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CONNERS MARINE CO. v. NEW YORK

December 2, 1949

CONNERS MARINE CO., Inc.
v.
NEW YORK & LONG BRANCH R. CO. The GRAMERCY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MEANEY

Findings of Fact

This is a suit in admiralty brought by the Conners Marine Company, the owner of the Tug Gramercy, to recover from the New York and Long Branch Railroad Company for damages which have been assessed against the Conners Marine Company in an action brought by the Bouchard Transportation Company in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In the action in the Eastern District of New York an attempt was made to implead the Railroad Company under Admiralty Rule 56, 28 U.S.C.A., but this was unsuccessful.

 The case arises out of a collision on March 24, 1943 in the Raritan River between the barge Tar & Fuel No. 1, which was being towed alongside the Tug Gramercy, and a railroad bridge owned and operated by the respondent. From the evidence the following facts appear:

 1. The barge Tar & Fuel No. 1 was taken in tow by the Tug Gramercy on the tug's port side, being towed bow first and secured with three five inch lines.

 2. The tug and tow left Piscataway and proceeded down the Raritan River bound for Port Socony. As they approached the New York and Long Branch Bridge between Perth Amboy and South Amboy the tide was ebbing, the weather was clear and the wind was strong from the southwest.

 3. At about 2,000 feet from the bridge, when passing Sandy Point at full speed (about five knots) the tug sounded a signal for the bridge to open. No answer was received from the bridge. The speed was then reduced to half speed. Another signal was sounded by the tug when about 1,200 to 1,300 feet from the bridge.

 4. The engines on the tug were then stopped and the tug and tow drifted toward the bridge turning sideways in the channel. As they drifted, the wind set them off toward the northern side of the channel.

 5. When the tug and tow were about four or five hundred feet from the bridge, it began to open.

 6. The tug then started ahead at full speed attempting to go through the draw. The rudder was put hard right, then hard left, but the tug could not straighten out in time and so collided with the port abutment of the bridge and then sheered over and collided with the center pin breaking all the lines between the tug and tow.

 7. The barge was 174 feet long and 40 feet wide; the bridge opening was 132 feet long.

 8. At the time of the collision the mate, Herbert Wilkins, was on duty navigating the tug. Although well experienced on tug boats, Wilkins had never before navigated on the Raritan River and had only navigated this particular tug for a short time the day before the collision.

 9. The personnel on the bridge testified that they first heard the tug's signal when it was about 1,500 feet away and they opened the bridge in about two or three minutes.

 Discussion.

 Those in control of the navigation of the tug were under the duty of navigating the tug in a reasonably prudent manner so as to avoid collision and to prevent damage to the tow. The tug had the right to assume that the bridge would be opened in time for passage after the proper signal was given. Clement v. Metropolitan West Side El. Ry. Co., 7 Cir., 1903, 123 F. 271. However, on failing to receive a reply, further progress would most probably result in its proceeding into a position of danger. In The Radnor, 4 Cir., 1926, 14 F.2d 263, 266, the court said, 'Immediately upon the tug's failure to receive a reply * * * it was admonished that it was proceeding, with the draw closed, into a position of imminent danger * * * To have waited under these circumstances ...


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