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TUG NEW YORK CO. v. THE ROBIN DONCASTER

January 25, 1955

TUG NEW YORK COMPANY as owner of THE AGRAM,
v.
THE ROBIN DONCASTER and Seas Shipping Company, Inc. Petition of Robert B. WATHEN, as owner of THE RUTH, for exoneration from and limitation of liability



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GANEY

These consolidated suits bring before us a number of claims which arose out of a collision in the Delaware River on the night of January 9, 1952, involving the steamship Robin Doncaster and the barge Agram while she was being towed by the tug Ruth.

The first suit was brought by the owner of the barge Agram against the S. S. Robin Doncaster and her owner for collision damages. The second suit was instituted by the owner of the tug Ruth for exoneration from, and limitation of, liability. Damage claims were also filed in this proceeding by Seas Shipping Company, Inc., as owner of the Robin Doncaster, and by owners of cargo on board the Doncaster who were allegedly liable to make contribution in general average as a result of the damage and delay sustained by the Robin Doncaster. The matter is now before us for the determination of liability for the collision.

 From the evidence presented to it, the Court makes the following special

 Findings of Facts:

 1. The Tug New York Company, libellant in the first suit, was the owner of the barge Agram, a non-propelled, wooden hull barge, 267 feet in length, 46 feet wide and 23.5 feet in depth, and of 2,129 gross tons. Her two anchors hung on each side of her hull approximately five feet from the bow. Her hull, machinery and equipment were in good condition, and she had been inspected prior to her taking on a cargo of 3,040 tons of coal at Norfolk, Virginia, on January 8, 1952.

 2. Robert B. Wathen, libellant in the second suit, was the owner and operator of the diesel-engined tug Ruth, which was 117.5 feet long, 28 feet wide, 13.5 feet in depth, and of 275 gross tons. Her engines were of 1,200 horsepower.

 4. Just below Philadelphia, the Delaware River flows in an east-west direction for about 2 nautical miles. At the western end of this stretch at a point marked by Buoy 35 on the Pennsylvania side of the river, the channel curves in a north, northeasterly direction for 3/4 of a mile to a point marked by Buoy N48 on the New Jersey side of the channel. This curve is known as Horseshoe Bend. From the latter point the channel straightens out in a north, northeasterly direction for a distance of 1 3/4 miles. An imaginary straight line 3/4 of a mile long in the center of the channel beginning at the southern end of the 1 3/4 mile stretch is called East Horseshoe Range. Range lights situated on the New Jersey shore just below Horseshoe Bend assist navigators in keeping their bearings with respect to the Range. At the northern end of the 1 3/4 mile stretch, 1,500 feet below Pier 98 South, Philadelphia, Pa., the channel curves in a north, northwesterly direction. Beginning slightly above Buoy N48 there is anchorage space between the eastern edge of the channel and the New Jersey shore.

 5. The channel of the Delaware River from Horseshoe Bend to Pier 98 South has a width of 1,000 feet and a depth of 37 feet. The river end of Pier 98 South, Philadelphia, Pa., extends to the western edge of the channel. The Windy Point Coal Pier, also in Philadelphia, is, as its name indicates, a coal loading pier. On its south side there is a slip 1,050 feet long and 322 feet wide. The river end of the pier is approximately 580 feet from the western edge of the channel. This pier is 1.1 miles downstream from Pier 98 South, and six-tenths of a mile north of the southerly end of East Horseshoe Range. Buoy 39 is 690 feet south of Windy Point Coal Pier, and Buoy 37 is approximately 3,950 feet below Buoy 39. Both buoys are on the western edge of the channel.

 6. On the morning of January 8, 1952, the tug Ruth had taken the loaded barge Agram in tow at Norfolk, Virginia, and towed her up the Chesapeake Bay, through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and up the Delaware River. The tug was secured along side the barge's port quarter by five lines; her bow was a short distance aft of midships and her stern protruded a few feet aft of the barge. The draft of the barge was 22 feet forward and 23 feet aft. The wheelhouse of the Ruth was about 15 to 20 feet forward of the barge's wheelhouse which was located on the top of the afterhouse of the barge. The wheel of the barge was lashed in a stationary position so that the barge would maintain a slight left rudder. Long experience has proved that this was proper practice to keep the tug and barge on a steady course when the tug, as here, was on the barge's port quarter.

 7. The Ruth was fully manned, equipped and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the service in which she was engaged. The captain of the Ruth was in charge of the navigation of the Agram, and the crew of the latter took orders from him.

 8. On the evening of January 9, 1952. the weather was fair and clear, the night was dark but visibility was good; there was a light southwest wind and the tide was at the beginning of flood traveling at the rate of .75 knots. All the vessels involved were carrying correct lights which were clearly visible.

 9. At about 8 o'clock p.m. on the night of January 9, 1952, the tug Ruth with the Agram lashed on her starboard side was traveling up the Delaware River at the rate of 4 to 5 knots. The flotilla was slightly to the right of the center of the channel and was approaching Horseshoe Bend.

 11. Meanwhile, the Doncaster, which had been docked on the north side of Pier 98 South with her port side to the pier, was being undocked with the aid of two tugs. Her draft at the time was 14 feet at the bow and 15 feet at the stern; the edge of her propeller was 6 feet above the surface of the river. After the vessel was clear of the dock at 8:03 o'clock, she was backed out approximately 300 feet into the channel. At 8:13 the engines of the vessel were put at half speed ahead and a Delaware River Pilot took over the navigation of the vessel from one of the tugboat captains who had acted as the undocking pilot. At about this time, the Doncaster observed the tug Ruth and her tow at a distance of a mile and a half away proceeding up the East Horseshoe Range.

 12. The Doncaster then proceeded down-river on a course which brought her over to the east side of the channel so that she could avoid a vessel anchored cross-wise just to the west ...


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