Tanker-Bridge Dispute Scheduled for Trial in New Hampshire

July 17, 2013

A dispute over who should pay for the $2.4 million in damage to a bridge connecting New Hampshire and Maine has been scheduled for trial in federal court in October 2014.

The 473-foot oil tanker MV Harbour Feature struck the bridge on April 1 after breaking away from a pier. The bridge connecting Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, was shut down several weeks for repairs.

In dispute is whether the fault lies with the tanker, or the states of Maine and New Hampshire, which own and/or manage the bridge and nearby port.

The states are seeking reimbursement for costs associated with repairing the bridge and damages for economic losses when the bridge was closed for repairs. The Harbour Feature owners say the tanker incurred damage.

The Portsmouth Herald reports a plan announced by the court in New Hampshire on Monday notes the states have until Dec. 16 to make a settlement demand. The tanker owner has until Jan. 16 to make an offer.

The two states sued in April, saying the tanker’s crew “negligently tended her lines, allowing the vessel to come free from her berth,” before the ship drifted sideways and crashed broadside into the bridge.

The Harbour Feature owners contend the ship was in good condition and its crew acted with “due care and good seamanship” when a tugboat captain boarded the vessel and took it through the bridge to the state pier.

The owners say the tugboat captain, and agents of the state pier determined which way and how the tanker would dock and the tugboat captain “drafted the mooring plan.”

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