The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
These causes present the question of liability for a collision between the government-owned and operated northbound, laden steamship Jared Ingersoll and a tow which was off Governor's Island, headed toward the Statute of Liberty upper bay, on September 21, 1942, at about 2:56 a.m. war time.
The tow consisted of the tug John Murray, having the loaded wooden sand scows Arthur McCabe, to port, and Bam to starboard, alongside. The McCabe was cut in two by the Ingersoll; the Bam was caused to capsize, and the tug was damaged on her starboard side from contact with the Bam.
The John Murray is an 800 h.p. diesel tug, 90.40 feet long and 20.2 feet in beam, and drew about 9 feet.
The scows were about 114 feet by 34 feet, with an inside depth of about 9 feet. As fully loaded, the cargoes were about 9 feet in depth, leaving the scows with little freeboard midships. The tow had come out of the East River and was bound for Port Richmond, Staten Island.
The night was clear, i.e., visibility was good, light clouds veiling the moon at times. The tide was at last of the ebb in the North River, estimated at about one mile; the wind was out of the north, with hourly average velocity of 24 miles between 2 and 3 a.m.
The tow and the steamship both displayed regulation lights which were bright and showing. The make-up of the tow was conventional; that is, the scows toed in ahead of the bow of the tug, and the stern of the latter was about 30 feet aft of the stern-ends of the scows. Since the latter were laden, the pilot-house of the tug was high enough, above the top of the cargoes laden on the scows, to enable the navigator of the tug to have ample and unobstructed view in all quarters.
The Ingersoll was one member of a convoy and was following a similar vessel ahead, the Pickering, at about 1800 feet, and the latter was some 300 feet westerly or about 3 points on the port bow of the Ingersoll, as they moved northerly to an uptown anchorage in the North River.
The Ingersoll is a Liberty vessel, i.e., a single-screw steamship, 441 feet in length by 54 feet in beam, and as laden drew 28 feet.
The facts are not in substantial dispute: It is common ground that the Murray blew a 2-whistle signal to the Pickering as the tow was less than half a mile off the Pickering's starboard bow, when the latter was about abreast of the north light on Governor's Island, which signal was answered, since the heading of the tow was such that obviously she would pass under the Pickering's stern.
For some reason, the Ingersoll then blew two blasts, to assert that she inter-preted the tug's two blasts as indicating a starboard passing with the Ingersoll. That was not heard by the Murray and so was unanswered, and the tow held her course and speed as the privileged unit in a crossing situation, blowing two successive one-blast signals to the Ingersoll after a short interval so to indicate. These were not answered, but shortly after the second the Ingersoll blew three blasts, the backing signal, when danger of collision was evident, and her engines were put into reverse. The tug at once did likewise, and then cast her stern lines to the scows, so as to avoid being squeezed when the then inevitable contact should take place. In other words, neither vessel at any time blew an alarm.
These several causes ensued.
In the first, the owner of the Bam and her captain sue the United States as owner of the Jared Ingersoll, under the Suits in Admiralty Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 741 et seq.; answer was filed, which alleged fault of the diesel tug John Murray in failing to adhere to her own 2-blast signal, and impleading the tug and her owner. The latter filed claim to the tug and answered, alleging the Ingersoll's failure to navigate properly as the burdened vessel in a crossing situation.
The second cause is the same in all respects, save that it was brought by the owner and the captain of the scow Arthur McCabe.
The third cause is that of the owner of the cargoes of sand and gravel laden on the scows, and also the tug John Murray, against the United States as owner of the Jared Ingersoll, under the Suits in Admiralty Act; it seeks recovery for loss of cargo and damage to the Murray, alleging the same fault on the part of the Ingersoll as in the first cause; the answer asserts the same ...