The opinion of the court was delivered by: COXE
This is a proceeding brought by the Texas Company, as owner of the steam tug All American, for exoneration from, or limitation of liability for, the damages resulting from a collision on the morning of February 3, 1946, between the steamship Jagger Seam, owned by the United States, and the drawbridge of the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey spanning the Hackensack River at Kearny, New Jersey. In the proceeding a substantial claim was made on behalf of the Central Railroad of New Jersey for damage to the bridge, and this claim has been settled, and paid by the United States, under an arrangement with the Texas Company that the payment was without prejudice as between the Jagger Seam and the tug All American. There is also a claim by the United States for damage to the Jagger Seam. It has been stipulated by the parties that in the event the tug All American is held liable, it is entitled to limitation of liability.
The All American is a tug about 95.6 ft. long, 23.5 ft. beam; she was bound down the river with an empty oil barge, the Taxaco 402, in tow, made fast to her port side. The barge was about 210 ft. long and about 44 ft. beam. The Jagger Seam, also bound down the river, is a single-screw Liberty type vessel converted to a collier, about 2500 horsepower, 422.8 ft. long, 57 ft. beam, 6643 gross tonnage, 3740 net tonnage, and having a high superstructure- all aft and about 35 feet above the water. She was light, having water ballast only. Her draft was about 11 ft. 6 inches forward and 17 ft. 6 inches aft. Two tugs were in attendance, but neither one had any lines to the vessel.
The Hackensack River runs in a general southerly direction, with many curves. There are several bridges across the river, the last two, as one goes downstream, being the Lincoln Highway bridge and the Central Railroad of New Jersey bridge, the latter of which is a full half-mile below the Lincoln bridge. The Lincoln bridge is a double leaf Bascule type of bridge, i.e., it has two leaves, each of which is raised to open a draw of 150 feet in width between them. The Central bridge rests upon a center pier, and swings to open a draw passage of 94- 1/2 feet on each side of the pier. The Lincoln bridge is at a right angle to the channel, while the Central bridge is at a slight angle.
The channel is about 300 feet wide; it runs straight and at a right angle from the center of the draw in the Lincoln bridge to the center pier of the Central bridge; it then turns slightly to the west and broadens out. A mile or so farther downstream the Passaic River runs into the Hackensack. Adjoining the west end of the Central bridge and above the bridge, and to the west of the channel, are the Federal Shipyards at Kearny, where vessels 600 feet long, with a tonnage of 22,000 tons, were launched during the war. The depth of the water in front of the shipyards, for at least 700 feet along the river, is about the same as that in the channel.
The All American left Little Ferry, New Jersey, which is a considerable distance up the river, at about 9:00 AM on February 3, 1946, with the empty oil barge in tow, and proceeded downstream; at about 10:35 she passed the Jagger Seam, as the latter was undocking at the Koppers Coal dock on the west side of the river. After undocking, the Jagger Seam followed down the river. The weather was clear, with a strong northwest wind of about 35 miles an hour. The tide was ebb, with a force of from 1- 1/2 to 2 miles an hour.
The All American was proceeding at full speed of from 6 to 6- 1/2 miles an hour. After leaving the Koppers dock, the Jagger Seam proceeded at various speeds until 10:51 AM. She then proceeded at full speed from 10:51 to 10:55; at half speed from 10:55 to 11:05, and at full speed until 11:05- 1/2 . The collision occurred at 11:06. Full speed for the Jagger Seam, under the then prevailing conditions, was ...