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Port of Palm Beach sues shipping companies, claims they've abandoned customers' cargo and vehicles

Officials working to help customers reclaim their personal belongings
The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022.jpg
Posted at 12:27 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 09:55:33-04

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Customers claim a pair of shipping companies docked at the Port of Palm Beach have gone out of business, abandoning people's personal cargo and items.

The Port of Palm Beach said it's filed a lawsuit against Teeters Agency & Stevedoring, Inc. and Monarch Shipping Company to evict them from the port and collect more than $475,000 in damages.

The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022 (1).jpg
The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022.

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."

"Unfortunately, the Port has no choice but to take action to protect the interests of other Port tenants, as well as hundreds of individuals that have left automobiles and other cargo with the Defendants," Port Executive Director Manuel Almira said in a written statement to WPTV. "On a daily basis we are receiving inquiries from these individuals who have been unable to obtain their belongings from the Defendants."

Exclusive images from WPTV Chopper 5 on Monday showed the Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the port with its back ramp open and a green cargo shipping container on the dock next to the ship.

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

WPTV went to Monarch's leased area at the port Monday and found a letter from the Port of Palm Beach addressed to customers of Monarch and Teeters.

The letter said port officials understand customers may be experiencing problems getting their cargo and vehicles from Monarch and Teeters, and the port is working to resolve those issues.

The letter stated that Teeters is a tenant of the Port of Palm Beach and the port does not have "direct ownership or control" over any vehicles or cargo "within the possession of Teeters."

"However, the Port is taking action to allow individuals to regain access to their cargo and other items," the letter said. "The Port recently obtained a contractor, who was formerly employed by Teeters, to work with those of you who have cargo and other items within the possession of Teeters."

A letter from the Port of Palm Beach addressed to customers of Teeters Agency & Stevedoring, Inc. and Monarch Shipping Company on May 2, 2022.jpg
A letter from the Port of Palm Beach addressed to customers of Teeters Agency & Stevedoring, Inc. and Monarch Shipping Company on May 2, 2022.

The port is asking customers to be patient and allow at least 120 days to be contacted about your cargo, adding in the letter that "this recovery process will take time."

Dozens of Teeter and Monarch customers showed up at the Port of Palm Beach Monday demanding answers. They said their cars and cargo have not been shipped to Haiti after paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for the service.

Many of them like Marie Pierre have used the company for years and never had an issue until now.

"I have to travel from Indiana to here to see what I can get," Pierre said. "I thought the office was open. Now the gate is closed. There's a lock on it, but I don’t know where I am going to find an answer."

Pierre said she paid $850 to send a car to Haiti. That was last November, and today it still hasn’t been sent and she hasn't been able to get a hold of anyone at Monarch.

Others were hoping to send household items to relatives.

"My stuff was inside since December 28th," said Monarch customer Jacques Charles. "It's a long day. I got food for my kids in Haiti. I got drinks. They are probably not good anymore. They have an expiration date, you know.”

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

"Essentially had their cars being held hostage, as well as the cargo in those cars," said John Fumero, the attorney for the Port of Palm Beach.

Fumero said the Teeters Agency and Monarch Shipping Company have not been paying their lease payments and other financial obligations over the last year.

"Teeters and Monarch owes the port well in excess of a half a million dollars. That number increases day by day," Fumero said.

Fumero says the port took action and filed a complaint in palm beach county circuit court to evict teeter agency and monarch shipping from the property.

For many of the customers, they only want one thing.

"I need my car back and I need my money back," Pierre said.

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

The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022 (3).jpg
The Monarch Countess shipping vessel docked at the Port of Palm Beach on May 2, 2022.

On its website, Teeters Agency & Stevedoring, Inc. said it's been in business in West Palm Beach in 1964 and moved to the Port of Palm Beach in 1983.

Monarch Shipping Company said on its website it's been "dedicated to providing an outstanding service that is incomparable to others" since 1994.