The opinion of the court was delivered by: BONSAL
These consolidated libels in admiralty
were brought as a result of the collision of the M/S PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT OSMENA and the barge RED STAR NO. 70, which occurred in the Kill Van Kull on the morning of October 20, 1965. The stem of the OSMENA came into contact with the starboard side of the NO. 70, about five feet back of the bow, causing damage to both vessels and to the barge RED STAR NO. 72 which was in tow behind NO. 70. The collision took place in the morning just before daybreak, with a light haze, and visibility of 2 to 3 miles, at approximately the middle of the channel in the Bergen Point East Reach. The tide was ebb, running eastward about 1 1/2 knots. The libels were tried in admiralty, June 9, 1969.
The Tug CATHERINE,
owned by Helen B. Inc. and operated by Bronx Towing Line, Inc., was proceeding from South Amboy eastward in the Kill Van Kull to Jersey Central Pier 18 in New York Harbor. She had three barges in tow, RED STAR NO. 73, light, made fast to the CATHERINE's port side with her bow about 10 feet ahead of the CATHERINE's bow, RED STAR NO. 72, loaded, made fast to the CATHERINE's starboard side with her bow also about 10 feet ahead of the CATHERINE's bow, and RED STAR NO. 70, loaded, in front of NO. 72 and secured only by lines from its stern to NO. 72's bow. The flotilla was almost 300 feet long;
the CATHERINE was displaying port and starboard running lights, two white lights on her staff aft indicating a tow alongside, and a forward white mast light, and the barges displayed white lights on their outside corners fore and aft. At the times here involved, the CATHERINE was in charge of Captain Regis LaBrecque, and two deckhands and an engineer were on watch. At 0555, when Captain LaBrecque went to the pilothouse, the CATHERINE was just east of Shooter's Island, and was proceeding eastward at about 5 or 5 1/2 knots over the ground, approximately 150 feet off the Staten Island side of the Kill Van Kull.
The M/S PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT OSMENA,
owned by National Development Company and operated by United Philippine Lines, was proceeding from Brooklyn westward in the Kill Van Kull to Port Newark. Her navigation was in charge of her master, Captain Avelino G. Zablan, and the coast pilot, Captain William H. Duncan; with them on the bridge were the third officer, junior third officer, and quartermaster. Her chief officer, Domingo B. Tolentino, Jr., was stationed at the bow as a lookout, assisted by the carpenter, boatswain and storekeeper acting as lookouts and anchor watch. At about 0608 the OSMENA entered the Kill Van Kull followed by the tug DALZELLERA stationed off her starboard quarter, proceeding with her engines at full ahead at about 10-12 knots over the ground. She had a functioning course recorder, and its clock had been synchronized with the OSMENA's bridge clock that morning.
At 0608 the OSMENA reduced her speed to slow as she entered the channel, and then increased it to half. At about 0611, when the OSMENA was in the vicinity of Platty Kill Creek, Bayonne, New Jersey, the lights of the CATHERINE were observed ahead in the vicinity of Port Richmond, Staten Island; the OSMENA gave a one-blast signal. Shortly thereafter, at about 0613, the CATHERINE opened up her green side light, indicating a turn to port, whereupon the OSMENA sounded a second single blast, and reduced her speed to slow, receiving no reply to her signal. Seeing that the CATHERINE was still proceeding to port, the OSMENA blew an alarm followed by a third single blast, to which the CATHERINE responded with an alarm followed by two whistles, indicating a starboard-to-starboard passing.
While the CATHERINE was proceeding eastward in the Kill Van Kull, entering the Bergen Point East Reach, she observed the OSMENA heading westward down the channel, showing both her red and green side lights. Fearing a collision, the CATHERINE turned to port, intending to execute a starboard-to-starboard passing with the OSMENA. After the CATHERINE gave her alarm and two-blast signal, the OSMENA put her engines full astern at about 0615, and sounded an alarm followed by three blasts indicating that she was going astern, and the CATHERINE replied with an alarm and three blasts. The CATHERINE veered across the bow of the OSMENA, and sometime before the collision at about 0616 the OSMENA dropped first her port and then her starboard anchors, at roughly the same time going to emergency full astern.
Shortly thereafter, at about 0617,
RED STAR NO. 70 collided with the stem of the OSMENA at a point roughly 5 feet back from the bow of NO. 70. At the moment of impact, the OSMENA was at an angle of roughly 60 degrees to NO. 70, and was either at a standstill or moving very slowly while NO. 70 was moving at about 5 knots.
The collision occurred in the Bergen Point East Reach in the vicinity and to the west of the Lehigh Valley Docks. The channel is about 1,000 feet wide, and immediately after the collision the OSMENA was situated in the starboard half of the channel nearest the New Jersey shore, with her stern roughly 150 feet from the shore and heading somewhat to port with regard to the channel.
After the collision, the CATHERINE proceeded to the Lehigh Valley Docks, dropped NO. 72 and NO. 73 there, and retrieved the NO. 70, which, having been cut loose, had drifted eastward with the current past the Lehigh Valley Docks.
The Narrow Channel Rule (Art. 25 of the Inland Rules, 33 U.S.C. § 210), applies to the waters in which the collision occurred. Harbor Oil Transport Co. v. The Plattsburgh Socony, 151 F.2d 708 (2d Cir. 1945). The Narrow Channel Rule provides:
" § 210. Steam vessel in narrow channel (Art. 25)
In narrow channels every steam vessel shall, when it is safe and practicable, keep to that side of the fairway or mid-channel which lies ...