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SCINDIA STEAM NAV. CO. v. STANDARD OIL CO.

April 28, 1954

SCINDIA STEAM NAV. CO.
v.
STANDARD OIL CO. (N.J.) et al. STANDARD OIL CO. (N.J.) v. THE JALAKETU et al. FEDERAL INS. CO. et al. v. STANDARD OIL CO. (N.J.) et al. THE MARINE LEADER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCGOHEY

On May 1, 1949, at approximately 5:21 P.M., the S.S. Marine Leader, a T-2 type tanker owned pro hac vice by the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, while outward bound, in ballast, from New York was in collision in New York Harbor with the anchored and heavily laden S.S. Jalaketu, Indian registry, owned by Scindia Steam Navigation Co., Ltd.

Scindia's claim is that during a heavy fog The Jalaketu was anchored in an area appropriate for anchorage, seven-eighths of a mile due east of buoy 2A at the seaward entrance to Ambrose Channel and well north of the northern boundary of the channel extension, and was sounding the required signals; that the outward bound Marine Leader through faulty navigation and seamanship was proceeding down the inbound side of the channel on a wrong course and at a rate of speed which under the existing conditions was at least immoderate; that her course took her out of the channel and north of buoy 2A and into the area where The Jalaketu lay; that by reason of her failure to maintain an alert watch, she did not hear or heed The Jalaketu's anchor signals and ran into her port side at about number 5 hold which became flooded, with consequent damage to the cargo there stowed.

Scindia Steam Navigation Co., Ltd. (hereafter called Scindia), as owner of The Jalaketu, filed a libel against the S.S. Marine Leader in rem, and against the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey in personam, as owner pro hac vice. Standard filed a cross libel against The Jalaketu in rem, demanding, in addition to its own damages, any which might be recoverable from The Marine Leader or its owner by the owners of cargo on board The Jalaketu. Federal Insurance Company, et al., as parties interested in this cargo, filed a libel against Standard in personam, and The Marine Leader in rem. Standard thereupon filed an impleading petition against Scindia and The Jalaketu. All suits have been consolidated for trial.

 The numbered paragraphs contain the Court's findings of fact.

 1. The S.S. Jalaketu is a single-screw cargo vessel of 7,180 gross tons, 441 1/2 feet in length, 57 feet beam, 37 feet moulded depth; and at all the times herein mentioned was owned and operated by The Scindia Steam Navigation Company, Ltd.

 2. The S. S. Marine Leader is a single-screw T-2 tanker, 10,172 gross tons, 504 feet in length, 68 feet 2 inches beam; and at all the times herein mentioned was being operated by the Standard Oil Company (N.J.) as owner pro hac vice.

 3. The various libellants in A. 162-304 are the owners and/or parties in interest of The Jalaketu's cargo which was damaged in part in the collision.

 4. The parties have treated the channel extension seaward of buoys 2A and 1A as part of the channel itself for all practical purposes. It is so marked on the charts and it is customary to make the approach to the harbor from Ambrose Light Vessel along a stated course which is that of the center range of the channel itself. It is conceded that on May 1, 1949 low water at the Battery was at 3:54 P.M. *fn1"

 5. At 1:26 The Jalaketu inbound from Ambrose Light Vessel embarked Captain Donnelly, a Sandy Hook Pilot, somewhere between Ambrose Light Vessel and Gedney sea buoy. By the time she reached the sea buoy, fog had closed in but she continued up the channel extension on the assigned channel course of 297 degrees True. At 2:00 the pilot observed the channel entrance buoy 2A about 100 feet to port, either abeam or just off the port bow. Since the buoy would normally have been to his starboard, he concluded that he had already crossed the northern boundary of the channel. To continue on this northwesterly course would very shortly have brought him into water too shallow for his vessel which drew 26 feet. He therefore determined to seek a safe anchorage to the N.E. of buoy 2A until the fog cleared enough to enable him safely to proceed up the channel.

 6. The vessel was backed off from the buoy and brought around hard right. She then proceeded to anchorage which was effected at 2:21. The tide, then about four hours old and running S.E. at approximately 2.5 knots, tended to set The Jalaketu back into the channel extension. As shown in her bell book, between 2:00 and 2:21, there were 9 1/2 minutes of stern motion, 8 1/2 minutes when the engines were stopped and 3 minutes full ahead. Her speed at full ahead was about 10 knots. At that speed, in three minutes she would travel only one-half mile. As is conceded, stern action in a single-screw vessel such as The Jalaketu has the effect of swinging the stern to port and the bow to starboard. The joint effect of the stern action and the tide was to bring The Jalaketu back into the channel extension and heading N. or perhaps even N.E. The added effect of the hard right rudder and rounding to put The Jalaketu during the three minutes of forward motion on a heading almost parallel to that of the channel.

 7. She anchored with four and a half shackles of chain in the water. Immediately after anchorage with The Jalaketu laying out on her chain, her stern was approximately 800 feet from the anchor's position and, due to the state of the tide, the ship was heading approximately 315 degrees and tailing just slightly toward the fairway. No attempt was made to fix her approximate position by taking radio bearings, although facilities to do so were available.

 8. During the next two hours the tide went from ebb to slack, and at the time of collision the flood was just beginning. By that time The Jalaketu had swung on her anchor to a northeasterly heading, roughly perpendicular to the channel course. Therefore unless her anchor had been dropped at a point more than 800 feet north of the northern boundary of the channel extension, The Jalaketu of necessity must have been at least partially in the fairway at collision, although concededly at 2:21 when anchorage was effected she may have been clear of the fairway because of the then state of the tide.

 The Jalaketu's pilot and master 'estimated' that her anchored position was a point 7/8 of a mile due east of buoy 2A. However, as has been found, no attempt had been made to fix her anchorage position. This mere estimate is rejected. It is inconsistent with the vessel's action as recorded in the bell book, and testified to by the pilot and master. Moreover, as has been found, the vessel was incapable of traveling more than one-half mile in the three minutes of forward motion with her engines at full ahead.

 9. The Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa fixed The Jalaketu's position by radar at 10:30 as only 750 yards due east of buoy 2A. However, the operator conceded that radar fixes are subject to some error -- in practice an error of a mile is arbitrarily assumed -- although he said he thought he could operate within 100 yard accuracy. On this occasion, as he admitted, he did not follow the most precise procedure for fixing a vessel's position.

 10. By 10:30 the tide, approximately one-half hour after high, had swung The Jalaketu to a heading somewhat between S.E. and S. At that time the distance from her stern to the anchor's position had been shortened to about 600 feet because immediately after the collision she had taken in two and a half shackles of chain.

 11. Measuring 600 feet from the stern of The Jalaketu, as fixed by the Coast Guard, along a southeasterly course, would determine where the anchor had been dropped. Then measuring 800 feet from that position along a course reciprocal to her 45 degree heading at the time of collision, would put her stern approximately on the northern boundary extension. However, a slight error in the radar fix or in the assumed heading used for plotting purposes would place her either further south into the channel extension or farther to the north of it.

 12. The testimony of the captain of The Moran tug is too vague to be of help except that it corroborates that at 10:30 The Jalaketu was north of the channel extension. The same is true of the visual bearing taken by the cadet third officer of The Jalaketu. It was taken in haste, apparently incorrectly recorded, and then corrected by the master who assumed it was a reverse bearing, but who did not check it.

 13. The acceptable testimony of The Jalaketu is too equivocal to support a finding as to the vessel's true position at the time of collision. The variables are so numerous and minute differences in distances so pertinent that the testimony might as well support a finding that she ...


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