• Snow Valley Marine Services Ltd. v Seaspan Commodore (Tug), 2015 FC 304
  • January 8, 2016 | Authors: Dionysios Rossi; Graham Walker
  • Law Firm: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Vancouver Office
  • Causation can often be a contentious issue, particularly where multiple parties are involved in an incident causing loss. This decision stemmed from the sinking of an assist tug, the Warnoc, while it was providing assistance to the defendant vessel, the "Seaspan Survivor." The plaintiff Snow Valley Marine Services Ltd. ("Snow Valley"), was retained to assist in delivering logs to the Seaspan Survivor, which was owned by the defendant, Seaspan Marine Corporation ("Seaspan"). However, when the crew of the Seaspan Survivor retrieved the stern anchor after loading, the anchor was fouled. At the time, there were two experienced operators on the Warnoc and they assisted with the efforts to untangle the chain from the anchor. The mate of the Seaspan Survivor attended on board the Warnoc and attached a line from the Warnoc to either the anchor or the anchor chain. Unfortunately, when the anchor came free, it fell rapidly and the weight of the anchor and chain sunk the Warnoc.

    Snow Valley alleged that Seaspan's employees had been negligent in failing to properly secure a safety line to the anchor and that this was the sole cause of the accident. In response, Seaspan argued that the accident was due to the failure of the Warnoc's crew to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the vessel, including their failure to use a release mechanism for the tow line. Seaspan further argued that the Warnoc's crew did not have the requisite qualifications under the Marine Personnel Regulations, SOR/2007-115.

    Justice Manson accepted Seaspan's argument that the crew members were not technically qualified to operate, control, and ensure the safety of the Warnoc, but found that this was not fatal to the claim. He did, however, note that the crew's years of experience and the particular series of events in this case would be relevant to the question of whether their lack of technical qualifications contributed to the sinking.

    While Manson J. did acknowledge that the crew of the Warnoc was responsible for ensuring that the tow line connection was safe, he held that the failure of a safety chain between the Seaspan Survivor and the anchor and chain, not the tow line connection, caused the sinking. This meant that Seaspan was solely responsible.

    Manson J. awarded damages to Snow Valley based on the value of the Warnoc to Snow Valley as a going concern at the time and place of loss. The value of the lost tug was to be assessed by considering: (1) the market price of a comparable replacement tug, (2) the cost of refitting a tug to do her work, and (3) the compensation required to put Snow Valley in the same position it would have been in if the loss had not occurred (subject to the rules of law on remoteness of damages).