The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH
This is a suit in admiralty in which the libelants, members of the crew of the Motor Vessel Farallon, asset a claim for salvage against the Steamship Ionian Leader, a foreign vessel owned by Compania De Navagacion Cristobal, S. A., the respondent. The United States of America was impleaded on the petition of the said respondent, filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Admiralty Rules, 28 U.S.C.A.
The Steamshi Ionian Leader, hereinafter identified as The Leader, was a standard Liberty type dry cargo vessel of 7,176 gross tonnage and 4,380 net tonnage. This vessel was built in 1944, and in March of 1947, when she was allegedly salved, she was reasonably valued at $ 425,000. This valuation has been stipulated.
The Motor Vessel Farallon, hereinafter identified as The Farallon, was owned by the United States of America and was operated by the Moran Towing & Transportation Co. Inc., hereinafter identified as the Moran Company, under a General Agency Agreement. This vessel was of sturdy construction and was designed and equipped for ocean towage. It is stipulated that in March of 1947 she was reasonably valued at $ 300,000.
The libelants were members of the crew of The Farallon, which was, and had been prior to March of 1947, engaged in coastwise towage along the eastern seacoast. The vessel was, and had been, used primarily in the towage of decommissioned vessels owned by the United States of America. There is no evidence that she had been engaged in salvage operations either under contract or otherwise.
The Farallon was in port at Norfolk, Virginia, on the evening of March 7, 1947, when the Moran Company received a call for assistance from a tanker, The McKittrick Hills, which was disabled and in distress at a point approximately 500 miles east of the Islands of Bermuda. The members of the crew, the present libelants, immediately made preparations to proceed to sea to the assistance of the tanker; The Farallon was fueled and sufficient stores were taken aboard.
The Farallon took her departure at 1000 (10 A.M.) on March 8. When the vessel left port the sea was moderately rough and the wind was fresh to strong (Beaufort Scale 5 to 6). The sea and weather conditions remained about the same until 0400 (4 A.M.) on March 10, when the sea and the wind subsided; the force of the wind decreased to gentle to moderate (Beaufort Scale 3 to 5). The conditions remained the same until March 12, when there was a slight increase in the swell of the sea and the force of the wind; the sea was moderate and the force of the wind was moderate to strong. (Beaufort Scale 4 to 6).
While enroute seaward to the assistance of The McKittrick Hills on March 12, The Farallon received a message that The McKittrick Hills was able to proceed under her own power and was no longer in need of assistance. The Farallon was at that time approximately 120 miles east of the Islands of Bermuda. The Farallon changed her course upon receipt of the message and then proceeded shoreward. When The ...