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BOYER v. THE TANKER SENECA SUN

June 19, 1956

Lewis F. BOYER and Thornton D. Hooper, owners of THE Barge INTERSTATE NO. 12, Libellant,
v.
THE Tanker SENECA SUN, her tackle, equipment, etc., and Sun Oil Company, owner and operator of said tanker, Seneca Sun, Respondent. The Cross Libel of SUN OIL COMPANY, owner of the M/V Seneca Sun, Cross-Libellant, v. THE Tug ELIZABETH S. HOOPER and Barge 'Interstate No. 12,' their tackle, equipment, etc., and Lewis F. Boyer and Thornton D. Hooper, owners and operators of the said tug, Elizabeth S. Hooper and barge, 'Interstate No. 12,' Cross-Respondents



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUSEN

This proceeding consists of an action by libellants against the tanker Seneca Sun, her tackle, equipment, etc., and against her owner, and a cross-action by respondent-owner of the Seneca Sun against the tug Elizabeth S. Hooper and the barge Interstate No. 12, their tackle and equipment, and against their owners. The actions result from a collision which occurred in the Chesapeake Bay about 1,500 yards south of the span of the Bay Bridge in May 1952.

Findings of Fact

 1. This collision involved three craft which were regularly employed in inland and coastal traffic. They were:

 A. Seneca Sun is a single screw tank vessel with approximately a thirty-foot beam and an overall length of two hundred feet. She is powered by twin Bessemer Diesels, capable of operating in harness or independently. Carrying a full cargo of 4,800 barrels of gasoline, as in this instance, she could make seven knots using both engines or about four knots using only one. The wheelhouse was situated on the forward half of the vessel. She had little freeboard when loaded (one and one-half feet) so that frequently her foredeck was awash.

 Her crew on duty consisted of Master, Helmsman and Chief Engineer. Her speed was controlled from the wheelhouse but a switch from one to both engines or vice versa required certain manipulations in the engine room. Such a changeover required three or four minutes time and made it necessary to disconnect the operating engine (or engines) from the shaft during the time that the changeover was taking place.

 B. Elizabeth S. Hooper was a diesel tug with a twenty-three foot beam and an overall length of seventy-nine feet. With her tow she was making five and one-half knots. Her wheelhouse, which was situated forward of her stack and the Master's quarters, had a small door (30 inches wide) which opened aft on the port side and another on the starboard side. Through the windows in the top of these doors it was possible to keep a lookout aft, but a clear view astern could not be obtained solely from one window or the other. She carried red and green side lights, a white bow light and three vertical lights on her aft pole which signified that she was towing a vessel behind on a hawser. The hawser to her tow was made fast to the tug's main bitt, located 20 to 25 feet from the stern of the tug.

 The Hooper's crew on watch consisted of a Master who had the helm, a deck hand, and an Engineer.

 C. Interstate No. 12 was a rudderless, rectangular, steel, seagoing, tank barge with a forty foot beam and approximately one hundred ninety feet in length. She had 'shags' or fins on her sides aft to keep her on a straight course. She had a sled bow and crew quarters in a deck house located at her stern end. She was carrying a capacity load of 14,000 barrels of gasoline. The 'Interstate' had bow corner bitts to which a bridle was secured and paid out to the 'Hooper's' hawser. The bridle consisted of two forty to fifty foot cables joined at a ring which was attached to the hawser. She carried red and green side lights and two white lights on her deck house mast in a horizontal line 12' to 15' above the water line.

 Her crew consisted of two deck hands, who were in the deck house at the time of the collision.

 2. Libellants and cross-respondents (hereinafter called libellants) are the owners of tank barge Interstate No. 12 and tug Elizabeth S. Hooper.

 3. The respondent and cross-libellant Sun Oil Company (hereinafter referred to as respondent) is the owner of the tanker Seneca Sun.

 4. The Seneca was inbound to Baltimore and was moving at four knots, powered only by her starboard engine. She was scheduled to dock at daybreak and, accordingly, she had cut her port engine out at 7:30 P.M., hoping to avoid a premature arrival.

 5. The Hooper with her tow was headed down the Chesapeake toward Cape Henry and had, just minutes previously, cleared under the Bay Bridge which was then under construction. On either side of the bridge was a considerable area within which were buoys and piles used in construction, on some of which were lights (N.T. 165-7). The hawser to her tow was estimated by those on the Seneca to have been as much as 2,000 feet long. The Master of the tug testified that it was two hundred fathoms (1,200 feet) and further said that not quite all of it had been paid out from the tug. There was at least 1,100 feet from the stern of the tug to the bow of the barge. *fn1"

 7. The date of the collision was May 18, 1952. As the vessels approached one another, it was close to 11 P.M. There was only a light southerly breeze and visibility was excellent. The weather was clear and the tide was about ebb.

 8. When the Seneca and Hooper sighted one another, the Hooper was seen 'in the vicinity' of the bridge and the Seneca was approximately three or four miles away to the southward, 15 to 20 degrees off the tug's port bow. The Seneca had already lined up with the starboard hand buoys (Flashing Red, 4W and 2W) and was keeping them nearly in line. The Hooper steered the center of the channel under the bridge and then, according to Robertson, her Master, steered a steady south south west.

 9. Captain Robertson (Master of the Hooper) testified that he looked back at the barge every four or five minutes, but that he did not look back between the time he passed the Seneca and the time of the collision. Mr. Collins, the deck-hand in the pilot house with Captain Robertson, testified that he looked back at the barge every five or ten minutes. On direct examination, he testified that he looked back at the barge once after passing the Seneca Sun, at which time there was 'plenty of distance' between the tanker and the barge as they were on parallel courses. The next time he looked back, the tanker was beyond the barge and he saw flashing lights from the barge (see paragraph 15 below). Mr. Collins testified that the tanker and the tug maintained their same parallel courses after ...


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