Unhappy Meeting on the River

 

On the river, December 1950:

Three tankers were involved in an incident which led to a collision between two of them on December 21, 1950.  The A.C. Dodge, of 1147 gross tons, and the Northern Sun, of 8900 gross tons were outbound and The Atlantic Sun was inbound in the Delaware River.  All three ships were loaded.  The weather was clear, with a light wind, no sea and an ebb tide running.  The Northern Sun passed on the starboard of A.C. Dodge.  Shortly after passing and upon meeting the Atlantic Sun, all vessels were in close proximity to each other.  The A.C. Dodge then took an uncontrollable sheer sharply to port which resulted in a collision between the A.C. Dodge and the Atlantic Sun.  The collision took place near the eastern edge of the main shipping channel at 0017, approximately 0.8 miles above Buoy

No. 4-L.  No person injuries or deaths, or fire resulted from the accident, even though all three ships were fully loaded.  The Atlantic Sun was carrying crude oil from Texas to Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, and was traveling upstream on the New Jersey (eastern) half of the channel.  The A.C. Dodge was on her way to Bayonne, New Jersey with diesel oil. 

The A.C. Dodge assented to a passing signal from the Northern Sun which then passed to starboard of her.  It is possible that the steering of the A.C. Dodge was affected by suction of the Northern Sun.  The crew of the A.C. Dodge maintained that the Northern Sun failed to pass well clear of their vessel.  In order to maintain steerage after the passage of the Northern Sun, the Dodge increased speed and forged ahead. 

An acting master, instead of the master of record was in control of the A.C. Dodge during that passage.  Her master of record was absent, and the acting master had failed to register with the proper authorities prior to taking the vessel from port. She was also being operated while short of manpower.  There was no Chief mate, and they were missing an Assistant Engineer, an Able Bodied Seaman, and an Ordinary Seaman.  It was later deemed that those shortages did not affect the accident in any way.

While the Northern Sun was still passing, the A.C. Dodge slowed her engines, intending that Northern Sun should draw ahead.  Her steering was subsequently adversely affected, and despite drastic rudder change and engaging engine movements a sudden sheer to the left caused the stem of the Dodge to strike the port bow of the Atlantic Sun at an angle of approximately 90 degrees.  At the point of collision, the channel is 800 feet wide.  It was measured shortly after the accident and found to have that reported width.

A Board of Inquiry found no evidence of culpable negligence on the part of the Northern Sun crew or upon those aboard the Atlantic.  The master of the A.C. Dodge appeared to have been maintaining his required course and speed.   Despite conflicting testimonies from the crews of the Northern Sun and the A.C. Dodge, no disciplinary action was taken against the crews.  The owners of the A.C. Dodge, however, were cited for operating the ship despite the lack of proper manpower.  The master of the A.C. Dodge was cited for not reporting in writing the crew deficiency within twelve hours of arrival on the ship.  Other than the crews aboard those vessels, the proper investigative authorities and the insurance companies involved, few people were aware that this incident had taken place.  Life ashore went on as usual.  

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