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Tug New York Co. v. Doncaster

decided.: May 17, 1956.

THE TUG NEW YORK COMPANY, OWNER OF THE AGRAM,
v.
THE ROBIN DONCASTER, HER ENGINES, BOILERS, TACKLE, APPAREL, ETC., AND SEAS SHIPPING COMPANY, INC., OWNER AND OPERATOR OF THE ROBIN DONCASTER, APPELLANT. MATTER OF THE PETITION OF ROBERT B. WATHEN FOR EXONERATION FROM AND FOR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY, AS OWNER OF THE RUTH. SEAS SHIPPING COMPANY, INC., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS OWNER AND CLAIMANT OF THE ROBIN DONCASTER, APPELLANT. PETITION OF ROBERT B. WATHEN, AS OWNER OF THE RUTH FOR EXONERATION FROM AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. THE TUG NEW YORK COMPANY, OWNER OF THE AGRAM, APPELLANT.



Author: Staley

Before GOODRICH, McLAUGHLIN and STALEY, Circuit Judges.

STALEY, Circuit Judge.

This opinion considers three appeals (Nos. 11,606, 11,607, and 11,635) which have been taken from decrees entered by the district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, following a consolidated trial of three suits which resulted from a collision of vessels in the Delaware river involving the steamship Robin Doncaster, owned and operated by the Seas Shipping Company, Inc., and the barge Agram, owned by the Tug New York Company, which was being towed by the tug Ruth, owned and operated by Robert B. Wathen. Questions raised are whether one of the findings of fact is supported by the evidence in the record and whether certain inland rules of navigation governing the passing of vessels were properly applied. The relevant facts are taken from the district court's findings.

Just below Philadelphia, the Delaware river flows in an east-west direction for about two nautical miles. At the eastern end of this stretch, the channel curves in a north-northeasterly direction for three-fourths of a mile, then straightens out and continues for a distance of one and three-fourths miles in a north-northeasterly direction. At the nothern end of this one and three-fourth mile stretch, the channel curves in a north-northwesterly direction. The curved portion connecting the east-west segment with the north-northeast segment of the river is called Horseshoe Bend. An imaginary straight line three-fourths of a mile long in the center of the channel beginning at the southern end of the one and three-fourth mile stretch and going upriver is called East Horseshoe Range. The Windy Point Coal Pier is located on the western side of the channel, about six-tenths of a mile north of the southerly end of East Horseshoe Range.

At about eight o'clock on the night of January 9, 1952, the tug Ruth with the barge Agram lashed on her starboard side was traveling up the Delaware river (toward Philadelphia) slightly to the right of the center of the channel. As the flotilla approached the curve in the river at Horseshoe Bend, the steamship Mormacpenn, which was approximately 1200 feet astern and on the eastern edge of the channel, signaled for permission to pass the tug and tow. The Ruth did not answer but began to turn to her starboard, or the eastern side of the channel, in order to give the Mormacpenn room to pass on the port side. Meanwhile, the Doncaster was undocking from the northern side of Pier 98, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is located on the western side of the river about 1500 feet north of the point where the river curves in a north-northwesterly direction. After undocking, the Doncaster proceeded downriver on a course which brought her over to the east side of the channel so she could avoid a vessel anchored cross-wise just to the west of mid-channel four hundred feet below Pier 98. The district court's findings continue, as follows:

"After the tug and tow had proceeded up the river and to the right for a short distance, and were approaching East Horseshoe Range, the Ruth observed the Doncaster off her starboard bow proceeding on the eastern side of the channel at a distance of about 1 1/4 miles away and showing her green lights. Their courses were so far on the starboard of each other as not to be considered as meeting head and head. The Ruth then sheered slightly toward the center of the channel. The Mormacpenn, having observed the tug and tow's change of course, slowed down, and after proceeding for a short interval on the eastern edge of the channel, signaled with two short blasts indicating her willingness to pass the tug and tow on their starboard side. The Ruth did not respond to this signal either, but maintained her position slightly to the left of mid-channel as she approached or continued up East Horseshoe Range.

"Taking into account the position of the Doncaster on the east side of the channel and the Mormacpenn's second signal to pass on the starboard side, the Ruth gave a two-blast signal indicating that she desired to pass the Doncaster starboard to starboard. At the time there was sufficient room on the east side of the channel for the Doncaster to pass safely between the tug and tow and the Mormacpenn in the eastern side of the channel. In the meantime the Mormacpenn, aware of the Doncaster's position, stopped near the eastern edge of the channel to await development.

"* * * [The] Doncaster, which was traveling downstream at a speed of 6 to 7 knots, answered with a one blast signal indicating that she desired to pass port to port - as she began to turn to her starboard with a right rudder of from 10 to 15 degrees. This course was maintained by her for the next four minutes. At the time the Doncaster's rudder was first ordered right, the tug and tow were on her starboard bow and the distance between them was 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile.

"After the Doncaster's signal, the tug proceeded a short distance, and when she observed the Doncaster's direction, she gave the danger signal and two indicating that she still desired to pass on the starboard side and that it would be dangerous to do otherwise. At this time the Ruth reduced her engines to half speed.

"In response the Doncaster blew the danger signal and one indicating that she still desired to pass port to port. At the time the vessels were 1,500 feet apart.

"In answer to this signal, the tug gave the danger signal again. When the Doncaster continued on the same course, the tug reversed her engines full speed astern and signaled with three blasts that her engines were in reverse.

"When the tug and the vessel were approximately 500 feet apart, the pilot on the Doncaster ordered the rudder hard right.

"At 8:23 o'clock, when the vessels were 200 feet apart and in the vicinity of Windy Point Coal Pier, the Doncaster signaled that her engines were in reverse.

"However the Doncaster continued to move forward in a south-westerly direction, and at 8:23 1/2 her bow on the port side, about five feet from her stem, came into collision at an ...


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