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decided: January 29, 1945.



Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Black

[ 323 U.S. Page 613]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Seatrain Lines, Inc., is a common carrier of goods by water. In 1929, its predecessor began to carry goods from Belle Chasse, Louisiana, to Havana, Cuba. Each of the vessels used was so constructed that it could carry a number of railroad cars, and special equipment was provided to hoist these cars from adjacent tracks on the docks and move them bodily into the vessels. It was thereby rendered unnecessary for goods carried to the ports in railroad cars to be unloaded from the cars and carried piecemeal into the vessels. This new method of transportation, so the Interstate Commerce Commission has found, was a great improvement over the old practice, less destructive to the goods, more economical and more efficient. 226 I. C. C. 7, 20-21. In 1932, Seatrain decided to initiate a new interstate service between Hoboken, N. J. and Belle Chasse, Louisiana, via Havana, Cuba, and thus entered into direct competition with the interstate transportation of freight by railroads. During the time Seatrain had limited its business to foreign transportation, i. e., Louisiana to Cuba, the non-competing railroads freely permitted it the use of their cars. Shortly after it began its interstate service, however, the following rule was promulgated by the American Railway Association:*fn1 "Cars

[ 323 U.S. Page 614]

     of railway ownership must not be delivered to a steamship, ferry or barge line for water transportation without permission of the owner filed with the Car Service Division." Thereafter, some railroads continued to permit Seatrain to use their cars but others, including the parties to this proceeding, refused to do so. No railroads "refused to permit delivery of their cars to any of the other eleven water lines listed in a circular of the Association as coming within the intendment of the rule." 206 I. C. C. 328, 337.

A complaint was filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission. Appropriate hearings were conducted and a series of findings and opinions were entered. The findings were that the sole object of the Association of Railroads' rule was to prevent diversion of traffic from the railroads to Seatrain; that Seatrain, as an interstate water carrier, was subject to the Commission's jurisdiction; that its interstate operations were in the public interest and of advantage to the convenience and commerce of the public; that the Commission had jurisdiction to require through rail-water interstate routes, and, where such through routes were established, to require railroads to interchange cars with water carriers, 195 I. C. C. 215; 206 I. C. C. 328. An initial order of the Commission required the railroads to establish certain through joint rail-water routes with Seatrain. Such through interstate routes together with joint rates were established. 226 I. C. C. 7; 243 I. C. C. 199. The Commission then heard evidence and found that a payment of $1.00 per day would be a reasonable amount for Seatrain to pay the railroads for their cars while they were in Seatrain's possession. 237 I. C. C. 97; 248 I. C. C. 109. Based on its findings the Commission ordered the railroads to abstain from observing and enforcing rules and practices which prohibited the interchange of their freight cars for transportation by Seatrain in interstate commerce.

[ 323 U.S. Page 615]

     The railroads promptly brought this action under 28 U. S. C. 41 (28), 47, to set aside the Commission's order. The District Court set aside the order insofar as it required railroads to interchange cars destined for carriage by Seatrain outside the territorial waters of the United States, but sustained it in all other respects. 55 F.Supp. 473. Both sides appealed directly to this Court as authorized by the Urgent Deficiencies Act of October 22, 1913, 28 U. S. C. 47, 47a, and ยง 238 of the Judicial Code, 28 U. S. C. 345, par. (4).

First. It is contended that the railroads are under no duty to deliver their cars to Seatrain and that the Interstate Commerce Commission is without authority to require them to do so. It has long been held, and it is not denied here, that since the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act, railroads may be compelled to establish through routes*fn2 and to interchange their cars with each other,*fn3 both subject to reasonable terms. Nor is it denied that the railroads are under a legal duty, enforceable by proper Commission orders, to establish through routes with connecting water carriers.*fn4 The narrow contention is that the power granted the Commission to require the establishment and operation of through rail-water routes does not empower it to require a railroad to interchange its cars with a water carrier. Since the Commission's order was entered after passage of the 1940 Transportation Act,

[ 323 U.S. Page 61654]

     Stat. 898, the question must be decided under that Act. Ziffrin, Inc. v. United States, 318 U.S. 73, 78.

There is no language in the present Act which specifically commands that railroads must interchange their cars with connecting water lines. We cannot agree with the contention that the absence of specific language indicates a purpose of Congress not to require such an interchange. True, Congress has specified with precise language some obligations which railroads must assume. But all legislation dealing with this problem since the first Act in 1887, 24 Stat. 379, has contained broad language to indicate the scope of the law. The very complexities of the subject have necessarily caused Congress to cast its regulatory provisions in general terms. Congress has, in general, left the contents of these terms to be spelled out in particular cases by administrative and judicial action, and in the light of the Congressional purpose to ...

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