Maritime government contracting is a multi-billion dollar industry involving the Navy, Army, Coast Guard and other agencies. Most contractors are familiar with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 33.211 provision at the end of each contracting officer’s (“CO’s”) decision on a Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”) claim stating: “Instead of appealing to the agency board of contract appeals, you may bring an action directly in the United States Court of Federal Claims (except as provided in 41 U.S.C. 7102(d), regarding Maritime Contracts) within 12 months of the date you receive this decision.” As a result of this language specifically referencing the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”), some maritime contractors incorrectly appeal CO final decisions on maritime claims to the COFC. Unfortunately these contractors do not understand that this language limits court appeals of a CO’s decision on a maritime contract claim to U.S. District Courts. The question for the COFC then becomes whether to transfer to U.S. District Court or dismiss the case. Certainly, no contractor wants to find itself in this situation because their claim has appealed to the wrong court.
The CDA’s language establishes the alternative procedure for claims arising under maritime contracts, such as contracts for the repair of vessels, ship management, stevedoring, port facilities and dredging. The effect of § 7102(d) is that contractors who are a party to a maritime contract may, after receiving a decision from the CO, (1) file an appeal at the board of contract appeals (“BCAs”) within 90 days of receipt of the decision, or (2) file an “action” appealing the decision directly in U.S. District Court within 12 months.