The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
The libelant's gas hoist lighter, being in tow of the tug LT-233 owned and operated by the United States, was caused to collide with the S. S. Ocean Valor moored port side to the south side of Pier 4, Brooklyn, near the outshore end of the pier, on the afternoon of January 19, 1943, sustaining damage for which recovery is sought in this cause, which is both in rem and in personam.
The facts are scarcely in dispute and may be thus capitulated:
1. Ownership and operation as pleaded are stipulated.
2. The tug (size and horse-power not stated in the testimony but informally represented after the trial to be 110' by 25' by 12.2'; 805 horse-power) took the C.R.N.J. barge No. 218 (80' by 30') and the L.V. gas hoist No. 477 (106' by 33') in tow on January 19, 1943, at about 3:00 P.M., E.W.T., out of the slip between Piers 3 and 4, Brooklyn, for the purpose of shifting them from the bulkhead inshore, to the end of Pier 4; both vessels were light, drawing about 2 feet of water.
3. The tug backed out of the slip, having two bow lines (size undisclosed) out about 25 feet from the tug to the respective stern bitts at the stern corners of the No. 218 which was being towed stern foremost; the latter was close-coupled at the bow, to the bow of the L.V. No. 477.
4. At about the end of Pier 4 the tug let go the bow line leading from her port side to the port stern bitt of the No. 218, intending to wind the tow around the end of Pier 4, and make both vessels fast abreast, outside of two scows already at the pier end.
5. In order to accomplish the foregoing purpose, the L.V. No. 477 had to be brought close enough to the said pier end to enable her to put a line on one of the scows lying there, which, when secured, would have accomplished the first step in the desired result.
6. As the maneuver was conducted, the No. 477 was not brought sufficiently close to the said pier end or to the said scows to permit of a line's being so handled, and the tow passed obliquely off the pier end, the only towing line then being one bow line leading from the tug's starboard bow to the starboard stern post of the No. 218.
7. In this shape, the tug first started ahead, intending apparently to push the tow back into the slip, but that movement was arrested, perhaps to avoid the collision which actually took place, and the tug started astern again, whereupon the said bow line parted under the strain thus imposed, leaving the barges free to move as best they could.
8. The No. 477 promptly fetched under the stern of the S.S. Ocean Valor, striking hard enough to sustain the damage complained of.
9. Piers 3 and 4 are about 1300 feet long, and extend in a northwesterly direction from the shore front; the width of the slip between these piers is about 300 feet.
10. The S.S. Ocean Valor (estimated beam 50 feet) lay alongside Pier 4 as stated, reducing the width of the slip for present purposes.
11. There was another vessel lying halfway up the slip alongside Pier 3, and her beam, added to that of the Ocean Valor, left not less than 200 feet width of the slip available to the ...