Moran sued for damage to aircraft carrier, crane

The following is the text of a news release from The Pennsylvania Record:

(PHILADELPHIA) — A federal lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against a Philadelphia towing company after it allegedly caused severe damage to the decommissioned USS John Fitzgerald Kennedy aircraft carrier while moving a floating barge crane in the Philadelphia Naval Yard on the Delaware River.

Rhoads Industries Inc., which leases the crane at the shipyard to provide the movement of large cargo on and off ships, seeks compensatory and punitive damages against Moran Towing Corp. On Nov. 9, 2012, one of Moran’s tugboat operators collided the crane into the aircraft carrier, causing more than $1 million in damage to the crane.

According to the complaint, Rhoads began leasing the crane under a 2010 agreement with the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development. The large crane is mounted on an engineless, floating platform and is capable of lifting up to 50 tons of construction equipment or cargo.

On Nov. 8, representatives from Rhoads approached Moran and asked the towing company to move the barge from its position along the sea wall at Pier 5 to the starboard side of the USS Thomas Gates, a navy ship stationed on the east side of Pier 5. A telephone agreement had Rhoads paying Moran $500 per hour during the tow, the claim says.

The next morning, Moran’s tugboat operator began to move the barge crane on a clear and calm water surface, the complaint says. Ten minutes after gaining control of the barge, the tugboat operator drove the main mast of the barge into the port side harpoon mounting on the USS John Fitzgerald Kennedy, according to the claim.

The plaintiffs say that after the initial contact, the tugboat operator sped the boat and collided into the aircraft carrier a second time, causing more damage to both vessels. The complaint says the weather has clear and there were no environmental hazards that could have caused the accident. The complaint blames the damage on the careless actions of the tugboat operator, claiming there was no reason to have the crane moved so closely to the aircraft carrier.

Not only does the cost to repair the crane estimate to be more than $1 million, Rhoads has been unable to use the machinery since the collision. The complaint says that the company has been forced to turn down business opportunities because of the crane’s unavailability, representing a significant loss of revenue.

The U.S. Navy has been conducting a review of the damage, but no estimated claim has been presented to Rhoads for the repairs to the carrier. The claim also says that a Rhoads employee was injured while escaping from falling debris during the accident.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP in Philadelphia.

By Professional Mariner Staff