Snow Valley Marine Services Ltd. v. Seaspan Commodore (The)

In Tug and Tow on (Updated )

Précis: The sole cause of the sinking of a tug assisting with a fouled anchor was the failure of the defendant to properly secure a safety line.

Facts: The plaintiff’s assist tug was sunk and lost on 5 October 2011 when she was assisting the defendant vessel with a fouled anchor. Specifically, a line was attached from the plaintiff’s tug to the anchor of the defendant vessel and when the anchor came free it fell rapidly and sunk the plaintiff’s tug. The plaintiff commenced this proceeding against the defendant vessel and her owners and operators alleging they were solely responsible for the sinking. The defendants argued that the cause of the accident was the failure of the plaintiff’s crew to take reasonable steps for their own safety including that they failed to utilize a release mechanism when they attached the line to the tug. The defendant further argued that the crew of the plaintiff’s tug did not have the certificates required by the Marine Personnel Regulations passed under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

Decision: Judgment for the plaintiff.

Held: Neither of the crew of the plaintiff’s tug held a Master’s certificate as required by s. 212 of the Marine Personnel Regulations but they had years of experience and this cannot be ignored. They were responsible for the safety of their own tug and they were the ones that attached the line to the tug, however, that tow line connection was not the cause of the sinking. The cause of the sinking was the failure of a safety chain from the defendant vessel to the anchor and anchor chain. The defendants alone were responsible for securing the safety line and their failure to properly secure it caused the sinking. With respect to damages, the proper measure of damages is the value of the lost tug to the plaintiff as a going concern at the time and place of loss. This is to be assessed by considering the market value of comparable tugs, the costs of refitting tugs to do her work and the compensation required to put the plaintiff in the same position it would have been in had the loss not occurred.