The opinion of the court was delivered by: MANSMANN
Plaintiff Dravo Mechling Corporation
brought this action as a result of the buckling and sinking of its barge. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Standard Terminals, Inc. improperly loaded the barge, thereby causing it to buckle. The case was tried before this Court nonjury.
We hereby make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a):
Plaintiff Dravo Mechling Corporation has its principal place of business at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At all times material herein, Union Mechling Corporation, or its successor, Dravo Mechling Corporation, was the owner of the Barge UMC-1140.
Defendant Standard Terminals, Inc. has its principal place of business at New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Defendant handles truck, rail and river traffic. The loading and unloading of barges are among its operations. Defendant has a loading dock on the Allegheny River near New Kensington.
In April 1979, Plaintiff entered into a contract of carriage with Bethlehem Steel Corporation ("Bethlehem Steel") under which Plaintiff agreed to transport manganese ore provided by Bethlehem Steel.
The ore was to be transported in bulk, by barge from New Kensington to Calvert City, Kentucky.
From April through the period in question, the ore was delivered to Defendant's terminal at New Kensington on a twice-weekly basis. Specifically, the ore was dumped onto a pad next to Defendant's crane. Plaintiff would drop off one of its barges at the terminal site near Defendant's hoist. Defendant would load the ore from the dock into the barge. Upon notification, Plaintiff would pick up the loaded barge.
The barges were selected by Plaintiff. Defendant, however, as a matter of standard practice, inspected the barges before loading them. Several times, Defendant's inspection resulted in repairs of a barge, performed either by Plaintiff or by Defendant.
Plaintiff did not participate in the loading of cargo into the barges. Defendant, on the other hand, did not participate in the transportation of the cargo once the barges were picked up by Plaintiff.
On August 27, 1979, Plaintiff delivered the Barge UMC-1140 ("1140") to Defendant's loading dock.
The 1140 was a steel-welded, jumbo hopper barge with eight covers. The barge was 195 feet long, 35 feet wide and 11 feet from its gunwales to its bottom exterior hull plates. It had a rake end and a box stern. The barge was approximately 20 years old in 1979.
The 1140 was seaworthy and in sound condition at the time of its delivery to Defendant's dock. The barge had no notable defects or problems and it was sitting level in the water. Indeed, the evidence indicates that the 1140 was in "above average" condition at the time. The barge could withstand the normal rigors of loading and towing. Moreover, it was fit for the service intended by Plaintiff.
Defendant did not object to the 1140 after inspecting it nor is there any evidence that any repairs were found necessary. Defendant's employees proceeded to load the barge with 1456 net tons of manganese ore. The loading began on August 27 and was completed the following day. After loading the barge, Defendant's employees closed all of the covers that had been opened during the loading process.
At Plaintiff's request, Imperial Towing, Inc. ("Imperial Towing") dispatched a vessel, the M/V Sunflower ("Sunflower"), to Defendant's landing to pick up the loaded Barge UMC-1140.
The Sunflower picked up the barge at approximately 9:30 p.m. on August 29, 1979 and ...