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EMPRESSA HONDURENA DE VAPORES, S.A. v. BANK LINE

July 20, 1977.

EMPRESSA HONDURENA de VAPORES, S.A., Plaintiff,
v.
The BANK LINE LIMITED and M/V CLYDEBANK, her engines, etc., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COOPER

IRVING BEN COOPER, District Judge.

This litigation arises from the collision of two vessels, the S/S Tenadores and the M/V Clydebank, on December 8, 1974 in the Balboa anchorage off the Panama Canal. The matter was tried to the Court over a period of two days. The following narrative constitutes our findings of fact.

During the early evening of December 8, 1974, plaintiff's vessel, the Tenadores, a cargo vessel 451 feet long and driven by steam (Tr. 5) *fn1" , entered the Balboa anchorage on the southern side of the Panama Canal. At the time, and for all relevant times hereafter up to the collision, it was still light outside though the sun had set (C.Z. Invest. 14). *fn2" The weather was clear, slightly cloudy, visibility good (C.Z. Invest. 6). The sea was calm (Tr. 24).

 Aboard the Tenadores, its Captain, David Stewart, was the only lookout. He testified: "Q. During the period of time the vessel was making the maneuver, this left-hand turn, were you acting as the sole lookout of your vessel? A. As it happens I was, yes." (Tr. 92) To take weigh off the Tenadores and to slow her down, a complete circle to port was ordered just before she entered the anchorage. Captain David Stewart so testified:

 As I approached the position where this ship designated at North 12 was anchored, as I expected, he came out towards the channel entrance buoys and I put the wheel of the Tenadores over to port and further took the weigh off her with stand movant, as I have done in the bell book, 17:48 and 17:51. *fn3"

 Now, the North 12 was proceeding over to the channel buoys and I was proceeding over into the anchorage. I didn't want to pass ahead of him....So with this in mind I had the wheel hard aport and at 17:52 I put the engines on half ahead. Then at 17:55 I put the engines on full ahead to tighten the turn and come around like they say to go to the anchorage. (Tr. 27-28).

 At about this time, the defendant's vessel, the Clydebank, a cargo vessel of 11,200 tons gross and 530 feet long, powered by diesel engines, had taken pilots aboard and was preparing to get underway to transit the Canal (Tr. 141, 146).

 As quoted above, the Tenadores was moving full ahead as it came out of its complete turn at about 1755 (Tr. 28). The Clydebank was not exhibiting the required navigation lights though it had gotten underway at this time. Captain David Stewart: "He had no running lights on, no navigation lights were showing." (Tr. 29) However, the Clydebank was correctly displaying the flags required to show it had a pilot aboard and was about to undertake a transit of the Canal:

 Q ....Did the vessel [Clydebank], prior to the pilot coming on board, have any flags?

 A She did.

 Q What flag did it have?

 A She had the Flag G.

 Q What does that signify?

 A "I require pilot."

 Q When the pilot boarded the vessel at 5:34 [pm] what happened to that flag?

 A It was taken down.

 Q Was it replaced by anything else?

 A It was.

 Q What was it replaced by?

 THE COURT: When was it taken down, Captain? When was Flag G taken down?

 THE WITNESS: It was taken down about approximately, I would say, one minute after the pilot boarded.

 THE COURT: Thank you, Captain.

 Q At this point, Captain, was another ...


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