The opinion of the court was delivered by: CANNELLA
After a nonjury trial on the merits of plaintiff's complaint, the Court finds for plaintiff. Pursuant to the stipulation of the parties, this action is referred to Magistrate Washington for a determination of the accuracy of the general average adjustments.
This is an admiralty and maritime claim for contribution in general average over which the Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(h). The defendant cargo insurers refuse to pay the general average assessment on the ground that plaintiff failed to exercise due diligence to make the vessel seaworthy.
The following are the Court's findings of fact: In September 1975, Elder International Export, Inc. ("Elder") and United States Steel International Inc. ("US Steel"), as shippers, delivered certain cargo to plaintiff at Houston, Texas, for carriage aboard plaintiff's ship, the M/V Hugo Oldendorff.
The cargo was to be delivered to the Societe Algerienne de Forage/Alfor at Algiers, pursuant to Bills of Lading Nos. 1, 4 and 5.
Defendant Fidelity and Casualty Co. of New York insured the Elder cargo and defendant Federal Insurance Company insured the US Steel cargo.
The contracts of insurance obligated each defendant to pay to its insured any loss suffered by incurring liability in general average.
Stevedores loaded the cargo on board the vessel on September 24, 1975, and the vessel sailed that evening.
At approximately 7:40 p.m. on September 25th, in the Gulf of Mexico, an explosion occurred in the main engine crankcase and the engine stopped. The vessel drifted at sea for three days while the ship's engineers attempted unsuccessfully to repair the damage. On September 28, a towing line from the tug Jason Smith was secured and the vessel was towed to New Orleans as a port of refuge.
The crew determined that the immediate cause of the crankcase explosion was an overheating of the No. 4 bearing and bearing keep between cylinders Nos. 7 and 8.
At New Orleans, the vessel underwent temporary repairs, but the exact cause of the breakdown was not determined. The vessel resumed her voyage on October 16, 1975, operating at reduced speed, and arrived at Algiers on November 4.
In January 1976, the vessel arrived at Amsterdam for survey and permanent repairs.
The vessel was inspected at Amsterdam by John Mason, a surveyor from the Salvage Association, on behalf of the vessel's hull underwriters.
Hans Poehlsen, a superintendent engineer employed by the vessel's owner of record, Egon Oldendorff of Lubeck, West Germany, participated in the inspection.
In his inspection, Mason found "scoring and grooving" on all the main crankshaft bearings, "running to approximately 1 mm. deep."
Mason and Poehlsen concluded that the nature of the scoring indicated that ferrous material had contaminated the lubricating oil and caused the immediate damage.
Mason therefore conducted a thorough inspection of the lubricating oil system, including the pipes, oil filters and two main engine lubricating oil pumps ("lube oil pumps").
Each lube oil pump consists of two worm gears, or helical spirals, placed one on top of the other and interlocking tightly so that the shafts, or spindles, are separated by a space of no more than .15 millimeters. The top, or drive, shaft is powered by a motor and is connected to the bottom, or idler, shaft through a gear mechanism to ensure synchronization. Because oil passes through the pump from one side and out the other by positive displacement, the pump is self-lubricating.
To maintain proper alignment, each shaft is connected to the pump casing by a ball bearing pressed into the casing. Each bearing is maintained in position along the axis of the spindle by means of a locking nut which threads around the spindle. The threads are extremely fine, enabling a tight fit and minimizing the likelihood of a locking nut coming loose through vibration. When fully threaded, the locking nut is flush with the bearing and keeps the shaft in proper alignment.
Because vibration tends to loosen the locking nut, the nut is normally secured in place by a small set screw, which threads into a hole in the nut and onto the shaft. As a further guard against loosening of the locking nut by vibration, the set screw is designed to be held in place by a spring clip, which is a metal ring that is placed around the nut. One end of the spring clip is bent to fit into the groove on the head of the set screw. The spring clip also prevents a loosened set screw from falling from its hole into the area where the shafts are turning.
Mason and Poehlsen first inspected the pipes and oil filters, but found no defects. Mason then dismantled the two lube oil pumps.
He noted the following in his survey report:
The port side forward oil pump (No. 2) was found to have suffered severe wear as a result of the loosening of a shaft bearing locking nut. This pump was in service at the time of the engine failure. The pump (is) of a helical screw double shaft type, make Houtuin Pompen N.V., Type 1K160/86B (and) has each bearing secured in place by a locking nut. The nut is then secured by an "allen" type screw through the nut onto the shaft. This screw is then held from turning by a spring clip.
On the idler shaft top bearing the securing nut had become loose but no traces of the securing screw or spring clip were found.
The nut had worn deeply into the case iron top cover to a depth of approximately 3 mm., on the shafts the gears had moved and were heavily worn on the tooth edges, the scroll pump sections had been rubbing heavily together such that ...