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METALIMPORT OF ROMANIA v. S. S. ITALIA

November 18, 1976

METALIMPORT OF ROMANIA, Plaintiff,
v.
S. S. ITALIA, her engines, boilers, etc. and Hellenic Lines, Ltd., Defendant


Bonsal, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BONSAL

BONSAL, District Judge.

This is an admiralty cargo action, tried to the Court, involving 268 coils of electrical steel sheets being transported from Baltimore, Maryland to Constanza, Romania aboard defendant's vessel, the S.S. ITALIA ("ITALIA") in January and February of 1971. The coils were loaded on board the ITALIA on or about January 8, 1971 at Baltimore, Maryland, and defendant issued a clean bill of lading No. 1 (Exhibit 1). The cargo was out-turned in Constanza, Romania between February 25, 1971 and March 1, 1971. Following the discharge, the coils were transported by rail or truck, or both, to Craiova, Romania, where they were surveyed by plaintiff's underwriter almost three months later on or about June 21, 1971. See Exhibit 10.

 Of the 268 coils which arrived in Craiova, the surveyor, Mr. William Howard, examined 45 which the consignee, Metalimport, claimed to have been damaged. Mr. Howard found that 23 had been damaged, 4 so completely as to have no commercial value, and 19 which were damaged by water penetration believed to be ". . . a result of contact with water of a fresh nature. Probably rain during transit, and most probably while the goods were in the care of the vessel." Transcript of Trial dated June 8, 1976 at page 139. *fn1"

 Following this survey, the London underwriters, Legal and General Assurance Society, Ltd., paid the consignees the sum of $9,785.88. The underwriters were then subrogated to the claim of the consignees as to any claims "for rust damage, etc. amounting to U.S. $9,785.88" by instrument dated August 10, 1971. See Exhibit 8.

 At the trial, plaintiff called J. F. McArdle, the Senior Claims Supervisor for U.S. Steel International, who identified the Bill of Lading No. 1 issued by the defendant on January 8, 1971, and the commercial invoice issued by U.S. Steel International to Bishopsgate Steel, a customer of U.S. Steel International in England. See Exhibit 2. Mr. McArdle also identified the packing list and other documents regarding the testing of the coils (Exhibit 5), and testified as to the nature of the packing of the coils. See Exhibit 6. On February 9, 1971, U.S. Steel International filed a tentative claim with the Hellenic Lines covering damage to the cargo while it was on the pier and being loaded aboard the ITALIA in Baltimore. See Exhibit 7.

 Richard M. Randall then testified for the plaintiff that he was the correspondent for the London Insurance Company which made a claim against the Hellenic Lines as subrogee of the consignees in the amount of $9,785.88.

 William Raccioppi, the marine surveyor for U.S. Steel International, testified for the plaintiff as to the survey he made of the coils on the pier being loaded on the ITALIA in Baltimore. He testified as to some minor damage at loading which he observed and reported to his company, and described the cargo, when loaded, as in generally good condition. See Exhibit 7.

 William H. Howard, the surveyor with Robert Lyon & Co. of London, England, testified about the survey he made in Craiova, Romania almost three months after the cargo had been discharged at Constanza. See Exhibit 10.

 Edward Polese, the Assistant Manager of the Mediterranean Division for the Hellenic Lines, testified for the defendant as to the tariffs in effect for the carriage of goods to Constanza, promulgated by the North Atlantic-Mediterranean Freight Conference, indicating that the rate charged was on the basis of "free out", and that for the purposes of the tariff the carrier did not pay for the unloading at Constanza. See Exhibit "D". Polese explained that in Romania everything is controlled by Navlomar, a division of the Ministry of Transport, and "the reason cargoes move on a free-out basis is because the carrier has no choice in stevedoring or agencies. Everything is government controlled." Transcript of Trial dated June 9, 1976 at page 193.

 Defendant also submitted the deposition testimony of the master of the ITALIA, Panagiotis Tsimtsilis, taken December 29, 1975, who testified as to the unloading of the steel coils in Constanza.

 Damage in Baltimore

 The surveyor for U.S. Steel International, Mr. Raccioppi, testified that he observed some damage to the cargo while it was being loaded on the ITALIA, but he did not indicate that the damage was severe, suggesting to the stevedores and Hellenic Lines that some bands on the coils be replaced and that some of the wrapping be patched. Transcript dated June 8, 1976 at page 64. There is nothing in this testimony to indicate serious damage to the cargo or any reason why Hellenic Lines should not have issued Bill of Lading No. 1. Nor is there any evidence that the cargo sustained damage in transit from Baltimore to Constanza. It is true that other cargo was loaded on top of the steel coils in some of the ship's holds, but there is nothing unusual about this, or any indication that this was the cause of any of the damage found following the vessel's arrival. See Deposition of Panagiotis Tsimtsilis dated December 29, 1975 at pp. 17-18 (hereinafter Exhibit 18).

 Unloading in Constanza

 The record does indicate that the unloading operation in Constanza was a sloppy job. No forklifts were used and it was observed that some of the coils were dropped and tipped over in the holds before being unloaded onto the pier. Exhibit 18 at pp. 24-26. Moreover, the Captain testified that it had snowed in Constanza before the ITALIA arrived and that it was raining a good part of the time during the course of the ...


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