THE STRAITS DRISCOLL
GIBRALTAR, Her Cargo, etc.
HICKS and others v. SAME.
(DiBtrict Oourt, D. New Jer8ey.
September 10, 1887.)
SALVAGE-ToWING BURNING LIGHTER AWAY FROM: VESSEL.
While a steamer was dlscharl!:ing a cargo of saltpeter into a lighter, and after about 100 tons had been delivered, the saltpeter on the latter took fire, and spread with such rapidity as to compel the men to abandon the lig-hter, which was at once cast loose, and drifted under the port quarter of the steamer. The flames rose very high. but the wind blew them from the steamer, which :was an. iron-built one. There still remained on board the latter about 550 tons of saltpeter.. While in this situation, the libelant's tug made fast to the lighter, and pulled her out of the slip, into the river, where she burned to the water's edge in about 40 minutes after flrst taking fire. Held, that the libelant was entitled to salvage. Five hundred dollars was held to be a proper compensation for salvage servo ices rendered by the tugs of libelant, worth about $17,000, in pulling a burn· lighter loaded with saltpeter away from a steamer valued at '115,000, there bemg other tugs present who would have the same service.
Where the court decrees that libelant is entitled to salvage, he is also en· titled to costs, although his original claim may have been exorbitant, the de· fendant having' refused to offer any compensation whatever.
In Admiralty. John Griffin, for libelant Driscoll and tug Jesse Russell. E. D. McCarthy, for libelant Hicks and tug Harry Roussell. Butler, Stillman Hubbard, for respondent steam-ship Straits ofGibraltar.
WALES, J. These are libels for salvage services rendered to the British steam-ship Straits of Gibraltar while at the Inman pier, Jersey City, on the twenty-sixth of May, 1886. The steamer had discharged into a lighter, fastened to her port side, 1,305 bags of saltpeter, weighing in aU 110 tons, and the men had just knocked off work and gone to on the lighter was discovered to be on fire. dinner, when one of the Immediately on the alarm being given the chief officer, with two or three of the crew, jumped 'into the lighter and tried to smother the flames with a tarpaulin, and at the same time the steamer's hose was laid and attached to the donkey-engine. The flames spread with such rapidity that the men were soon driven from the lighter, which was then cast loose from the steamer, and pushed down the slip and towards the river, the steamer's hose in the mean time throwing water on the burning mass, until the lighter passed under the port-quarter of the steamer and lodged with one end near the steamer's rudder, and the other near or close up to the pier. By this time the fire had extended all over the midship, and to within 10 feet of each end of the lighter, which was 80 feet long, and the flames rose as high as the flag-staff and awning ofthe
steamer, both of which were scorched but not consumed. The bull'seye windows at the stern of the steamer were cracked or broken by the heat, and the paint was burned off the iron plates. The wind was from the south and west, blowing off shore, and carried the flames and smoke away from the steamer. Water thrown on the burning saltpeter had little or no effect in extinguishing the fire, and when the lighter had lodged or gone under the overhang of the steamer, the hose from the latter could not reach it. At this juncture the tugs of the libelants appeared on the scene. ThE: Harry Roussell, the larger pug, came first, and entered the slip stern foremost; but, having too much sternway, went too far in, ltnd, before he could go ahead again, the Jessie Russell run in, bow on, striking against the port.bow of the lighter, to which she made fast by a line, lighter after her. This and then attempted to back outllJld draw movement; however, did not succeed, owing to the position of the Jessie Russell, which was athwart the slip with her bow within a few feet of the lighter, and her stern nearly touching the steam-ship Rhynland, which was lying at the Red Stal<'pier, on the opposite side of the slip, the slip being 164 feet wide. The Jessie Russell, having a right.hand wheel, moved back to port, andthus threw her stern further in the slip, as she had not room enough to get sufficient sternway to make her rudder of any service to her; Under these circumstances, the Jessie Russell being comparatively helpless either to pull off the lighter, or to save herself, the Harry Roussell, at tbe request of her captain, threw aline which was made fast to the port stern of the Jessie Russell,and, shoving the latter !lteamed out .of the slip, taking along with him both the tug and thelighter, the. Jessie, Russell forming, as it were. a link on the tow line .between the lighter /lnd the Harry Roussell. In a few minutes after getting into the river the lighter burned to the water's edge, and sank. The Straits of Gibraltar was an iron-built vessel with iron deck, masts, and two years old, and worth at least $100,000. The cargo remaining on board is admitted to have been worth $15,000. The Harry Roussell was valued at $14,000, and the Jessie Russell at$3,000. I have no doubt that the libelants are entitled to salvage, and the only question is what amount should be allowed to them. This question is always more or less embarrassing to a judge, who has to distinguish between what would be a! fair compensation, pro opere et labore, and a sufficient and ample reward for the enterprise and energy voluntarily exercised by salvors. The libelants' services were· promptly rendered at a time when' the steamer appeared to be in great peril, and they exposed th'emselvesand their tugs to considerable danger in taking the lighter, loaded with a burning mass of saltpeter, from under the steamer's quarter. It is true that the fire department of Jersey City came on the pier at which the steamer was moored, before the lighter was removed, and most probably. would have prevented a total loss, or even any very extensive illjuryto the ship or cargo; also that several other tugs had COIDtl t<> the rescue, and were lying off the dock, ready to give needed assistancej but these facts should not. detract from the merit which is due to
THE ,STRAITS' OF GIBRAlll'AR.
the libelants for conduct in bfaving the actual danger which they encountered in hauling out the lighter. !tis also true that a very brief time elapsed from the moment the alarm was given until all danger to the ship was over,-perhaps not more than 35 to 45 minutes; but the alacrity and speed with which the work was performed should increase its value, as each minute of delay would have Olily added to the peril and injury of the steamer. Five hundred and forty-seven tons of saltpeter still remained in the hold of the shipl and although the hatchways were securelycovered, and the iron plates of the ship might have resisted the fire for an indefinite time, yet it was possible, had the lighter been allowed to remain under the stern) for the heat to have been communi,eated to the interior, in which case a serious disaster might have occurred. These are mere possibilities, but in estimating the degree of danger they are not to be lost sight of. The essential ingredients of salvage service were present in this case. The libelants expended labor and exercised promptitude and skill. The value of the property employed by them in the service was considerable, and their property was exposed to danger. The libelants themselves incurred some risks, the captain of the Roussell having been driven into his pilot house to escape the scorching heat and fiery shower of burning and exploding saltpeter. The property saved from destruction or injury was valued at not less than $115,000. The Blackwall, 10 Wall. 14. But after all, it must be admitted that other tugs were present at the Inman pier, or miar by, who could and would have given the assistance which was rendered by the libelants, and that the services of the latter, though prompt and successful, were not indispensable. After a careful consideration of all the facts, I have concluded to award to the Harry Roussell the sum of $350, and to the Jessie Russell the sum of $150, with costs. A decree will be entered for the libelants accordingly. . The claimants' proctor contended with much zeal that the libelants should not be allowed costs, because their original claims were exorbitant, and that the owners of the steam-ship were thereby subjected to extraordinary trouble and expense in obtaining sureties for their bond. It may be that the libelants were unreasonable in making an excessive demand, but the claimants were not less so in refusing to offer any compensation whatever; and (adopting the language of Judge BUTLER, in The Indiana, 22 Fed. Rep. 925,) "in the absence of any offer of adequate compensation. and considering the ease with which the respondent here might have had relief by application to the court) I do not feel called upon to withhold costs."
MILLER ''11. THE MAGGIE
(Dktrict Oourt, E. D. Missouri, JJJ. D. 1887.)
MARITIME LIENS-MARITIME CONTRACTS-CARE OF VESSEL.
A libel was brought against a vessel by one who was employed as watchwhile a steamer was lying in the port of St. Louis., A portion of the demand was for materials and labor procured for the repair and preservation of the steamer. It was further alleged that it was the duty of libelant to keep the steamer in a place of safety, and to that end to move and navigate her from place to place as circumstances demanded, and that on several oc-, casions he did procure a tug to move her from one anchorage to another, to insure her safety. Held, that the entire demand grew out of a maritime contract, and was within the jurisdiction of the admiralty court.
In Admiralty. On exceptions to libel. Dawson & Drumrrwnd, for libelant. F. X. McCabe, for claimant. ,
THAYER,' J. The sole question in this case is whether the libelant has a marithne lien for the demand described in the libel, and may proceed in a court of admiralty to enforce the same. The demand is, in great part, for services rendered by the libelant as watchman while the steamer was lying at the port of St. Louis. A small portion of the demand, amounting to $7.70, is for money expended by libelant in procuring necessary materials and labor for the repair and preservation of the steamer, while he was in charge of the same. It is averred in the libel that it was part of libelant's duty as watchman to keep the steamer in a place of safety, and to that end to move and navigate her from place to place as circumstances demanded, and that in the course of the 14 months that. libelant had charge of the steamer, he did, in fact, on several occasions, procure a tug and move her from one anchorage in the harbor to another to insure her safety. It also appears that the services in question were rendered to the steamer in her home port. It is not averred, however, whether such services were rendered upon the credit of the steamer, or personal credit of the owner. Counsel for the claimant has taken no exceptions to, the libel, however, on the special ground that this is the home port, 'nor upon the further ground that the libel fails to aver that the services were rendered, and the money was expended by libelant, on the sole credit of the steamer. The broad proposition is asserted that the claim in question, as set forth in the libel, does not arise out of a maritime contract, and this is the sole question to be at present determined. The case principally relied upon is that of Gurney v. Orockett,l Abb. Adm. 490, in which it was held that a person employed to visit a vessel at anchor from time to time to see to her safety, etc., was not entitled to sue in admiralty to recover compensation for his services, as they were not rendered in execu· tion of a maritime contract, although it was conceded in that case that,