rebates; spreading false rumors that the plaintiff was about to discontinue its service; use of defendants' combined economic bargaining power to coerce shippers who were also producers of commodities used in large quantities by the defendants, to enter into joint exclusive contracts with them, and threats to blacklist forwarders and refuse to pay them joint brokerage fees unless they discontinued making, or advising shippers to make, shipments in plaintiff's ships.


(1) The case is remediable under the Shipping Act, since the allegations either constitute direct and basic charges of violations of that Act (§§ 14, 14a, 16 and 17), or are so interrelated with such charges as to be, in effect, a component part of them. P. 284 U. S. 483.

Page 284 U. S. 475

(2) The Shipping Act, to this extent, supersedes the antitrust laws. P. 284 U. S. 485.

(3) The matter is within the exclusive preliminary jurisdiction of the Shipping Board. Id.

4. Section 15 of the Shipping Act requires that agreements between carriers "in any manner providing for an exclusive, preferential, or cooperative working arrangement" shall be filed immediately with the Board, and thereupon, the Board is authorized to disapprove, cancel or modify any such agreement, "whether or not previously approved by it," which it finds to be unjustly discriminatory or unfair as between carriers, shippers, etc., "or to operate to the detriment of the commerce of the United States, or to be in violation of this Act."


(1) That failure to file such an agreement with the Board will not afford ground for an injunction under § 16 of the Clayton Act at the suit of a private party. P. 284 U. S. 486.

(2) In case of such failure, § 22 of the Shipping Act authorizes the Board to afford relief upon complaint or upon its own motion, and its orders are then, under § 31, for the first time, open to a judicial proceeding to enforce, suspend or set them aside in accordance, generally, with the rules and limitations announced by this Court in respect of like orders made by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Id.

(3) Even though an agreement, as described in a bill for an injunction, be such that it could not legally be approved, the Board has primary original jurisdiction to consider the case upon a full hearing and with regard to the peculiar nature of ocean traffic, and to "disapprove, cancel or modify" the agreement that it finds was made. P. 284 U. S. 487.

(4) A decision by the Board adjudging an agreement unlawful under the Shipping Act after full hearing will not justify the courts in entertaining a bill for an injunction with respect to another agreement between other parties, although, as described by the bill, it be similar to the agreement that the Board held unlawful. P. 284 U. S. 488.

50 F.2d 83 affirmed.

Certiorari to review a decree affirming the dismissal of a bill to enjoin alleged violations of the Sherman and Clayton Acts. 39 F.2d 204.

Page 284 U. S. 478

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