The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH
This is a suit in admiralty. The claim of the libellants is for the damage to the Clay Street Bridge, of which they are admittedly the owners. The Motor Tug Chancellor, Inc., as owners of the Tug Chancellor, filed a claim and answer and thereafter impleaded the Scow H.S. 89 and its owner, Steers Sand & Gravel Corporation, and the Harrison Supply Company. The claim for damage in the amount of $ 7,175 is admitted, and the only issue presented for determination is that of liability.
The Clay Street Bridge is a drawbridge of the swing type and spans the Passaic River. The channel is approximately 300 feet in width, but at the locus in quo the fairway is considerably less because of the presence of the bridge structure, which consists of a middle pier and two quarter piers. The middle pier is 64 feet in width and each of its abutments extends mid-channel approximately 130 feet. Each of the quarter piers, located along the easterly and westerly shores, is 80 feet in length and projects approximately 47 feet into the channel. Each of the fairways, under the easterly and westerly draws, is approximately 75 feet in width.
The respondent Harrison Supply Company owns and maintains a dock which extends 240 feet along the easterly shore of the river immediately south of the quarter pier. The outer edge of the dock abuts upon the easterly bulkhead line. It should be noted that at this point the easterly boundary of the channel is within several feet of the bulkhead line.
The respondent Steers Sand & Gravel Corporation was the owner of the Scow H.S. 89, which was delivered at the dock of the Harrison Supply Company on the morning of February 5, 1951. The delivery was accepted and thereafter the Harrison Supply Company assumed custody and control of the vessel. The bargee, an employee of the Steers Sand & Gravel Corporation, left the H.S. 89 at two o'clock in the afternoon and did not return until the following day.
When the Scow H.S. 89 was delivered, another scow, the Josephine Waldie, was moored at the dock, its stern upstream, north, and opposite the end of the southerly abutment of the middle pier; this scow was against the dock, and its stern was approximately 100 feet, more or less, from the easterly quarter pier. The tug which made the delivery moored the H.S. 89 alongside of the Josephine Waldie and in a similar position, its stern upstream and opposite the end of the southerly abutment of the middle pier. The scows had an overall width of 70 feet and, as thus moored, extended beyond the quarter pier an additional 20 feet into the fairway so as to obstruct the entrance to the easterly draw of the bridge.
The employees of the Harrison Supply Company, early in the afternoon of the same day, moved the Scow H.S. 89 and moored it at the dock, where it was partially unloaded. At the end of their working day, approximately five o'clock, these employees again moved the Scow H.S. 89 and moored it alongside of the Joesphine Waldie in the position hereinabove described. The scows were in the same position, Without Lights, when the collision hereinafter described occurred.
On February 6, 1951, at approximately four o'clock in the morning, the motor tug Chancellor, with a loaded oil barge in tow and lashed to its port side, was proceeding north in the Passaic River. The weather was clear, there was no moon, and the night was dark; there was a flood tide of approximately one knot. The tug was 76 feet long and 21 feet wide, the barge was 208 feet long and 40 feet wide, and the stern of the tug was approximately 12 feet abaft the stern of the barge. ...