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SUN OIL CO. v. M/V WARTENFELS

February 8, 1966

SUN OIL COMPANY
v.
M/V WARTENFELS, its boilers, engines, equipment, etc., in rem



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVIS

 1. The SS. OHIO SUN is a T-2 Steam Tanker owned by Sun Oil Company, 523' long, 68' in width, 16,722 dead weight tons, and has a horse power of 6,500.

 2. The M/V WARTENFELS is a dry cargo diesel vessel, 499' 2" long, 60' in width and has a horse power of 10,800.

 3. On the early morning of August 12, 1961, the OHIO SUN was proceeding seaward in the Houston Ship Channel, fully loaded. Her draft was 30' 1 1/2" forward and 31' 7 1/2" aft. On the bridge were a Pilot, Master and Helmsman. A Lookout was stationed on the bow. All required navigational lights were turned on. She had departed her berth at 0214 and proceeded a distance of approximately 10 1/2 miles prior to the collision. The weather was clear.

 4. On said morning the WARTENFELS was following the OHIO SUN down the Houston Ship Channel. She was only partially loaded. Her draft was 23' forward and 23'9" aft. On the bridge were a Pilot, her Master, her Third Officer and a Helmsman. A Lookout was stationed on the bow. All required navigational lights were burning. She had departed the turning basin at 0242 and proceeded a distance of approximately 15.7 miles prior to the collision.

 5. The WARTENFELS was properly manned. The OHIO SUN, however, did not have a watch officer on the bridge at the time of the collision or for approximately a half-hour prior thereto. While the Master of the ship periodically glanced astern and carried out the duties of the watch officer as best he could, he was unable to keep the WARTENFELS under constant observation due to his other responsibilities.

 6. The WARTENFELS was proceeding down the channel at an average speed about twice that of the OHIO SUN. When the pilot of the latter determined that the WARTENFELS was overtaking her, he sounded a local signal of three long and three short blasts, indicating that the OHIO SUN was ahead in the channel and intended to wait for the WARTENFELS. The WARTENFELS acknowledged this signal by sounding two blasts.

 7. The sounding and acknowledgment of these signals did not make it mandatory for the WARTENFELS to pass the OHIO SUN, although the master of the WARTENFELS, a foreigner, believed the OHIO SUN'S signal left his vessel with no discretion on this point.

 8. As the WARTENFELS approached the stern of the OHIO SUN, the former initiated a two-blast signal under the Inland Rules of the United States indicating that it proposed to pass the OHIO SUN on the latter's port side. The OHIO SUN assented to the WARTENFELS' plan by answering with two blasts. This exchange of signals took place several minutes before the collision.

 9. After the exchange of blasts, the WARTENFELS increased its speed at 0426 to half ahead (12 to 13 knots) and at 0427 to full ahead (15 knots). During this time, the pilot also ordered the vessel 10 degrees port rudder, then 20 degrees port rudder, and finally hard port rudder.

 10. Until the exchange of blasts, both vessels were approximately in the center of the channel. The OHIO SUN then eased to the starboard side of the channel to give the WARTENFELS room to pass. In the five minutes prior to the collision, the OHIO SUN was travelling at a speed of approximately 5 1/2 knots.

 11. Just before the collision, the WARTENFELS had come to within approximately 60 to 70 feet of the left bank and had had engines set at full speed ahead for at least two minutes.

 12. Due to the WARTENFELS excessive speed and its proximity to the left shore, the forces of bank suction caused it to sheer to the starboard side of the channel at the bend adjacent to the battleship Texas monument.

 13. Bank suction is a combination of forces which causes a ship's bow to move out from an adjacent bank, toward the far shore. It usually occurs when a large ship is in a narrow waterway such as the Houston Ship Channel and can often be corrected by turning the rudder toward the bank from which the vessel is moving. However, an overcorrection can force the ship toward the near bank while an undercorrection or insufficient correction may cause the ship to head rapidly toward the opposite shore. Some of the factors which are relevant and vary directly to the amount of bank suction besides ...


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