Union Oil Company of California v. The San Jacinto

PETITIONER: Union Oil Company of California
RESPONDENT: The San Jacinto
LOCATION: Frontiero's Residence

DOCKET NO.: 71-900
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 409 US 140 (1972)
ARGUED: Oct 17, 1972
DECIDED: Dec 05, 1972

Erskine B. Wood -
Kenneth E. Roberts -

Facts of the case


Media for Union Oil Company of California v. The San Jacinto

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 17, 1972 in Union Oil Company of California v. The San Jacinto

Warren E. Burger:

-- next in No. 71-900, Union Oil Company against the Tugboat.

Mr. Roberts, I think you may proceed.

Kenneth E. Roberts:

Mr. Chief Justice, if it pleases this Honorable Court.

This marine ship collision case occurred on Christmas Eve in 1967, 24th of December 1967 at about 8:30 p.m. on the Columbia River, which flows as you know between the States of Oregon and Washington.

My client, Union Oil Company was the bareboat charter of the tanker Santa Maria.

Santa Maria was approximately 550 feet long and she had a gross ton each of about 11,000.

She was loaded with 17,000 gallons of petroleum products and was inbound from the Pacific Coast Ocean to Portland, Oregon.

She's an American flag vessel.

At Astoria, Oregon, she took aboard a Columbia River pilot, Mr. McDonald Caples who has been going to see on the Columbia River, a tugboat man and so forth since 1928.

This was his 3550th ship as a pilot on the Columbia River.

He had also piloted the Santa Maria he testified about 11 to 12 times.

He proceeded inbound from Astoria to Portland.

This is a winding course that takes a number of hours.

Some fog was experienced near the town or the inlet of Skamokawa, which is on the Washington side of the Columbia River pretty close to its mouth.

The chief mate of the vessel was Mr. Aspland and he testified that you always find a little fog at Skamokawa at that time of the year.

The vessel proceeded on mainly on a full bell but from maneuvering speed in the river, which is about 11 to 12 knots and there was a vessel that was inbound called the Teak Wood under the command of Captain (Inaudible) who was also a Columbia River pilot.

The pilots at that time were communicating with one another by a walkie-talkie machine.

And they just converse about the traffic on the river and the conditions and so forth.

And Captain Caples through this walkie-talkie communication was aware that there was a tug and barge bound downstream on the Columbia River from Rainier, Oregon.

Now this time, it was the San Jacinto.

Potter Stewart:

What was the current of the river?

Kenneth E. Roberts:


Potter Stewart:

What was the current of the river in knots, do you know?

Kenneth E. Roberts:

Just about a knot I think, according to the -- and downstream as I recollect from the evidence, with very little current.

I don't think it had really any significance as far as the collision was concerned.

The San Jacinto was owned and operated by Star & Crescent, had a completely inexperienced crew aboard.

The -- not that the man had any papers or such.

The master I think, it was either his first or second trip.

And towing and towed by the San Jacinto was this big barge called the Oliver J. Olson 3, which was fully loaded with lumber above the deck about two or three tiers high at which -- and the lumber had been loaded at Rainier.

Now, the tugboat was towing on a 250-foot cable.