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September 29, 1972

Complaint of G.b.R.M.S. CALDAS as Owner of the MOTOR SHIP CALDAS, for Exoneration from and Limitation of Liability

Huyett, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: HUYETT

This is an action for exoneration of the Motor Ship CALDAS under the Fire Statute of the United States, 46 U.S.C. § 182, and for limitation of damages under 46 U.S.C. § 183. The action arises out of a fire on board the CALDAS on February 27, 1967, which resulted in damage to cargo and belongings. Various actions were brought against the shipowner but these were enjoined from proceeding when the shipowner brought the present action in accordance with 46 U.S.C. § 185. The issue of liability only has been tried by the Court.


 1. This is a maritime cause of action within the meaning of Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(h).

 2. Petitioner G.b.R.M.S. CALDAS is now and was at all times hereinafter mentioned a limited German business company having its principal office and place of business at Hamburg, Germany and was at all material times herein the owner of the motor ship CALDAS.

 3. The petitioner is within the jurisdiction of this Court and has goods, chattels and credits within the jurisdiction of this Court.

 4. Claimant Anderson Clayton & Company is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in New York City.

 5. Claimant Leon Israel Brothers Company is a partnership organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York.

 6. Claimant Rockefeller Foundation is a non-profit organization with its principal place of business in New York City.

 7. Claimant Luis F. Sanchez is a citizen of Colombia.

 8. At all material times, Panawaco, Inc. was time charterer of the CALDAS and charterer issued all bills of lading.

 9. At the opening of trial, Coldemar Line, Coldemar Agencies, and Panawaco, Inc. stipulated that their claims against petitioner had been settled and as between them and petitioner no further issues remained to be litigated.

 10. The issue of damages has been severed from that of liability by Order of the Court dated December 13, 1971.

 11. The motor ship CALDAS was a steel vessel built in 1953 at Hamburg, Germany with the following registered dimensions:

Length 259 foot 4 inch; beam 41 foot 5 inch; depth 17 foot 3 3/4 inch; gross tonnage 1,047. Her home port was Hamburg, Federal Republic of West Germany and she was propelled by a 1500 brake horsepower engine.

 12. The CALDAS, a German flag vessel, was required to comply with the regulations of Germanischer Lloyd, a recognized classification society, Seeberuftsgenossenschaft (Bureau of Safety and Fire Equipment, hereinafter SBG), and the applicable Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).

 13. The CALDAS was classed by Germanischer Lloyd, a society established under German law to supervise the standards of design, construction and maintenance of German flag vessels, and her safety and fire fighting equipment was regularly surveyed by SBG every two years.

 14. The vessel had last undergone an SBG hull and machinery survey in July of 1965 and as a result of the survey, on the recommendation of Germanischer Lloyd, technical adviser to SBG, a sailing permit and safety equipment certificate, valid until June, 1967, were issued to the CALDAS.

 15. In July of 1966 the CALDAS underwent her last classification hull and machinery survey prior to the fire, and all fire fighting equipment was certified and approved.

 16. At the end of each voyage the Master was required to submit a voyage report which contained details of the ship's working during the voyage together with a list of each certificate which the vessel was required to have, together with the expiration date of that certificate.

 17. Upon hiring Karl Sefranek as Master the marine superintendent for owners, Mr. Herbert Feindt, conferred with him and instructed him concerning company procedures prior to assigning him a command. They continued to confer from time to time.

 18. When a vessel of the owners called at a European port, an inspector from the marine superintendent's office came on board to see to the vessel's needs and to determine whether or not company procedures were being followed.

 19. The keel of the CALDAS was laid on December 3, 1952 in accordance with the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of 1948 (hereinafter SOLAS 48), as required by domestic law of West Germany. Prior to construction the plans for the vessel were approved by Germanischer Lloyd and SBG and the vessel was built according to the plans.

 21. The rules of Germanischer Lloyd, SBG and SOLAS 48 together required that the ship's fire fighting equipment include two pumps, sufficient hydrants and hoses so that each part of the ship could be reached by two jets of water, five extinguishers in the crew accommodations, one extinguisher in the radio room, seven extinguishers in the engine room, three extinguishers, a forty-five liter extinguisher, and one smoke mask.

 22. At all material times, the CALDAS was equipped with the following required fire fighting equipment: twelve hydrants; five twenty-meter hoses on deck and two fifteen-meter hoses in the engine room; six foam extinguishers, one carbon dioxide extinguisher, one portable forty-five liter extinguisher, a smoke mask, a safety lamp and an axe in the deck department; and six carbon dioxide extinguishers, five foam extinguishers and two fire pumps in the engine department.

 23. The vessel was equipped with adequate hoses to get two jets of water into any part of the ship. Placement of hoses and hydrants had been approved by Germanischer Lloyd and SBG. The fire hoses were, at all material times, in good condition and had been tested within two months of the fire. All hoses were properly stowed in positions readily accessible to the hydrants. Fire extinguishers, which had been tested within six months of the fire were stowed as indicated in the SBG surveys in July 1965.

 24. It was proper under German law at the time of this fire for the CALDAS to sail with only two mates.

 25. Watch, quarter and station bills indicating each man's duty for both fire and boat drills were posted on the bridge and on each deck; there was also a yellow duty card on each man's bunk stating his station in the event of fire and boat drills.

 26. Prior to the fire, drills were held on the vessel at least once each calendar month as required by SBG rules. The last fire drill before the fire was held during the first week of January, 1967.

 27. The SBG survey of June, 1965, provided to owners, indicated that the logbook of the CALDAS recorded monthly fire drills in accordance with SBG regulations. The owners had no reason to believe that this procedure was not being followed.

 28. During each fire drill the crew was questioned about their duties during a fire, they reported to their stations, unreeled hoses, connected them to hydrants and attempted to use them.

 29. In February, 1967, the M/V CALDAS loaded bags of coffee in apparent good order and condition at Buenaventura, Colombia ...

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