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Anyone care to discuss this July 1956 sea disaster?

To briefly recap, the ss Andrea Doria, an Italian flagged  luxury passenger vessel, was staved by a utilitarian Swedish flagged passenger/cargo vessel, the m/v Stockholm. This occurred some fifty miles off Nantucket. The Doria was sailing Westward and the Stockholm East. Visibility was marginal, but both vessels were aware of each other's presence.

The Doria sank some eleven hours after impact. The Stockholm remained seaworthy. All living souls were rescued from the Doria, but there were about 45 fatalities -  mostly Doria passengers.

Edited by GBNorman

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I remember this disaster. However I was a teenager so my memory has faded.  I will follow this post with interest.   

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I was fifteen when the disaster occurred and not all that far away - Groton Long Point CT to be precise.

Even though Boards of Inquiry ruled "no fault", i.e. each party settle your own claims, I believe the Doria was at fault. She altered course cutting accross Stockholm's bow, apparently because the Doria captain thought they were too close to shoals off Nantucket. This changed the situation from neither vessel having Right of Way to Stockholm having such.

Surely our "Dutch Mariner" around here will have thoughts to share.

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One of the highlights of the 64/65 World's Fair in NY was Michelangelo's  Pieta,  brought over for display at the Vatican Pavilion. It was transported on the Andrea Doria's sister ship, Christoforo Colombo. Detailed replicas were made to test packing and safety ideas, including special casings that would float to the surface if the ship sank. (obviously a possibility that could not be dismissed lightly) The replicas were later broken up, except for one which was gifted to the Diocese of Brooklyn in whose territory the Fair was held. It is on display at a facility a few miles from where I live.

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2 hours ago, GBNorman said:

I believe the Doria was at fault. She altered course cutting accross Stockholm's bow, apparently because the Doria captain thought they were too close to shoals off Nantucket. This changed the situation from neither vessel having Right of Way to Stockholm having such.

Close, but no.

In a meeting situation where the risk of collision exists, both vessels are required to alter course to starboard in order to effect a port to port passage, which the Andrea Doria failed to do.  At no time was a right of way conferred upon the Stockholm.

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If some wanted to save the Doria, I think it could have been done. Get enough tugs to the scene to stabilize the list, shore up the bulkheads as needed, patch over the staving, and take her in tow to wherever.

The problem of course would be where in the world could Doria call? She could never call at a US port lest she be seized in a Civil action. Same applies to a European port and the major Asian ports which at that time could be considered "civilized". She would have been confined to sailing between one underdeveloped port and another where "paper handshakes" could have kept authorities away.

That would have in no way made a salvaged Doria a paying economic venture. I think the shipowners quickly made the decision: all living have been saved; let 'er go.

This was further brought out in a New York Times article printed during the '80's which concluded that in certain seas, the Doria would have been about as seaworthy as a Staten Island ferry.

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8 hours ago, GBNorman said:

She could never call at a US port lest she be seized in a Civil action. Same applies to a European port and the major Asian ports which at that time could be considered "civilized".

What makes you believe that?

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I was a very young teenager at the time of the accident and well remember it.  Having already read A Night To Remember, this tragedy further interested me in many things, maritime.  The first book that was written about the accident was Alvin Moscow's Collision Course and was/is a good read.

 

There were many contributing factors in the accident in addition to the "right of way" issue.  The Stockholm had only one rather Junior Officer on the Bridge and was sailing in clear weather, not realizing that fog was nearby.  She was also sailing Eastbound in what should have been a Westbound corridor, in which the Andrea Doria was sailing.  The Doria was sailing in fog with little or no reduction in speed.  (Wanted to get to New York on time.)  While both ships' radar was working, no one on the Doria's Bridge was plotting the positions of nearby ships.  (Had that been done, the accident might have been avoided once the Doria's Captain had realized the true position of the Stockholm.)  If I recall correctly, one "expert" believed that the ships were headed directly towards each other--bow to bow.  Thus, the Captain's decision, made in the interest of avoiding the Stockholm . resulted in cutting across the Stockholm's bow because he did not properly understand the Stockholm's true position in relation to the Doria.

 

There was confusion on both ship's Bridge just before the time of the collusion.  On the Stockholm, the crew could not understand why they were not able to see the Doria's lights.  (Never considered the other ship being in fog.)  And, just at a critical moment, the Bridge's phone rang, causing the sole Officer to take his eyes off the radar and outside the ship in order to answer the phone.

 

Captain Calami did try to save the ship by turning towards shallower water to the North with the idea of beaching the ship.  But, with such a significant list, there was a fear that doing so would make the ship more unstable and make rescue efforts more difficult than they were.

 

Just like the Titanic, the Andrea Doria/Stockholm story is a sad tale.  The Doria rests at the bottom of the Atlantic with the remains of those who went down with her while the Stockholm still sails as a modified cruise ship.

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1 hour ago, Ryan said:
9 hours ago, GBNorman said:

She could never call at a US port lest she be seized in a Civil action. Same applies to a European port and the major Asian ports which at that time could be considered "civilized".

What makes you believe that?

I'm not familiar with marine terms so could you translate what what he said actually means?

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1 hour ago, Dakota 400 said:

 The first book that was written about the accident was Alvin Moscow's Collision Course and was/is a good read.

Much of my understsnding of the incident comes from reading Moscow as well. If this discussion continues, then I find it my duty to "dig it out" to be refreshed.

I further wish I could locate  that Times article stating how unseaworthy the Doria appeared to be.

Edited by GBNorman
Condense quotation to relevancy of this post

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Stockholm is now known as the Astoria. There is a different ship sailing that bears the name Stockholm doing Artic cruises for small numbers of passengers..

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4 hours ago, cpotisch said:

I'm not familiar with marine terms so could you translate what what he said actually means?

One of the complexities of admiralty (maritime) law is that all claims are filed against the ship, not the owners. It was, bluntly, written to protect the shipowners, not passengers, shippers, or crew. If the Stockholm had been indisputably at fault (it wasn't) but all other facts in evidence were the same, the owners and passengers of the Andrea Doria could expect no more recourse than to have an Admiralty court award them title to the damaged Stockholm. And their lawyers then would have had to fight over the scraps amongst themselves. Had the Andrea Doria survived, the first time it tied up in a port which was party to accepted maritime law it could have and almost certainly would have been seized to settle claims against the ship. But, with the ship at the bottom of the Atlantic...so sorry, you have a claim? Well, there she lies; feel free to raise her and salvage her on your own nickel.

Ever wonder why J. P. Morgan and the other owners of the Titanic didn't lose a bit of sleep over lawsuits and such after that sinking?

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16 hours ago, ehbowen said:

One of the complexities of admiralty (maritime) law is that all claims are filed against the ship, not the owners. It was, bluntly, written to protect the shipowners, not passengers, shippers, or crew. If the Stockholm had been indisputably at fault (it wasn't) but all other facts in evidence were the same, the owners and passengers of the Andrea Doria could expect no more recourse than to have an Admiralty court award them title to the damaged Stockholm. And their lawyers then would have had to fight over the scraps amongst themselves. Had the Andrea Doria survived, the first time it tied up in a port which was party to accepted maritime law it could have and almost certainly would have been seized to settle claims against the ship. But, with the ship at the bottom of the Atlantic...so sorry, you have a claim? Well, there she lies; feel free to raise her and salvage her on your own nickel.

Ever wonder why J. P. Morgan and the other owners of the Titanic didn't lose a bit of sleep over lawsuits and such after that sinking?

Thanks! That is quite an idiotic system. :)

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While I understand why there was no legal determination as to which, if either, ship was mostly at fault for this disaster, I cannot help but wonder if such a determination at that time might have been helpful in preventing such an accident in the future.

 

Radar and Bridge-operating procedures have surely advanced since the 1950's.  Kudos to cruise companies that have instituted standardized Bridge responsibilities and duties for those on Watch regardless of the vessel on which they are serving, regardless of which cruise company that ship is a member of their fleet.

 

 

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Thanks! That is quite an idiotic system.


Admiralty Law is quite complex and evolved over the years with a goal of encouraging trade. This specialty is so unique that it is a distinct area of legal practice.

Take a look at Wikipedia for a brief explanation of this body of law.

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I have a small army of friends, relatives and acquaintances who are attorneys, ranging from ambulance chasers to a federal judge. number that practice admiralty and shipping law - exactly one....and I live in an area with a very active international  freight and large passenger ship traffic port

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19 hours ago, cpotisch said:

Thanks! That is quite an idiotic system. :)

In actuality it is a perfectly logical system whereby people with money employ people with knowledge to write rules which protect the powerful from the weak.  Morality logic.

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Seems to be that they treat each ship like an LLC in and of itself, thus fencing off liabilities on a per ship basis. I am not suggesting that it is right or wrong, but am trying to understand it within the framework of corporate governance.

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It's like layers on an onion. Peel one back and there is another. Consider that most ships are registered/flagged in a country which is often not the domicile of the owners, who are further often  operating as a corporation formed under the laws of  a 3rd country.

Edited by PVD

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Seems to be that they treat each ship like an LLC in and of itself, thus fencing off liabilities on a per ship basis. I am not suggesting that it is right or wrong, but am trying to understand it within the framework of corporate governance.


As I posted earlier, the body of law evolved to encourage and protect commerce. An example is when a ship arrives at a port and needs services (repairs , fuel etc.), in order to move on to the next port and deliver goods etc. Unless persons can deal with the ship to deliver what's needed, the ship would not be able to leave. If there are liens which need to be released before the ship can leave, they can be transferred to a surety bond in an amount determined by a court, and then the ship can leave free and clear of the liens.

Thus, the ship itself is the security for any debts incurred (unless transferred to a bond as indicated above) and the "lien priority" is established giving the current debt priority rather than as a mortgage on your house where the oldest established lien has priority.

This seems odd to us who are familiar normal lien priorities. Remember, keeping the goods in active commerce ( remember, those who ship the goods on a particular ship are unknown to each other but have a common interest in having the goods delivered to their ultimate destination).

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9 hours ago, PVD said:

I have a small army of friends, relatives and acquaintances who are attorneys, ranging from ambulance chasers to a federal judge. number that practice admiralty and shipping law - exactly one....and I live in an area with a very active international  freight and large passenger ship traffic port

My father did a little bit of admiralty work as a young lawyer -- I believe one of the partners at his firm specialized in it.

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This is great  discussion that has developed regarding the Doria. Had "save her above all" been paramount, I believe she could have been. 

Why our Dutch Mariner around here, who I know disagrees with me on that point, has been silent   escapes me.

However, as I noted earlier, had their been a judicial proceeding where the objective was to find fault, it would have been with the Doria. Very simply, she was "driving too fast for conditions",  and when she realized that someone was "sort of in her lane",  she "swerved into that someone's right of way and got T-Boned".

Maritime and motor vehicle rights of way are quite similar. Likely the latter was drawn from the former.

Finally, Moscow did point out that Italian skippers had traditionally wanted to stay away from the shoals. Funny though, how a latter day one in command of the "Concordia" chose to violate that unwritten rule simply to show off.

Edited by GBNorman
Grammar

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Responding to GBNorman:

 

Based upon what as a non-expert that I know, I really doubt that the Andrea Doria could have been saved before she sank.  Given the list that she increasingly experienced after the collision, the time needed to get a repair team in place to do their work and then to actually do their work to try to save the ship, and subsequent inspections of the hull in the area of the collision by divers after she sank, there just wasn't any hope that she could be saved once the Captain determined it was too unsafe to try to sail her into shallow waters.

 

One report by a dive team that I read said that the Stockholm's intrusion into the Doria had even penetrated her keel.

 

Given the severity of the ship's list which made it impossible for 50% of her lifeboats to be used, it ought to be considered a blessing for those Andrea Doria guests and crew that so many other ships were nearby to help rescue them.  While the Isle de France has been turned into "razor blades" or whatever. her Captain and his ship's role in preventing this tragedy from becoming of a "Titanic" proportion should never be forgotten.

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There were both judicial and congressional inquires. the court proceedings resulted in a settlement agreement which included non disclosure on many points, The Wikipedia article on the A/D has a pretty good summary of the congressional hearing findings....

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