The Port Allen was taking on so much water during a storm last summer that the captain and crew of the Foxy 3 tugboat released the hopper barge off Port Chester Harbor and allowed it to sink into Long Island Sound.
Travelers Property Casualty Co. paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims for the loss of the vessel and cargo and for salvaging the wreck. Now it wants the tug operator, Fox Marine Corp. of Easton, Pennsylvania, to pay for those claims.
Travelers sued Fox for negligence last month in Westchester Supreme Court, and on Aug. 7, Fox had the case removed to federal court in White Plains, New York.
Carver Construction Inc. had hired Fox to tow the Port Allen from Newark, New Jersey – where it picked up a $42,994 load of sand at Gotham Aggregates LLC – and deliver it to the O&G Industries yard in Stamford, Connecticut.
Fox was intimately familiar with the Port Allen, the complaint said, having towed it twice before, full and empty, on the same round-trip route, with the same type of cargo.
The 195-foot-long Port Allen was a river hopper, built in 1988 with a flat box bow, five wing compartments and an open hopper compartment surrounded by a 24-inch wall.
On July 14, 2017, Capt. Craig J. Golden and the crew of the Foxy 3 took control of the barge. They reported no problems or issues of seaworthiness.
They arrayed the Port Allen with three other barges in a two-by-two formation ahead of the tug.
The other barges had raked bows.
“Industry practice dictates that, when available, a barge with a raked bow should be placed at the front of the tow,” the complaint stated. Instead, the flat-fronted Port Allen was placed in the front where it would bear “the brunt of any waves or water that hit the vessels.”
The four-barge tow set out for the eight-hour trip to Stamford. When it reached the coast off of Rye, New York, the vessels suddenly encountered two-foot seas. The Port Allen began to take on water.
The tug plowed ahead into three-foot-plus seas off Port Chester Harbor. Waves broke into the Port Allen’s open hopper.
Capt. Golden changed course to the northwest in an attempt to stop waves from flooding the Port Allen.
It was too late, the complaint stated. The crew released the Port Allen from the tow and the barge sank.
Travelers claims that Fox Marine was negligent. The Foxy 3 did not change course, reduce speed or take action to avoid dangerous seas when it encountered bad weather. Neither the U.S. Coast Guard nor Westchester County’s marine unit was summoned for assistance. The crew failed to seek shelter, beach the barges, pump out water or reposition the barges.
Fox, the complaint stated, has refused to reimburse Travelers for the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in insurance claims paid to Carver Construction. Travelers is asking the court to order Fox to reimburse those costs.
Fox is represented by attorney Gino Anthony Zonghetti in Hackensack, New Jersey. He did not immediately respond to email and telephone messages asking for a response to the allegations.
Travelers is represented by Myles K. Bartley, Jeffrey I. Carton and Peter N. Freiberg of Denlea & Carton LLP in White Plains.