The opinion of the court was delivered by: CANNELLA
CANNELLA, District Judge.
Libel to recover damages sustained by the libellant, South, Inc., as a result of the loss of her vessel, the ferry Vega, while in the tow of the respondent's tug Christine Moran, is dismissed.
Decree on cross-libel, by Moran Towing & Transportation Co., Inc., to recover its damages due to the aforementioned loss shall be entered.
The instant action was submitted to the court solely on the issue of liability. Since the court finds that liability has been established on the cross-libel, the question of damages is reserved for the determination of a commissioner.
The court finds jurisdiction over all aspects of the action.
The within action was tried before this court, without a jury. The taking of evidence was concluded on March 25, 1965.
The libellant, South, Inc., is a corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the state of Florida. Respondent, Moran Towing & Transportation Co., Inc., is a corporation incorporated under the laws of the state of New York. Tug Claire A. Moran, Inc., the claimant, is the corporate owner of the tug Christine Moran.
On January 5, 1961, the libellant purchased three ferries from Sunrise Ferries, Inc. for a total cost of $60,000. The vessels purchased were the Vega, the Deneb and the Altair. Each of these ships was substantially identical in its construction. The physical dimensions of the Vega, noted by stipulation in the pre-trial order, were as follows: 84 gross tons; registered length 61.9 feet; registered breadth 38.9 feet; registered depth 8.0 feet. The Vega was built at Port Richmond, New York in 1946.
South, Inc. and Moran Towing & Transportation Co., Inc. entered into a contract of towage on January 9, 1961. Respondent agreed to furnish a seagoing tug to tow the three vessels from New York to Norfolk, Virginia. Agreement was made to take the ferries in a single tow to their destination. As part of the towage contract, libellant was required to fit out and maintain the three ferries for towage in a sufficient and proper manner. The arrangements included the installation of lights and compliance with all additional requirements of the underwriters' surveyors.
Prior to the execution of the towage contract, libellant had sought to obtain insurance. The underwriters appointed Edward Ferenczy, a marine surveyor, to examine the vessels and submit any recommendations required to prepare the ferries for the tow. Ferenczy's inspection of the Vega indicated some pitting, although no excessive corrosion, which caused some misgivings over the condition of the Vega's plating. For this reason, he recommended that she be drydocked for further examination. Libellant did not drydock the Vega and insurance coverage was refused.
The surveyor Ferenczy also detailed recommendations for the installation of equipment aboard the vessels to best effectuate the proposed make-up of the tow. As a result, two six foot long angle irons were welded to the deck of the Vega, one on either side of amidships, each with a hole in either end. The towing hawser was to be secured to a bridle and the two ends of the bridle were to be shackled in the holes nearest the bow. The intermediate hawser from the Vega to the Deneb, next in line in the flotilla, was to be secured in the same manner. Coastal Dry Dock & Repair Co. was engaged by the libellant to perform the necessary preparations which included boarding up of her windows and closing up of the deck and hull openings.
At the time the contract of towage was discussed and signed, the then vice-president of the libellant, Gordon Duke, engaged in conversation with Captain Leonard Goodwin who was operations manager for the respondent. Duke noted the character of the ferries to Goodwin and requested that the vessels be towed at a prudent speed. No specific recommendations of speed were mentioned by Duke and the manner of towage was left to the competence of the respondent.
The respondent assigned the tug Christine Moran to carry out the contract. The tug was 96.3 feet in length, 25.2 feet in width and 12 feet in depth. She was powered by a diesel electric engine of 1100 horsepower and had been placed into service during the 1950's.
The events of the voyage itself, beginning on the evening of January 10, 1961, were related to the court by two witnesses, Rodney Jones, Master of the Christine Moran and John Blaha, her First Mate. Due to the positioning of the three ferries at the Coastal Dry Dock & Repair Co. yard, the tug Claire Moran took the Vega in tow and turned her over to the Christine Moran at the Narrows. The Christine Moran had already taken the Deneb and the Altair in tow and when she rendezvoused ...