266 US 433 United States v. The Panoil

266 U.S. 433

45 S.Ct. 164

69 L.Ed. 366


No. 139.

Argued Dec. 10, 1924.

Decided Jan. 5, 1925.

The Attorney General and Mr. J. Frank Staley, of Washington, D. C., for the United States.

Messrs. Walter Carroll, George H. Terriberry, W. W. Young, and Joseph M. Rault, all of New Orleans, La., for appellee.

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.


The United States libeled the steamship Panoil and asked a decree for $2,000 because of damage inflicted upon spur dike No. 5, a structure extending into the Mississippi river. Upon exception duly taken the District Court correctly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction of the matter and dismissed the libel.


In order to deflect the current and cause it to deepen the channel at the mouth of the river the United States built submerged dikes and sills, composed of willow mattresses weighted down with stone; also several spurs. Spur dike No. 5, located near the 'Head of the Passes,' consists of a cribwork of round piles, hewn walings, and sawn cross-braces, all securely bolted together, with a curtain of round piles bolted against the upstream face. It is driven into the bed of the river, and extends out about 700 feet from the east bank, approximately at right angles to the channel. Its special purpose is to slacken the current, induce deposits of sediment, and eventually built out the shore, and in this way to improve the channel and aid navigation. Proceeding in a thick fog the Panoil struck this dike, shoved 30 feet of the channel end upstream, and so damaged it as to require rebuilding at an expense of $2,000.


Appellants maintain that as the dike is an aid to navigation the court below had jurisdiction of the alleged tort, within the doctrine of The Blackheath, 195 U. S. 361, 25 S. Ct. 46, 49 L. Ed. 236, and The Raithmoor, 241 U. S. 166, 36 S. Ct. 514, 60 L. Ed. 937. We think the principle of those cases does not go so far. The dike constitutes an extension of the shore, and must be regarded as land. The mere fact that its presence may affect the flow of the water and thereby ultimately facilitate navigation is not enough to bring the injury within the admiralty jurisdiction. Cleveland Terminal & Valley Railroad Co. v. Cleveland Steamship Co., 208 U. S. 316, 28 S. Ct. 414, 52 L. Ed. 508, 13 Ann. Cas. 1215; The Troy, 208 U. S. 321, 28 S. Ct. 416, 52 L. Ed. 512.