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Saturday, 10 February 2007

Things that make you proud to be British

The Admiralty Court is rarely as dull and dusty a place as some other seats of justice, but seldom have I seen such a perfectly titled, stated, judged and reported case as Sea Tractor - v - Tramp. And never to my knowledge has the phrase 'Lovely jubbly' been admitted as evidence in an Admiralty Court before. The law report itself is a succinct delight that paints as clear a picture of that event off the Kent mainland as if one had been on board.

Heard on the 18th of January before Mr Justice David Steel sitting with Captain Iain Gibb of Trinity House as Nautical Assessor, the judge limited the case to half a day, surely an act of wisdom and mercy in preserving the seamen on both sides from the folly of legal costs. The facts of the case can be stated baldly here, but if you have just a few more minutes I commend you to the full law report at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admlty/2007/31.html

Sea Tractor is a small workboat / tug. Tramp is a small coaster. The value of the Tramp would not exceed £400k. Tramp had made two previous trips to Washer Wharf on the Swale. On her third trip she tried to leave the wharf without tug assistance. While she was coming off, the wind turned her head upstream and she was unable to come about. Sea Tractor was called and rapidly put her right. Sea Tractor claimed salvage, but Tramp held that it was commercial towage worth about £625.

Judge Steel patiently heard the strongly argued evidence for both sides. He concluded "I have come to the conclusion that the vessel was in an unhappy predicament and was clearly in need of tug services on salvage terms.......In brief this was a relative straightforward service to a vessel in modest danger from which she could not extract herself safely. The services were rendered by a small tug which had responded promptly but which has no claim to professional status. I have come to the conclusion that a fair but encouraging award would be in the sum of £12,500."

'Lovely jubbly,' as Sea Tractor no doubt said, 'reee-sult Rodney!'

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