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MACKEY v. UNITED STATES

October 29, 1948

MACKEY et al.
v.
UNITED STATES et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCOLLOCH

Findings of Fact

1. On March 23, 1943, various shippers at Cape Haitien, Haiti, loaded a quantity of coffee in bags on six lighters.

2. Respondent, Standard Fruit & Steamship Co., agents of the S.S. 'Yoro' and of respondent, United States of America, bareboat charterer of said S.S. 'Yoro,' had a representative at Cape Haitien and the master of the S.S. 'Yoro' dealt with that agent in relation to ship's business ashore.

 3. The parties agreed at the trial that respondent, Standard Fruit & Steamship Co., was an agent for respondent, United States of America, and in the event liability is established against the carrier, the United States of America is the party liable to pay for libellants' loss, that the action be dismissed, without costs, as against respondent, Standard Fruit & Steamship Co.

 4. On March 23, 1943, at about 1:30 P.M. the S.S. 'Yoro' came to anchor in the harbor of Cape Haitien about one-quarter mile from shore.

 5. Cape Haitien is an open port with no wharves and is exposed to northerly winds. Ships calling at that port are obliged to take on cargo in the roadstead. No tugs or motor boats are available and the practice is to send the cargo out in wooden lighters, propelled by oars or pulled by row boats.

 6. The lighters were 37 feet long, 18 feet wide, and had approximately 2 feet of freeboard, after loading.

 7. The lighterage from shore to vessel was arranged and paid for by the shippers.

 8. There were four men on each lighter whose services were paid for by the shippers. These lightermen went out on the lighters to place the bags of coffee into the ship's slings preparatory to being hoisted to the ship's deck.

 9. Four gangs of longshoremen, employed by respondent, United States of America, went aboard the vessel to await the arrival of the lighters.

 10. The lighters with tarpaulins over their cargo arrived alongside the 'Yoro' about one hour after she had anchored.

 11. At the time the 'Yoro' anchored and at the time of arrival of the lighters alongside the vessel the sea was calm, with a wind force of 2 on the Beaufort Scale, with weather overcast.

 12. A supercargo, an agent of respondent, United States of America, designated the part of the ship the lighters were to tie up to.

 13. The lighters were made fast to the port side of the vessel by 4 inch lines; one at the bow and one at the stern.

 14. The lines were fastened to the 'Yoro's' bitts by the longshoremen employed by respondent, United States of America.

 15. The transfer of coffee from the lighters to the ship began at 4 P.M., the lightermen placing the bags of coffee into slings and the longshoremen hoisting them to the deck of the 'Yoro' with the ship's gear.

 16. There was a northerly wind blowing and the ship was headed into the wind.

 17. One lighter was moored at the bow on the port side alongside of No. 1 hatch. This lighter was in the most exposed position.

 18. Loading was stopped at 4:35 P.M. because of a squall which, the master testified, came up suddenly, accompanied by a strong northerly breeze having a wind force of 7 on the Beaufort Scale (40 miles an hour), with rain and a very rough sea.

 19. The lighters had been secured to the ship about one hour prior to the storm and loading had been in progress 35 minutes before the storm, during the course of which cargo had been transferred from each of the lighters to the 'Yoro' by ship's gear operated by longshoremen in the employ of respondent, United States of America.

 20. The wind and sea caused the lighters to take heavy spray over their sides and they started to fill up.

 21. The lighter at No. 1 hatch sank at 7:15 P.M., while the master was standing by the ship's rail.

 22. The storm was over at 7:15 P.M. on March 23, 1943. Throughout the period of the storm of two hours and forty minutes, the master saw the lighter at No. 1 hatch, as well as the other lighters, taking water over their sides.

 23. Each lighter was equipped with a hand pump which was sufficient only to control rainwater and inadequate to cope with sea water coming over the lighters' sides.

 24. The sole cause of the sinking of the lighter opposite No. 1 hatch was the water taken ...


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