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Alhambra cigar v.

La Granja
Doctrine:
A vessel although not abandoned may be subject of salvage if at the time the services were
rendered there was probable, threatening danger of the vessel or of the cargo to be
damaged.
Facts:
Alhambra Cigar and Cigarette Manufacturing loaded upon the barge Nieva 350 bales of
tobacco and 250,000 pieces of rattan.
While the barge was navigating along the Cagayan River, the owner of Nieva hired the
launch Triton, owned by La Granja Inc., to tow Nieva. Such action was prompted by fear of
an impending flood due to two typhoons that had just struck the vicinity.
Unfortunately, as the convoy approached the portion of the river known as Hurdle 10, the
rope that connected both vessels broke. This caused Nieva to be swept by the current into
the open sea where it eventually disappeared.
Alhambra (owner of the cargo) sued the owner of both vessels. While Nieva blamed the
disaster to La Granja, the latter denied responsibility for the damages saying that the same
has been caused by force majeure.
The trial court ruled against La Granja on the ground that the latter has been negligent
for attempting to tow an overloaded vessel, for not sending a bigger launch to rescue Nieva
and for using a defective cable in towing Nieva.
Issue: 1) what was the nature of the contract between Nieva and La Granja? Salvage 2) Is
anyone liable for the loss?
.
The contract between the two vessels was a salvage contract. A vessel although not
abandoned may be subject of salvage if at the time the services were rendered there was
probable, threatening danger of the vessel or of the cargo to be damaged.
In the case at bar, there is no question that at the time the contract was entered into there
was an imminent danger to Nieva and to its cargoes due to the impending flood.
The SC absolved both owners and attributed the loss to force majeure.
o First, the rope used to connect the vessels was actually only 2 years old and was
barely used at that. The reason why it snapped can be reasonably attributed to
the strong currents of the river.
o Second, Nieva was not overloaded as in fact it could still carry 4.6 more tons of
cargoes.
o Third, a bigger launch could not have been used to salvage Nieva because it was
at the time traversing shallow waters.
o Finally, the crew of both vessels were shown to have exercised due diligence. In
fact, the captain of Nieva stayed with it even when it drifted to the open sea in
an attempt to save the cargo, which left him drifting for three days and nights
without any food and water. Furthermore, the course taken by vessels was the
proper course in navigating the Cagayan River.