The opinion of the court was delivered by: JUDD
This case, tried without a jury, presents the claim of a longshoreman who was hit in the back of the head and neck by pieces of rigging when the inshore pendant of a cargo boom parted. He charges the vessel, the S. S. Kathryn of Bull Lines, with unseaworthiness and negligence. The vessel in turn seeks indemnity and attorneys' fees from the longshoreman's employer, International Terminal Operators Co., Inc. (I.T.O.).
Liability as between the vessel and I.T.O. depends on whether the pendant broke simply because the steel cable forming the pendant had rusted away, or whether the break was caused by a "tug-of-war" resulting from improper application of force to the rigging.
The accident occurred in the afternoon of December 1, 1960, while the jumbo boom at the No. 4 hatch was being used to load containers, vans of about eight or nine tons weight.
Consideration of the evidence must begin with a description of the rigging involved in the accident. The boom in use was at the inshore (port) side of the aft end of the No. 4 hatch.
The lateral movement of the boom was provided by two electric winches located at the forward end of the hatch, and connected to the head of the boom by manila ropes leading to steel cables, sometimes termed guy pendants. A manila rope of 1 1/8 inch diameter, ran from each winch, through a snatch-block located near the forward corner of the hatch, one on the port side and one on the starboard. The rope went from these blocks, along the deck, to other snatch-blocks located near the aft corners of the hatch, and then through a block and tackle arrangement which was attached to the lateral guy pendants, each approximately 15 feet long, made of 7/8ths inch steel cable. These pendants were permanently attached to the boom. One reason for having a steel cable at the head of the boom was to permit shorter parts in the block and tackle, which operates in accordion fashion to pull the boom over or to release it.
The two winches at the forward end of the hatch are placed three or four feet from one another, and can be operated by a single individual. Testimony was unanimous that proper procedure for slewing a boom is to have the winch which is not applying the lateral force pay out the rope fast enough so that no stress develops between the lateral guys, and slowly enough so that no coils accumulate on the deck. Proper coordination of the two winches is an art.
The controllers or handles of the two winch motors are upright in neutral, and can be moved forward from one to five notches to pay out line or backward to take in line. When the controller is brought to neutral, a brake is automatically set on the winch-drum by electricity. This can stop the line instantly.
Although the evidence is in conflict, I find that it was good practice to have one man operate the two forward winches.
There are cradles on the deck, in which each boom can be placed when it is lowered to a horizontal position.
Diagrams submitted by the parties helped to explain the arrangement to the court.
The S. S. Kathryn was a C-2 vessel, of World War II vintage, but the jumbo booms for container loading were added in late 1959, and began operations early in 1960.
These additional facts will be referred to in the discussion.
1. A force of not more than a few hundred pounds was sufficient to move the unloaded boom laterally.
2. In good condition, 1 1/8ths inch manila rope will break at about 12,000 pounds stress, and 7/8ths inch wire rope at about 46,500 pounds. The safe working load of rope components is considered to be one fifth of the breaking strength. There is thus no question that, if in good condition, the materials were adequate for the job.
3. The 7/8ths inch cable was made of six cables of 19 strands each.
4. One of libellant's jobs as signalman was to coordinate the operation of the winches.
Operations on the Day of the Accident
During the morning of December 1, 1960, a gang of stevedores had been at work loading general cargo into the No. 4 hatch, using a boom at the forward end of the hatch. The ship's crew then set up the port jumbo boom for loading containers, and the longshoremen put the snatch-blocks in position and ran the guy lines into the forward winch-drums.
The United States Department of Labor's Safety and Health Regulations for Longshoremen require that stevedores inspect the gear they are to use. The guy pendant, however, stands about fifty feet above the deck, at the top of the boom, and the boom was not lowered. It is clear that no on-deck inspection was made.
Loading of containers began after the jumbo boom was rigged, and one van was loaded without any difficulty.
The port jumbo boom was swung over the pier, and a loaded container was lifted, moved over the hatch, and placed on board in the tween-decks. Libellant watched the loading operation, standing near the coaming of the hatch. When the container was properly stowed, he signalled the aft winchman (who controlled the vertical movement of the boom) to raise the topping-lift and the cargo-runner, so that the hook would clear the deck rail when the boom was returned to pick up the next container.
When the hook was in position, the libellant motioned to the forward winchman to slew the boom toward the pier. As the boom moved to port, he noted that the starboard guy was slack. At this moment, he turned and walked toward the rail of the ship, ...