The opinion of the court was delivered by: EGAN
The libellants, Lewis F. Boyer, Jr., Thornton D. Hooper, Edward Burritt and Horace L. Pugh, owners of the barge Interstate No. 8, brought this suit by reason of a collision in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (hereinafter referred to as the C & D Canal) on June 10, 1954, between the barge Interstate No. 8 and the S. S. Blydendyk, owned by the Holland-American Line.
Thereafter, by an Order of the Court allowed under Admiralty Rule 56, 28 U.S.C.A. p. 119, respondent, Holland-American Line, impleaded Lewis F. Boyer, Jr., Thornton D. Hooper, Edward Burritt and Horace L. Pugh, individually and as co-owners of the tug Elizabeth S. Hooper. The respondent-claimant contends that the tug Elizabeth S. Hooper, which had the barge Interstate No. 8 in tow, was solely responsible for the collision between the barge and the S. S. Blydendyk.
The Court has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter by virtue of the Court's general admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.
For reasons of convenience and clarity, the collective parties libellant and respondent shall be referred to as libellant and respondent, respectively, unless otherwise indicated.
Let us begin our analysis of this case by briefly stating certain facts which are not in dispute.
1. The barge Interstate No. 8 is a steel oil barge, 190'7" in length, with a beam of 40'7", drawing, at the time of the collision, 2' forward and 3' aft. This barge was without means of steering or propulsion.
2. The tug Elizabeth S. Hooper is a diesel propelled craft approximately 83' long and 22' in width. Her draft, at all material times, was 10'6".
3. The S. S. Blydendyk is a 'liberty type' dry cargo vessel with dimensions of approximately 450' in length and 55' in width, drawing 12'6" forward and 18' aft.
4. At the point of collision and in the immediate vicinity thereof, the C & D Canal is 250' in width and 27' to 28' in depth.
5. At all material times the weather was clear, visibility good, wind negligible and the tide or current in the C & D Canal was running toward the east at a force estimated from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 knots per hour.
6. Both vessels carried the prescribed lights for night travel.
On the morning of June 10, 1954, at or about 4:05 A.M., the tug Elizabeth S. Hooper was in transit through the C & D Canal in an eastwardly direction, approaching Chesapeake City from the west, with the barge Interstate No. 8 in tow. At about this time, a freighter, identified as the Suzanne
crowded the tug and tow to the south bank of the C & D Canal, causing the barge to go aground and the towing lines to part.
At or about 4:02 A.M. of the same day, the S. S. Blydendyk, while in transit westwardly through the C & D Canal, was off Bethel, approaching Chesapeake City from the east and preparing to change pilots.
There is a great divergence in the evidence. The claims of the parties are not only conflicting but directly contradictory. Fortunately certain testimony that was produced serves as a beacon ...