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May 11, 1982


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECHTLE

This case, now before the Court for disposition on the issue of liability only, arose out of the collision on May 7, 1979 between a deep-draft tanker and a mooring buoy off the coast of Trinidad. What follows are the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law solely on the issue of liability. *fn1"

 Plaintiff Texaco Trinidad, Inc. ("Texaco Trinidad") was the owner and operator of a certain SPM buoy and refinery at Point-a-Pierre in Trinidad.

 On May 7, 1979, plaintiff Texaco Overseas Tankship, Ltd., was the voyage charterer of the AFRAN BREEZE, which is the ship owned by defendant Afran Transport Company. The AFRAN BREEZE at all times relevant to this case was a steel, single screw tanker of 9,540 deadweight tons, having sixteen cargo tanks and a bridge, quarters, and aft machinery. The vessel was powered by a diesel engine of 21,000 brake horsepower, and at all times relevant to this case, the AFRAN BREEZE was owned by defendant Afran Transport Company and registered under the flag of Liberia.

 At all relevant times as well, plaintiff Texaco International Trader, Inc. ("Trader") and plaintiff Texaco, Inc. ("Texaco") were the owners of various crude oil cargoes carried by vessels chartered or sub-chartered to Trader or Texaco and to be refined at a certain refinery located at and known as Texaco Trinidad. In some instances this cargo was trans-shipped to the United States.

 Now, on May 7, an important date in this case, Texaco Trader was the sub-voyage charterer of the AFRAN BREEZE. It also owned the cargo aboard the vessel at that time, which was cargo destined for Texaco Trinidad's installation in Trinidad.

 On that day, at approximately 0230 hours in the morning, the AFRAN BREEZE arrived at Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad, where she was to commence a discharge procedure. The discharge involved, in turn, a certain mooring procedure which would allow the cargo of crude oil to be delivered to its ultimate destination, the Texaco Trinidad refinery storage installation.

 The SPM buoy, which is a single point mooring buoy, is a buoy that is located offshore. It is intended to receive from tankers which are too large to moor alongside of a normal pier. This type of buoy is designed to allow those deep draft tankers and large tankers to unload under a procedure that permits the tanker to come near the buoy and hook up to the buoy. Its cargo can be unloaded through the buoy; and then, through a series of hoses and pieces, be transported to a shoreside location without the ship having to enter into a shallow setting where these large tankers simply cannot navigate when fully loaded. This ship was fully loaded at the time.

 This particular SPM buoy had two 24-inch diameter hoses for receiving the crude oil and one 12-inch diameter hose for supplying bunker or fuel oil to the vessel itself.

 The buoy in question in this case was located four and a half miles off the coast of Trinidad in approximately 88 feet of water. It was held in position by six mooring chains spaced in equal intervals around the buoy and extending approximately 700 feet out from the buoy, where these chains are then secured to pilings driven into the seabed. The pilings are approximately one hundred feet long and are driven into the seabed until the top of the piling is 70 feet below the level of the bottom. The cargo and the bunker hoses from the buoy are connected through an undersea manifold to fixed pipelines running along the ocean bottom, onto the shore, and into the refinery.

 At approximately 0330 hours on May 7, 1979, the AFRAN BREEZE anchored at the Point-a-Pierre anchorage, which is the first step in the procedure that would ultimately - as was expected and intended - bring the ship closer to the SPM buoy and indeed would allow the ship through certain maneuvers to allow its cargo to be discharged through the buoy in the mechanism that has previously been described by the Court.

 A little later on that day, at 1000 hours on May 7, 1979, Texaco Trinidad's SPM Coordinator, Percy Cruikshank, boarded the AFRAN BREEZE to explain the mooring operations at the SPM buoy to the vessel's chief officer and also to insure that the vessel's lines and mooring equipment were prepared for the anticipated mooring operation. The job of the SPM Coordinator, in addition to this introductory obligation, is also to advise a pilot during the mooring operation of the distance and bearing of the SPM buoy as requested by the pilot during the vessel's approach to the buoy. Further, at such time as the vessel will arrive at the buoy with the vessel stopped dead in the water, the mooring master would advise the chief mate with respect to taking the large mooring lines and securing them to the vessel. Thereafter the coordinator would direct the Texaco Trinidad rigging crew in the attachment of the cargo hoses to the manifold of the AFRAN BREEZE. *fn2"

 During the approach to the buoy, it was the duty of Cruikshank to communicate directly to the pilot the location of the buoy in relation to the vessel's bow. If based on certain observations certain vessel maneuvers are required, it would be the duty of, in this instance, Cruikshank on the bow and other representatives -- Mr. Duff and others -- in the water, through a coordinated effort, to allow the pilot to have a full knowledge of the relationship between the approaching vessel and the buoy.

 The principal figure on behalf of the plaintiffs on the bow of the ship was Mr. Cruikshank. And his principal role was to talk to, that is, communicate with, the pilot. The pilot in turn would then convey to the master or highest level official of the ship on the bridge a variety of orders, suggestions, and commands in order to assure that the vessel would approach the buoy in such a way as to allow the cargo to ...

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