The opinion of the court was delivered by: RYAN
This suit in the Admiralty grows out of a collision between the motor vessel Salawati and the steamship Gateway City in Gibraltar Harbor, on May 21, 1943.
The libel and complaint have been filed by N. V. Stoomvaart Maatschappij 'Nederland', as owner of the Salawati against Waterman Steamship Corporation Inc., as owner, and the United States of America, as requisition owner and operator of the Gateway City, to recover for the damage sustained by the Salawati.
At the trial, suit was discontinued by libelant against the United States of America.
Libelant is a corporation existing under the laws of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, having its principal place of business within this district. It was the owner of the Salawati which up to the time of collision was tight, staunch, strong and in all respects seaworthy. Respondent is an Alabama corporation having its place of business in this district. It was the owner of the Gateway City, a merchant vessel.
The Salawati is a motor vessel 420.9 feet long 54.7 feet beam and 33.5 feet deep of hold; 8 cylinders 26 3/4 by 47 1/4 . She arrived at Gibraltar Harbor on May 17, 1943. At 9:17 a.m. she was boarded by an official British naval pilot, proceeded under his pilotage to anchorage in the Bay of Gibraltar and anchored close to shore in an officially designated berth. Her starboard anchor was paid out in 32 fathoms of water, bearing of Europa Point 141 degrees, Carnero Point 188 degrees; draft forward 20 1/2 feet, and aft 22 1/2 feet. The Salawati remained in the same anchorage until after the collision.
The Gateway City is a steam turbin vessel 440 feet long. She arrived at Gibraltar Harbor on May 19, 1943, as part of a twenty ship convoy from Port of Oran, Africa. Upon arrival, an official British naval pilot boarded her and directed her to an officially designated berth where she anchored at about 10 a.m. The master of the ship protested to the pilot, objecting that the berth was too close to another vessel. The pilot refused to shift her to another anchorage, stating that he was without authority to change the location of the assigned anchorage. Later, on the same day, the master of the Gateway City communicated his objection to the British Naval Control Authorities, and a second official pilot came aboard and shifted the vessel to another berth where she dropped anchor in 15 fathoms and paid out about 45 fathoms of chain. This anchorage was at a point about 1,400 feet off shore just below Punto Mayorga. The Salawati lay close by about 6 points off the starboard bow of the Gateway City, forward of her beam. The Master of the Gateway again protested to the Naval Control about the proximity of the anchorage and requested a further change. This request for another anchorage was denied.
At the time, Gibraltar Harbor was crowded there being more than 75 vessels anchored there. The anchorages were assigned by the British Admiralty in such a way as to afford, in their judgment, the maximum protection from hostile aircraft, submarines and mines laid by small craft and swimmers.
The tidal flow inside the Strait causes a current to sweep into the harbor. The currents here are quite strong and without definite direction or trend; they are contrary and frequently run in a circular or rotary motion. They have a peculiar and varying character also occasioned by the irregularity of the bottom of the harbor, which varies in depth from 70 fathoms to shallow water.
On three or four occasions, following the afternoon of May 19, 1943 when the Gateway City came to anchor, she and the Salawati swung with the tide and currents in opposite directions clearing with ample leeway. It was not until the late afternoon of May 21, 1943, after more than 48 hours, that the vessels came in contact.
The weather was clear, the sun shining and there were no strong
winds prevailing at the time.
Aboard the Gateway City on the afternoon of May 21, 1943, we find the following activities recorded by the second mate on the right-hand page of the rough log for that day: (libelant's Exhibit 6)
'4:50 ch, Eng. 2nd Mate tested and examined steering gear, telegraph, telephone, whistled Voice Tube. All in good order and ...