Gaining notoriety for costing the US Coast Guard over US$ 25,000 in damages and rewriting admiralty law, the 613 ton, 172 foot, coastal and harbour tanker, Mary A Whalen, will soon move to a customer-friendly pier at the Atlantic Basin in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Her owner, the non-profit community group Portside New York, hopes that the new berth, unlike her current berth in the Red Hook Container Terminal which required visitors to be escorted or have a TWIC card, will improve access by the public.
Originally launched in 1938 as ST KIDDOO, the name of the then Vice President and Treasurer of Fairbanks Morse, not surprisingly the tanker has a Fairbanks Morse engine.
Mary A Whalen also took center stage in a landmark US Supreme Court decision, “United States v Reliable Transfer Co” that changed how damages were apportioned in US admiralty courts.
When she grounded on a stormy dark Christmas Day 1968, on the Rockaways near JFK airport in New York, a Coast Guard light happened not to be functioning. Confused, her Master attempted a U-turn and went aground. Mary A Whalen owners blamed the Coast Guard who was ultimately found to be 25% at fault. But at the time 50% of the damages were levied against the Coast Guard which was the legal precedent at the time.
Eventually, on appeal the case reached the Supreme Court which ruled in 1975 that in marine accidents damages should be apportioned according to blame, overturning US maritime law that had been in effect since 1854 and bringing the US into alignment with most other nations.