Matson Navigation v. Victoria Shipyard Co.

In Ship Building and Repair on (Updated )

The Plaintiff in this matter claimed that the Defendant Shipyard had obstructed a vent with sandblast grit in the No. 5 port wing ballast tank while sandblasting during a refit. As a result of the obstruction, the ballast tank became over-pressurized during ballasting operations and significant damage was caused to the hull. Upon inspection approximately 76 pounds of compacted sand blast grit was found inside and completely blocking the vent. It was not disputed that the sandblast grit came from the Defendant’s sandblasting operations of the ballast tank. The Defendant nevertheless argued that it was not liable. The Defendant alleged that the damage was wholly or partly caused by the Plaintiff in that: the vents were fitted with flash screens which was unusual and permitted the accumulation of sandblast grit; the Plaintiff had specifically instructed the Defendant to sandblast the vents as well as the tank; that the Plaintiff failed to properly maintain the vents; and the Plaintiff failed to check the vents. The Court rejected all of these arguments. The Court found: that the presence of flash screens are to be anticipated and that they were easily detected; that the Plaintiff had not instructed the Defendant to sandblast the vents and that there was a substantial body of credible evidence that the vents should not have been sandblasted; that there was no lack of maintenance on the part of the Plaintiff; and that the Plaintiff had no obligation to check the vents before ballasting. In result, the Court found the Defendant solely liable for the damage. The Plaintiff was awarded damages for temporary and permanent repairs and expenses, for lost charter income, for interest expense and price fluctuations during the delayed delivery of the cargo and compound prejudgment interest.