The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREED
The libelant, owner of the Steamship Maritana and the Barge Maia, seeks recovery for damages sustained in a collision between the barge and the steamer in the harbor of Superior, Wisconsin, on May 31, 1942.
Both the barge and the steamer had loaded cargoes of iron ore at Great Northern Dock No. 4, and were preparing to leave the harbor, intending that the Maritana was to two the Maia to lower lake ports.
The Maritana is a bulk freighter, 320 feet in length, and the Maia, which is 376 feet long, is a barge without motive power of her own.
The two tugs had been called to assist the barge in leaving the dock, to turn her about and to help hook her to the Maritana so that she could begin the voyage.
As they lay aside the dock, about an hour before the collision, the barge and steamer were headed into the slip, port side to on the west side of the dock, with the steamer astern of the barge.
It was a cloudy afternoon, but visibility was clear and there was nothing to obstruct the vision of the vessels during the entire period covering the events here in question. A fresh northwest wind was blowing at the time and a 3-to-4-mile-an-hour current was setting in from the lake, running between the piers into the harbor basin, in the direction of the Great Northern docks.
The Maritana backed away from the dock shortly after the tugs arrived, headed up the basin under steerageway, and turned. She then proceeded slowly down the basis until she was approximately abreast of the Government dock, out in the center of the basin channel, awaiting the winding of the Maia. At that point she cut her engine and lay waiting for the tugs to bring the Maia out of the slip.
The Barge Maia, with the Missouri at her stern and the Massachusetts at her bow, was being pushed and pulled out of the slip. As the Maia's bow cleared the end of the dock, the Massachusetts swung under her bow and off to the port and began pulling her about. At the same time the Missouri was working off the stern of the Maia, the effect of the combined action of both tugs being to pivot the barge in order to head her about toward the opening in the piers in line with the channel leading to the lake.
As the winding operation began, just after the bow of the Maia had cleared the end of the dock, the Maritana got under way again, proceeding down the basin, headed on No. 1 light.
There is no serious dispute as to these events immediately preceding the critical operations which resulted in the collision. However, every salient fact thereafter is in sharp conflict and there are innumerable contradictions in the testimony of the witnesses.
From this irreconcilable divergence in the proof, the court ultimately must determine what actually transpired to resolve the question of liability.
The testimony, in the judgment of the court, has established the following controlling facts.
Those in charge of the navigation of the Maritana knew she would have to wait until the winding operation had been completed before she moved into position to effectuate the hook-up with the Maia, and they knew how ...