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April 10, 1953


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLARY

This is an action by the Reading Company, owner of Carfloat No. 20, against the Steamship Blommersdyk for damages resulting from a collision in the Delaware River on October 21, 1951. From the pleadings and proof I make the following

Findings of Fact

 1. Libellant Reading Company, a corporation, was at all material times owner of Carfloat No. 20. The carfloat was a steel hull vessel equipped to carry eight freight railway cars on two tracks running the length of the flat deck surface. It was 200 feet long and 35 feet wide, and had no motive power.

 2. On October 21, 1951 about 10 A.M. the said carfloat loaded with eight railway cars filled with coal left the libellant's dock at Port Richmond, Philadelphia, for Bulson Street, Camden, in tow of libellant's tug Cheltenham. Carfloat No. 7, similarly constructed and loaded with eight partly filled cars, completed the tow. The carfloats were secured on either side of the tug with their bows together, so that the flotilla resembled an arrowhead.

 3. Tug Cheltenham was 92 feet long, 19 feet in width, was registered at 113 gross tons, developed 325 horsepower, and had a top speed of 5 or 6 knots. At all times material to this action, the tug was in good operating condition and responded properly to her controls. She had her full crew aboard.

 4. The tug captain in charge of the flotilla was licensed to operate tugs on the Delaware River, and had commanded various tugs of the libellant company with carfloats in tow for several months prior to October, 1951. He had been following the sea for 15 years and was licensed as a master of merchant vessels before he became employed by the libellant.

 5. On the morning of October 21, 1951, the weather was overcast but clear. There was very little wind. The tide was ebbing at about 1 to 1 1/2 knots, and visibility was excellent for several miles up and down the river.

 6. The flotilla proceeded down the main ship channel (800 or 1000 feet in width) at a speed of approximately 5 knots to the right of the center line and at about midway of the western half of the channel. When the flotilla reached the general vicinity of Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, the master of the tug decided to change his course from a general southerly direction to a general southeasterly direction, intending to cross toward the New Jersey side at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the main ship channel. As he executed the maneuver of change of course and as he brought the flotilla around and headed it for the Jersey shore, the master of the tug and his lookout in the pilothouse observed the Steamship Blommersdyk coming upriver slightly to the east of the center line of the ship channel in the vicinity of Market Street, Philadelphia, operating under her own power. At that time the flotilla was some 2000 feet north of the Delaware River bridge and the Blommersdyk was some 1500 feet to the south of the Delaware River bridge.

 7. Steamship Blommersdyk, owned and operated by the respondent company, was a general cargo vessel approximately 400 feet long, having a maximum speed of 12 knots. Her engines were running at half speed as she passed the Market Street ferry slip, and she was making a course straight up the channel.

 8. At the point indicated in Finding No. 6, the Tug Cheltenham sounded a two-blast whistle signal to call the attention of the approaching vessel to the tug's intention to cross her bow.

 9. To this signal the Steamship Blommersdyk made no response but continued course and speed for a distance of approximately two ship lengths, at which time she blew a danger signal of four-blasts. At that time the distance between the vessels had narrowed to approximately 2000 or 2200 feet. At that point the tug and flotilla had reached or passed the center line of the ship channel.

 10. The Tug Cheltenham continued on its crossing course and responded to the danger signal with another two-blast signal declaring its intention to cross the bow of the Blommersdyk.

 11. The Blommersdyk continued at unabated speed from the point at which it gave its first danger signal (a point about 700 feet south of the bridge) for a distance of approximately 1300 to 1500 feet and for a period in time of approximately 2 to 2 1/2 minutes when it gave another four-blast danger signal. This last signal came at a time when the vessels were only 400 feet apart and a collision was inevitable.

 12. With the second danger signal given by the Blommersdyk, orders were given at 11:22 A.M. to stop engines, reverse engines, full speed astern, and to drop anchor. The anchor was dropped ...

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