The opinion of the court was delivered by: MEANEY
Tracy Towing Line, Inc. brought this libel and petition seeking to recover damages from the respondents in the first instance, and seeking exoneration from or limitation of liability in the second. Of the two respondents, only the City of Jersey City is involved in both actions. Hudson Builders' Material Company is sought solely to respond in damages in the libel.
Since the question of liability must be determined in the libel and a failure to find liability would be dispositive of the limitation proceeding, the libel will be considered first.
For convenience libellant, Tracy Towing Line, Inc., will be referred to as Tracy, the tug 'William J. Tracy' as the tug, respondent, City of Jersey City, as the City, and respondent, Hudson Builders' Material Company, as Hudson.
By stipulation entered into by the parties, the two causes were consolidated for trial.
1. Tracy was the bareboat charterer of the tug.
2. The City was and still is the owner of the six hundred foot wharf in the Hackensack River at the foot of Howell Street in Jersey City, New Jersey.
3. Hudson was the lessee of the northerly three hundred feet of the wharf.
4. The tug was regularly inspected and was in a seaworthy condition both before and after the sinking.
5. The tug arrived at the Howell Street wharf at about 4 o'clock on the morning of September 23, 1950.
6. She was moored port side to, to the wharf with her stern about ten feet from the beginning of that portion of the wharf which was leased by Hudson.
7. The following lines were in use: a stern line made fast to the cleat under the oil pipe line on the wharf, a strap line from the bow leading aft to the next cleat on the southerly three hundred feet of the wharf, and a line from the bow leading forward and affixed to a cleat.
8. Sufficient slack to allow for the rise and fall of the tide was placed on the lines at this time.
9. Following the mooring, the tug's captain and crew went ashore about 6:00 a.m. with the exception of one Borges, a fireman, who was left on board as a watchman.
10. About 10 o'clock on the morning of September 23rd, employees of Hudson requested permission from the watchman to move the tug further down the wharf in a ...