Mencke v. Cargo of Java Sugar - 187 U.S. 248 (1902)
U.S. Supreme Court
Mencke v. Cargo of Java Sugar, 187 U.S. 248 (1902)
Mencke v. Cargo of Java Sugar
Argued November 13, 1902
Decided December 1, 1902
187 U.S. 248
Where the charter party of a vessel bound with a cargo of sugar from Java to a port in the United States provides that the vessel should discharge at New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Baltimore
"or so near the port of discharge as she may safely get and deliver the same, always afloat, in a customary place, and manner, in such dock, as directed by charterers, agreeably to bills of lading,"
and also provides
"all goods to be brought to and taken from alongside of the ship always afloat at said charterers' risk and expense, who may direct the same at the most convenient anchorage; lighterage, if any, to reach the port of destination, or deliver
the cargo at port of destination, remains for account of receivers, any custom of the port to the contrary notwithstanding,"
and the vessel has three steel masts built up solidly from the bottom to the top and so riveted there is no way of taking them down and the mainmast requires one hundred and forty-five feet of clear space to pass under any obstruction, which is more than the height at dead low water of the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River, charterers have no right to order the vessel to discharge at a dock above the Brooklyn Bridge, and if the vessel discharges by lighterage from the most convenient place below the bridge, the charterers must pay the expense of lighterage from the vessel to the dock. Under the above conditions, it is not a just exercise of the right given to the charterers by the charter party to select a dock in getting to which the vessel could not always be afloat or to which she could not safely get.
Under such circumstances, the vessel is not obliged to sail around Long Island, and thus reach the dock above the bridge by coming through Long Island Sound and Hell Gate.
This action was begun by the filing, on May 27, 1899, of a libel in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, by Anton Mencke, the master of the British ship Benlarig, against a cargo of sugar that had just been delivered from the vessel, to recover an unpaid balance of freight due for conveying the sugar from Java to New York. The receivers of the cargo, the claimants in the action, had deducted from the freight the cost of lightering the cargo from the dock where it had been discharged to the claimants' refinery, which was above the Brooklyn Bridge. The ship had been ordered by the claimants to proceed directly to the refinery, but was unable to do so because the height of her masts was such that she could not pass under the bridge.
The district court, per Judge Thomas, entered a decree in favor of the libellant January 18, 1900. 99 F. 298. The claimants appealed to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and that court, on April 16, 1901, reversed the decree of the district court, and remanded the cause with directions to dismiss the libel. 108 F. 89.
On May 13, 1901, a writ of certiorari was granted, and the cause was brought to this Court. 181 U.S. 620.