In keeping with the tug and tow theme of this month’s edition of BC Shipping News, we thought that it would be interesting to readers to discuss the Federal Court’s recent judgment in Snow Valley Marine Services Ltd. v. Seaspan Commodore (The). The action was commenced following the sinking of the plaintiff’s assist tug the Warnoc (formerly the Night Shift). The tug was lost during efforts to free a fouled anchor on the defendant Seaspan’s log barge, the Seaspan Survivor, in October 2011 at Clio Bay near Kitimat, British Columbia. During the course of these operations, the anchor fell free and pulled the Warnoc to the bottom of the sea. Fortunately, there were no injuries arising from the sinking but the Warnoc was lost.
The decision is of interest as the court examined the particular facts that preceded the sinking in some detail, as well as setting out a detailed assessment of the value of the lost tug.
The court was asked to determine who was liable in negligence for the sinking and, if the defendant vessel owners were liable, what was the measure of the damages owing to the Plaintiff for the loss of its tug. The parties to the litigation of course argued that the sinking arose from the other party’s negligence. The plaintiff argued that the defendants were liable for failing to secure a safety line to the anchor from the dozer boat crane on the Seaspan Survivor. Contrary to this, the defendants argued that the cause of the sinking was the failure of the crew of the Warnoc to ensure the safety of their tug, and in particular by attaching a tow line to the anchor that did not allow it to be released quickly, or at all in the event of the anchor falling free.
The court’s reasons for judgment contain detailed summaries of the evidence provided by the parties at trial including the testimony of a number of witnesses that were either onboard the vessels involved or were involved in the aftermath of the sinking.
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