Owner of ATHOS I Vindicated on Remand
On November 26, 2004, the 748-foot-long and 105-foot-wide hull of the M/T ATHOS I was punctured by an abandoned ship anchor that rested on the bottom of the Delaware River. As a result, 264,321 gallons of "Bachaquero crude oil" were spilled. The cleanup of ATHOS I oil spill is long since complete. Indeed, the only remnants of the ATHOS I spill are a cut out section of its hull, a now rusty nine-ton anchor, and litigation that, over the last twelve (12) years, has brought this case before two (2) US federal judges sitting in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Previously, on April 12, 2011, District Court Judge John Fullam of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a final adjudication finding that vessel's charterer and terminal operating interests, CITGO Asphalt Refining Company, CITGO Petroleum Corporation, and CITGO East Coast Oil Corporation (together "CARCO") could not be held responsible for the oil clean-up costs and/or the losses associated with the damage to the ATHOS I.
In turn, the vessel's owner and the U.S. government appealed Judge Fullam's decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Third Circuit determined that Frescati was a third party beneficiary to CARCO's safe berth warranty; the safe berth warranty was an express assurance made without regard to the amount of diligence taken by the charterer; the ATHOS I, while in the Anchorage, was within the approach to CARCO's terminal when the accident occurred; and CARCO had a duty to "exercise reasonable diligence in providing the Athos I with a safe approach," which included the passage through the Anchorage. Notwithstanding, the Third Circuit was unable to make a final determination of liability based upon the facts in the case as Judge Fullam failed to issue specific findings of fact on both the liability and damages. The Third Circuit remanded the case to the District Court for further consideration.
udge Fullam had retired three (3) days after issuing his decision,. As such, the case was assigned to a successor judge, District Court Judge Joel H. Slomsky. Judge Slomsky was instructed to resolve the following issues: the size of draft that the warranty covered; whether the ATHOS I was drawing at an amount less than the draft covered by the warranty (or the amount of clearance above the abandoned anchor if the District Court cannot determine the draft of the ship or if the ship was drawing more than 37 feet); whether the contractual safe berth warranty was breached, and, if so, whether CARCO was negligent in maintaining the ATHOS I's approach to its berth; whether the abandoned anchor rendered CARCO's port unsafe for the ATHOS I's agreed-upon dimensions and draft; and, whether CARCO was negligent in maintaining the approach to its terminal.
On July 25, 2016, Judge Slomsky's rendered his findings which, ostensibly, reversed the District Court's earlier decision and found CARCO agreed to a safe berth warranty for the ATHOS I's voyage from Puerto Miranda, Venezuela to Paulsboro, New Jersey. Specifically, the judge found that the ATHOS I, at the time of the incident, had a draft of 36 feet, 7 inches, and was in compliance with the draft limitations of 37 feet or less and further found CARCO negligent and contractually liable both to the owner of the Athos I, and the U.S. Government (as subrogee of Frescati) for cleanup cost and damages associated with the spill.
For more information on US pollution matters, please do not hesitate to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.