364 F.2d 769 (5th Cir. 1966), 21367, China Union Lines, Limited v. A. O. Andersen & Co.

Docket Nº:21367.
Citation:364 F.2d 769
Party Name:CHINA UNION LINES, LTD., Mitsubishi International Corporation, et al., Lan Jing-Chau, et al., Armement Deppe, S.A., et al., Appellants, v. A. O. ANDERSEN & CO., American Cyanamid Company, et al., Appellees.
Case Date:July 27, 1966
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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364 F.2d 769 (5th Cir. 1966)

CHINA UNION LINES, LTD., Mitsubishi International Corporation, et al., Lan Jing-Chau, et al., Armement Deppe, S.A., et al., Appellants,


A. O. ANDERSEN & CO., American Cyanamid Company, et al., Appellees.

No. 21367.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

July 27, 1966

Rehearings Denied Oct. 7, 1966.

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J. Donald Stillwell, D. H. Hinds, Houston, Tex., for Armement Deppe, S.A. and others.

E. V. Greenwood, Joseph Bewton, Houston, Tex., James J. Donovan, New York City, for Mitsubishi International.

Robert Eikel, Houston, Tex., E. F. Platow, New York City, clarence S. Eastham, Houston, Tex., for China Union Lines.

Newton B. Schwartz, Houston, Tex., for Lan Jing-Chau.

Jack Shepherd, Asst. U.S. Atty., Houston, Tex., for the United States.

Joaquin Campoy, New Orleans, La., Newton M. Crain, Jr., Houston, Tex., for Geo. D. Emery Company, and others.

Bryan F. Williams, Jr., Galveston, Tex., Frank G. Harmon, Houston, Tex., for A. O. Anderson & Co.

Donald M. Waesche, Jr., New York City, James E. Ross, Houston, Tex., for American Cyanamid Co.

Adrian F. Levy, Jr., Galveston, Tex., for Todd Shipyards.

Shirley Preston, Galveston, Tex., for Trustee.

Before BROWN and GEWIN, Circuit Judges, and KILKENNY, [*] District Judge.

KILKENNY, District Judge:

This is the story of another maritime tragedy resulting in heavy loss of life, severe personal injuries and property damage. On November 7, 1961, about 11:00 P.M. the Chinese Ship M/V UNION RELIANCE (RELIANCE), was proceeding outbound, and the Norwegian Ship M/V BEREAN (BEREAN), which was inbound, collided on the east side of the Houston Ship Channel (Channel). The night was clear, the visibility good, with a northerly wind of approximately eight miles per hour. The ships caught fire, the fire aboard the BEREAN was extinguished within a matter of hours, while the RELIANCE remained ablaze, blocking the channel until November 10th when it was towed to and anchored in Galveston Harbor by the United States Corps of Engineers.


After the towage, the United States filed a libel in rem against the RELIANCE, seeking the immediate sale of the vessel, the recovery of expenses incurred in removing the vessel from the Channel and in safeguarding her while at anchorage. China Union Lines, Ltd. (China Union), owner of the RELIANCE, filed a petition for exoneration, or limitation of liability, and obtained the customary order prohibiting the

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prosecution of claims against the vessel or her owner, except in the limitation proceeding. In the petition, China Union elected to surrender its interest in the vessel and her pending freight to a court appointed trustee. The court appointed a salvage master and authorized him to undertake the steps necessary to extinguish the fire in the vessel's holds and bring her to port to discharge the remaining cargo, preparatory to sale.

In other proceedings, in the same court, China Union filed its libel against the BEREAN. A. O. Andersen & Co. (Andersen), the owner of BEREAN, appeared, claimed the vessel and answered, in cross-libel against China Union. Mitsubishi International Corporation, et al, (Mitsubishi), the owners and underwriters of the lost and damaged cargo aboard the RELIANCE, filed a libel against BEREAN, and her owner. Likewise, American Cyanamid Company (Cyanamid), the owner of the only cargo lost aboard the BEREAN filed its libel against the RELIANCE. The Consul General of the Republic of China (Consul General), sought recovery for the injuries to, and deaths of, the officers and members of the crew (San Jing-Chau) of the RELIANCE against both vessels. Lucy Duncan (Duncan), as widow, executrix and sole beneficiary of Captain Duncan, channel pilot, also killed as a result of the collision, sought recovery against RELIANCE and her owners.

Separate libels were filed directly against Cyanamid, as owner of the BEREAN cargo, by China Union; the owners and underwriters of the cargo aboard the RELISNCE, and various other parties. These labels were filed on the theory that the acrylonitrile carried by the BEREAN, was of such a dangerous nature and propensity as to render the shipowner liable to said parties.

This complexity of libels, with its jungle of issues, was wisely consolidated by the trial judge (judge). Prior to trial, and after hearing, the judge directed payment of certain salvage claims and deferred action on the remainder of such claims pending a decision on the issues of liability.

After trial, and the entry of detailed findings and conclusions, the judge entered an interlocutory decree directing, among other things, that:

(1) the petition of China Union for exoneration from, or limitation of, liability be denied;

(2) reimbursement be made to the trustee, out of funds in the Registry of the Court, for the trustee's reasonable expenses, including trustee and attorney fees;

(3) payment be made of the claim of the United States from funds remaining in the Registry of the Court in the sum of $27,219.38, with interest;

(4) China Union recover nothing from the cargo of the RELEANCE as general average;

(5) the order theretofore entered enjoining prosecution of litigation against China Union on any claim growing out of the collision be vacated;

(6) China Union recover nothing against respondent Andersen or the BEREAN, that its libel be dismissed with costs and that Andersen, as cross-libelant, recover from RELIANCE and cross-respondent, China Union, the damages sustained by it in consequence of the casualty;

(7) Mitsubishi, and other such libelants, the owners of parcels of cargo on the RELIANCE, recover nothing against the BEREAN or her owner Andersen or Cyanamid, and that such libel be dismissed with costs;

(8) Cyanamid recover from the RELIANCE and her owner China Union the damages sustained in consequence of the casualty, and that the cross-libel by China Union against Cyanamid be dismissed with costs, together with any other intervening libels or cross-libels against that company be dismissed;

(9) the Consul General, representing the next of kin of the dead Chinese seamen and those that were injured, recover nothing against BEREAN or Andersen, and that the libel be dismissed;

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(10) the representative of the deceased and injured crewmen recover from the RELIANCE and her owner China Union, all damages sustained by each of them, less one 15% reduction for contributory fault.

(11) Lucy Duncan, the surviving wife of Captain D. O. Duncan, recover from the RELIANCE and her owner China Union, such damages as sustained by reason of the death of her husband.

(12) Armement Deppe, owner of the SS LUXEMBOURG, recover nothing from the BEREAN or her owners Andersen & Co.

China, Mitsubishi, the Consul General of the Republic of China, and Armement Deppe, S.A. appeal from the decree.


The detailed findings and conclusions of the judge occupy twenty-five pages of the record. Putting aside certain background material and formalities of no particular significance on this appeal, the judge, after a trial of approximately one month, found that the following facts, with others to be later discussed, were supported by substantial evidence.


The RELIANCE was a steel motor ship, built in the United States in 1940, approximately 496 feet in length and designed for the carriage of dry cargo. The ship's engines were designed to give approximately 240 revolutions per minute which, with the existing gear ratio should give approximately 80 revolutions per minute to the shaft. However, by reason of age, wear and poor maintenance, the engines were not capable of producing this efficiency. To change the direction in which the power is imparted to the propeller shaft, it was necessary to stop the engines by cutting off the fuel supply, then change the cam setting and restart the engines. The design permitted and, for that matter, contemplated one pair of engines to be kept running ahead and the other pair to be kept running astern at all times while the vessel was in pilot waters. When desirable all four engines could be coupled to the shaft to give maximum power either ahead or astern. This was neither a difficult not a time consuming operation and could be accomplished by competent engine room personnel in a matter of approximately one minute. She was equipped with a hydraulic steering system, located in the steering engine room, not in the main engine room. Hydraulic rams, equipped with fluid under great pressure, actuated the rams and served to move the rudder in the desired direction. Two separate steering systems were available to force the fluid through the system and against the rams, while one was in use the other served as a stand-by. The principal unit of the steering system was a large pump powered by an electric pump utilizing a 50 h.p. electric motor. A number of auxiliary pumps and motors were available, but only a so-called 'replenishing' pump was of any importance. In normal operation the hydraulic fluid escaped from the system and was collected in the sump tank, then lifted by means of the 'replenishing' pump to an overhead replenishing tank from which, by gravity, it was fed back into the system for further use. This pump was powered by a small electric motor. Approximately 35 gallons of fluid was required to fill each system. While minor leaks were expected, in normal operation only small quantities of fluid should be required at quite infrequent intervals.

The BEREAN was built in Norway and delivered to her owner in April, 1961. She was 508 feet in length, powered by one 9000 h.p. diesel engine. Her navigating bridge is in the forward part of the afterhouse, some 350 feet from the bow. Her cargo space is divided into 42 tanks, designed and equipped to...

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