The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCGOHEY
These four causes which were tried together arise from the following event which, it is conceded, occurred at about 1:45 A.M. on January 15, 1953. The lighter Koala while tied up during calm weather alongside the vessel Houffalize in the slip south of Pier 14, New York, in the North River, careened against the vessel and cast her cargo of 442 tons of steel. This had been discharged several hours earlier from the vessel whose owner had chartered the lighter. Damage resulted to the lighter and the vessel. All of the cargo except three packets of reinforcing rods was salvaged. Some of this was damaged.
Petterson, the owner of the lighter, petitioned for exoneration from, or limitation of, liability. In that proceeding Amerlux, the cargo owner, filed a claim for the lost and damaged cargo and Compagnie Maritime Belge, the vessel owner, filed claims for damage to its vessel and the cost of salvaging the steel.
Thereafter the other suits were commenced. The cargo owner sued the vessel, her owner and Transoceanic Terminal Corporation, the stevedores, and the vessel owner impleaded the stevedores. The lighter owner sued the vessel owner and its agent for the damage to the lighter and they impleaded the stevedores. The vessel owner sued the cargo owner for the cost of salvage.
Amerlux Steel Products Corporation is a New York corporation engaged in the importation and sale of steel products. It has an office and place of business at 100 Park Avenue, New York City. It was the owner and consignee of the steel which had been carried, under four bills of lading, from Antwerp, Belgium, aboard the M/V Houffalize.
Petterson Lighterage and Towing Corporation is a New York corporation with a principal office and place of business at 44 Whitehall Street, New York City. It is the owner of the Koala, a wooden lighter.
Compagnie Maritime Belge (Lloyd Royal) S.A. is a Belgian corporation with its principal place of business in Antwerp. It is engaged in the business of common carriage of goods by water for hire. It is the owner of the Houffalize. It berthed and discharged its vessels at Pier 14 North River, which it leased from the City of New York. The lease required the vessel owner at its own expense to maintain a depth of 30 feet below mean low water in the waters adjacent to the pier. On January 27, 1953, the city called upon the vessel owner to remove the steel from the slip. All parties to these causes, except Amerlux, agreed that the steel should be removed 'for the account of whom it may concern.' The vessel owner had this done.
Shortly before the vessel's arrival it was decided, because of crowded conditions on the pier, to discharge the steel onto a lighter. This arrangement made it possible to commence reloading the No. 2 hold from the pier as soon as discharge of the steel was completed at 5:30 P.M. on January 14.
Atlantic Overseas Corporation,
a New York corporation with an office and place of business at 63 Broad Street, New York City, was the agent of the vessel owner. On January 12, 1953, on behalf of the vessel owner, it effected on oral harbor demise charter of the Koala for an indefinite period under the terms of the usual oral New York harbor charter.
Transoceanic Terminal Corporation is a New York corporation with an office and place of business at 63 Broad Street, New York City. It is engaged in the business of stevedoring on vessels operated, managed or controlled by Conpagnie Maritime Belge. It unloaded the steel from the vessel and stowed it on the lighter.
The cargo consisted of: (a) 329 packets of deformed steel reinforcing bars, each packet was 40 feet long and eight inches in diameter; (b) 19 steel I beams, each measuring 24 inches by 60 feet and having flanges 7-1/4 inches high; (c) 23 steel I beams, each measuring 24 inches by 60 feet, having flanges 7 inches high; (d) 28 steel I beams, each measuring 20 inches by 60 feet, having flanges 6-1/4 inches high. The total weight of the shipment was 442 long tons.
The lighter had a carrying capacity of 600 tons. Her dimensions were: net and gross registered tonnage 295; length 105 feet; breadth 34.7 feet; depth 8.2 feet.
The lighter was at least thirty-five years old at the time of the accident.
The careening of the lighter in calm weather while tied up to the vessel and carrying far less than her capacity created a presumption of unseaworthiness.
Petterson attempted to rebut this presumption by evidence purporting to show that the lighter was regularly inspected and kept in good repair and that the careening resulted from improper stowage or negligence of the vessel's officers or both. The negligence alleged was that the officers left the forward starboard boom at the No. 2 hatch swung out over the ship's rail during the night, resulting in damage to the lighter which caused it to careen. The attempted rebuttal, as will appear, failed in all respects. Indeed, even without benefit of the presumption, unseaworthiness was clearly established by other evidence, particularly the testimony of the lighter captain.
Accordingly, Petterson will be held primarily liable without limitation for the lost and damaged cargo, the cost of removing it from the slip and the damage to the vessel. The vessel owner will be held secondarily liable to the cargo owner because, as bailee of the cargo, it was negligent, as will appear, in failing to inspect the ...