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SOUTHERN PAC. CO. v. UNITED STATES

April 29, 1929

SOUTHERN PAC. CO.
v.
UNITED STATES; THE EL ALBA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CAMPBELL

CAMPBELL, District Judge.

The two above-entitled suits arose out of a collision between the steamship El Alba and the United States government dredge Raritan, and, as the facts are the same in both, one opinion will suffice.

There is considerable conflict in the testimony on some points, but I have given great weight to the testimony of the disinterested witnesses Litchfield, Richcreek, Nelson, Moran, and Fink, and find as follows:

 On the afternoon of January 28, 1925, the steamship El Alba, 391 feet long, 48 feet beam, loaded with cargo, left pier No. 48, North River, Manhattan, bound for New Orleans.

 It was a clear day, but smoky, tide ebb, wind north.

 The El Alba proceeded down the North River, stopping and going astern to allow a ferryboat to cross her bow.

 When the El Alba was about on a line with Castle William, on the north end of Governors Island, and on the New Jersey side of the fairway bound down the channel, headed for Owl's Head buoy, she observed on her port bow the Raritan, a large hopper steam dredge, 290 feet long and 47 feet beam, a little east of the fairway, bound up the channel and angling somewhat to the New Jersey shore.

 The Raritan and the El Alba were practically end on, and the situation was a meeting one, requiring under the Inland Rules a port to port passage. The Amolco (C.C.A.) 283 F. 890; The Sabine Sun (D.C.) 21 F.2d 121; The Bilbster (C.C.A.) 6 F.2d 954; The La Bretagne (C.C.A.) 179 F.286; The Victory & The Plymothian, 168 U.S. 410, 18 S. Ct. 149, 42 L. Ed. 519.

 Those on the Raritan say she gave a two-blast signal when she first observed the El Alba, which, not being immediately answered, she, after a short interval, repeated, and, with the vessels in the positions stated, the El Alba answered with a two-blast signal.

 Whether the Raritan blew one or two of the two-blast signals is of small moment, because, until her two-whistle signal was answered by the El Alba with a two-whistle signal, it was the duty of the Raritan to pass the El Alba port to port, and the El Alba heard only one such signal, and that was the one she answered.

 The Raritan was bound for her dredging buoy below Ellis Island on the New Jersey side of the channel, and it was solely to save time and more easily make her buoy that she desired the starboard to starboard passage rather than the port to port passage.

 The Raritan had twin screws, but was very clumsy, very hard to steer, took long to come, answered slow, and was a contrary old thing, according to her pilot and master.

 These facts were known to the Raritan, and when by her two-whistle signal she indicated a starboard to starboard passage, she should have considered whether she had the ability to do her part in carrying out the maneuver. The Charles R. McCormick (D.C.) 15 F.2d 386; The Prometheus (D.C.) 14 F.2d 686; Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co. v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique (C.C.A.) 12 F.2d 337.

 The clumsiness of the Raritan was known to her own officers, but was not known to the officers of the El Alba, and the El Alba was not at fault in assenting to the Raritan's two-blast signal and attempting to carry out the proposal. Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co. v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, supra; The George L. Garlick (D.C.) 91 F. 920; The William H. Payne (D.C.) 20 F. 650; ...


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