THE MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT, 1894
REPORT OF COURT
Steam Tug "Security" O.N. 118084
In the matter of a Formal Investigation held at The Institution
of Civil Engineers and Church House Assembly Rooms, London, on the
10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 18th and 21st days of January,
1949, before K. S. Carpmael, Esq., K.C., assisted by Captain J. P.
Thomson, Lieut.-Commander C. V. Groves and E. F. Spanner, Esq.,
M.I.N.A., into the circumstances attending the loss of the steam
tug "Security", of London, Official Number 118084, off Anvil Point
in the English Channel while assisting in towing the tanker
"Kelletia" on the 8th December, 1946.
The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances
attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the
reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the "Security" was lost
owing to becoming unmanageable in exceptionally heavy weather and
acquiring a list for some reason which was not satisfactorily
established, and in consequence, taking heavy water on board.
Dated this 3rd day of March, 1949.
KENNETH S. CARPMAEL, Judge
We concur in the above Report.
| ||CHARLES V. GROVES|| |
| ||E. F. SPANNER||Assessors|
| ||J. P. THOMSON|| |
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
The Court's answers to the questions submitted by the Ministry
of Transport are as follows:
|Q. 1.||By whom was the steam tug "Security"
owned, and how long had she been so owned?|
|A.||The Elliott Steam Tug Company, Limited, of 60
Fenchurch Street, London, E.C.3. Since 1927.|
|Q. 2.||When and where was the "Security" built?|
|A.||1904. South Shields.|
|Q. 3.||When did the "Security" leave the Thames for
Falmouth to assist in towing the disabled motor tanker "Kelletia"
from Falmouth to the Tyne?|
|A.||18th November, 1946.|
|Q. 4.||Did the "Security" take shelter at Dover, Newhaven
and Portsmouth on the journey to Falmouth, because of stress of
|Q. 5.||A short time before the "Security" sailed from
Gravesend for Falmouth was a repair made to her stem by the welding
on of a plate and the fitting of a cement box?|
|Q. 6.||Was the "Security" seaworthy when she sailed from
Gravesend for Falmouth?|
|A.||No, for the reasons given in the Annex.|
|Q. 7.||Did the "Security" suffer damage to her wood
belting whilst at Dover, and was this damage repaired before
|A.||She suffered damage which was not repaired.|
|Q. 8.||Was the "Security" seaworthy when she left
|A.||No, for the reasons given in the Annex.|
|Q. 9.||Were further repairs to the "Security" carried out
on arrival at Falmouth?|
|A.||Minor repairs as specified in the Annex.|
|Q. 10.||Was the "Security" seaworthy when she commenced
towing operations on the 7th December, 1946, at Falmouth?|
|Q. 11.||At approximately 1.20 p.m. on the 7th December,
1946, did the "Security", in company with tugs "Contest" and
"Watercock", commence to tow the motor tanker "Kelletia" from
Falmouth to the Tyne?|
|Q. 12.||Was the "Security" towing on the port bow?|
|Q. 13.||Which tug master was in charge of the towing
|A.||The master of the "Contest" was acting as the
senior master of the three tugs. No arrangement had been made as to
who was in charge of the towing operations.|
|Q. 14.||What were the conditions of wind, weather and sea
when the tow commenced?|
|A.||Fresh Westerly wind, rough sea and swell, and the
South cone was hoisted. The weather conditions were unsettled.|
|Q. 15.||Did the conditions of wind, weather and sea
|A.||For a few hours the conditions became better but
then again deteriorated.|
|Q. 16.||On the 8th December, 1946, did the tug "Watercock"
break adrift from the tow? At about what time was this?|
|A.||Yes, at about 4.0 p.m.|
|Q. 17.||Very shortly after the "Watercock" broke adrift,
did the "Security" take a sharp list to port?|
|A.||Yesafter the tow-rope of the "Security" was
|Q. 18.||Did the "Security" right herself or remain listed
|A.||The "Security" took a list shortly after her
tow-rope was slipped. She did not recover from this list.|
|Q. 19.||Was the towing hook of the "Security" slipped as a
result of the serious list?|
|Q. 20.||Did the "Security" turn over and sink very shortly
after the towing hook was slipped?|
|A.||She took a list as described in the Answer to
Question 18, and after a few rolls and while on a roll to port she
|Q. 21.||Were five members of the crew of the "Security"
picked out of the water by the tug "Watercock"?|
|Q. 22||Were the other four members of the crew of the
"Security", including the master, lost?|
|Q. 23.||Was the "Security" sunk because of water entering
through the port fiddley door when she heeled over?|
|A.||This was a contributory cause.|
|Q. 24.||What was the cause of the "Security" taking a
severe list to port and not righting herself just before the tow
hook was slipped?|
|A.||The list (which occurred after the slipping) was
due to a variety of causes including loose water, as discussed in
|Q. 25.||Was it an error of judgment that the fiddley doors
had not been closed in the weather conditions then obtaining?|
|A.||It would have been better from the point of view
of safety if the doors had been closed.|
|Q. 26.||Was the "Security" usually employed as a river
|Q. 27.||Was the "Security" a suitable tug to engage in
towing the "Kelletia" from Falmouth to the Tyne in conjunction with
the tugs "Contest" and "Watercock" in December, taking the size and
age of the "Security" into account?|
|A.||If the "Security" had not been unseaworthy in the
respects detailed in the Annex she would have been a suitable tug
for the purpose indicated.|
|Q. 28.||What was the cause of the loss of the tug
|A.||See Answer to Question 24.|
|Q. 29.||Was the loss of the "Security" caused or
contributed to by the wrongful act or default of the owners, or the
registered manager of the "Security"?|
|Q. 30.||Was the loss of the "Security" caused or
contributed to by the wrongful act or default of any person other
than those mentioned in Question 29?|
|A.||For the reasons given in the Annex, the Court
finds that it has not been established that the loss of the
"Security" was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act or
default of anyone.|
ANNEX TO THE REPORT.
Mr. J. B. Hewson (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor, Ministry
of Transport Branch) appeared for the Minister of Transport.
Mr. Peter Bucknill (instructed by Messrs. Thomas Cooper &
Company, Bunge House, St. Mary Axe, E.C.3) appeared for the owners
of the tug "Security", the Elliott Steam Tug Company, Limited, of
60, Fenchurch Street, E.C.3 and her registered manager Mr. John
Page of the same address, both the owners and the manager being
parties to the Inquiry.
Watching briefs were held by Mr. R. F. Hayward, K.C. (instructed
by Messrs. Walton & Company, of 101, Leadenhall Street, E.C.3)
on behalf of the owners of the motor ship "Kelletia", the
Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company, and by Mr. Waldo Porges (instructed
by Messrs. Middleton, Lewis & Clarke, of 53, Leadenhall Street,
E.C.3) on behalf of the owners of the tug "Watercock", the Ocean
The "Security" was a steel, single deck, single screw, steam
towing and salvage vessel. She had open floors throughout and had a
The "Security" was built in 1904 by J. P. Rennoldson & Sons,
South Shields; that firm is now out of business.
The "Security" at the time of her loss was owned by Elliott
Steam Tug Company, of 60, Fenchurch Street, London, E.C.3. She was
built as "Kingfisher", and was later acquired by the Admiralty and
renamed "Diligence". In 1927 she was acquired by Elliott Steam Tug
Company and renamed "Security". During the 1939-45 war she was on
charter to the Government and was renamed "Stoke". She was returned
to the owners in August, 1944, and in 1946 was renamed
The designated manager of the "Security" was John Page, of 60,
Fenchurch Street, London, E.C.3.
The registered dimensions of the "Security" were 102 feet/23.1
The builders' dimensions were:
| ||Length between perpendiculars||102 feet|
| ||Breadth moulded||23 feet|
| ||Depth moulded||13 feet|
The tonnages of the "Security" were:
| ||Underdeck||173.34|| |
| ||Gross||188.50|| |
| ||Register||69.78|| |
The "Security" had four watertight bulkheads separating the
| ||Fore peak|
| ||Crew's cabin and chain locker|
| ||Cross bunker|
| ||Machinery space and salvage pump space|
| ||After peak.|
There were two vertical sliding watertight doors in the bulkhead
between the stokehold and cross bunker.
The "Security" had a forecastle about 57 feet long and 7 feet
high. The forecastle contained the boiler casing, accommodation for
officers, washplaces, and lavatories, galley, stores, coal shoot to
cross bunker and companionway to crew's cabin. It was open at the
after end, port and starboard, from the boiler casing to the ship's
side. On the forecastle was a wood chart and wheelhouse.
The boiler casing was steel and extended to the forecastle deck.
At each side there was a steel door 22 inches wide, 4 feet 9 inches
high with sill 19 inches high above the deck. An opening in the top
of the casing was closed by a hinged steel cover. These are,
hereafter, referred to as fiddley doors.
Aft of the forecastle was a steel engine casing 3 feet high at
the fore end and 5 feet high at the aft end. At the after end of
the engine casing was a wood door 2 feet 2 inches wide, 3 feet 3
inches high with sill 18 inches high above the deck. On each side
were three 131½ inches diameter lights and in the top were ten 10
inches diameter hinged lights.
Round the main deck aft of the forecastle was a steel bulwark 2
feet 9 inches high with three freeing ports each side, fitted with
There was one 7 inches diameter ventilator on the forecastle
deck, to the crew's cabin. There were ventilators on the casing
top, to the machinery space.
There were four scuppers each side draining the main deck, and
led overboard below the wood fender. There were discharges from the
W.C.s forward, led overboard below the wood fender.
On the forecastle deck was a hatchway about 4 feet long 5 feet
wide, serving the cross bunker through a coal shoot in the
forecastle, and on the main deck aft was a hatchway 4 feet square
with steel coaming to the pump room. These two hatchways were
closed by the usual arrangement of wood covers, tarpaulins, cleats,
battens, and wedges.
In the forecastle was a 20 inches diameter hatch to the fore
peak and on the main deck was an 18 inches diameter hatch to the
after peak. These hatches were closed by watertight steel plate
On each side of the main deck were four 17½ inches diameter
coaling scuttles with screw joints, two serving the cross bunker
and two serving the side bunker.
In the forecastle was a steel companionway to the crew's cabin.
It had a wood door 2 feet 9 inches wide, 4 feet 6 inches high with
sill 18 inches high above the deck.
The "Security" had a fender all round at the level of the main
deck consisting of wood 6 inches by 9 inches fitted between two
angle bars rivetted to the ship's side, and with a steel face plate
secured by bolts passing through the shell.
The "Security" had three 11 inches diameter side scuttles fitted
with hinged deadlights, port and starboard to the crew's cabin.
The propelling machinery comprised one triple expansion
reciprocating steam engine having three cylinders, 16 inches, 26
inches and 43 inches diameter and 27 inches stroke, made in 1904 by
J. P. Rennoldson & Sons, South Shields, and one Scotch boiler,
made in 1904 by J.T. Eltringham & Company, South Shields.
According to the ship's register the Indicated Horse Power was
The steering engine was a two-cylinder oscillating type fitted
in the lower wheelhouse, the connection to the rudder quadrant
being by rod and chain.
The "Security" had two lifeboats, one each side, under radial
davits, at the after end of the forecastle deck.
The "Security" was classed Lloyds'+100A "for towing
The third No, 3 Special Survey was carried out at London in
A load line certificate was issued by Lloyd's on 23rd November,
1942, to remain in force until 23rd November, 1947.
The assigned freeboard was 1 foot 6 inches measured from the top
of the steel main deck at side.
The mean draft corresponding to the freeboard was 12 feet 1
The last Annual Load Line Survey was carried out at London in
The last inspection in dry dock by a Lloyd's Surveyor was in
This was an Inquiry into the circumstances attending the loss on
8th December, 1946, of the steam tug "Security" while engaged with
two other tugs, the "Contest" and the "Watercock", in towing the
engineless motor tanker "Kelletia" of 7,434 tons gross, which was
in ballast from Falmouth to the North-East coast. The weather at
the time was very bad.
The "Contest" is a steel, single deck, single screw steam tug
built in 1923, 100 feet in length and 26.1 feet in beam and 213
tons gross. She belonged to the same owners as the "Security".
The "Watercock" is a steel, single deck, single screw steam tug
built in 1923, 96.6 feet in length and 24.5 feet in beam and 200
tons gross, and was owned by the Ocean Salvage Company.
It has been a difficult and unsatisfactory case to
Although the sinking of the "Security" occurred on 8th December,
1946, the Inquiry did not start until 10th January, 1949.
It should have been clear to everyone from the outset that an
Inquiry of this kind must be held, and that it would be necessary
to have available all the information that could be obtained as to
the condition of the vessel at the time of her loss. Nevertheless,
the Owners' Superintendent thought fit on retiring at the end of
December, 1946, to destroy all note books and docuiments relating
to the vessels that had been under his superintendence. The
Superintendent was an elderly man, aged 82, and appeared to regard
these papers as his own private property although they had come
into existence in the course of carrying out his duties to his
employers. As the condition of the vessel on sailing from the
Thames was bound to be very much in issue, these note books and
other documents might have been expected to contain valuable
evidence, both positive and negative, on this question. The Court
is of opinion that there was no justification for the
The Court is also of opinion that in view of the fact as stated
above that it was obvious that an Inquiry must be held, instant
notice should have been given on behalf of the Minister of
Transport to the owners that all relevant documents must be
As has been stated by this Court in former cases, it is of the
utmost importance that statements should be taken at the earliest
possible moment by someone experienced in the matter from all the
witnesses who could throw any light upon what happened. This is
what is clone as a matter of course in cases of ship collisions,
and the Court is of opinion that a similar practice should be
adopted for cases such as the present. It was quite clear that
nothing of the sort had been done for the purposes of this
Moreover, although the condition of the "Security" was a matter
into which it was vital to enquire, little, if any, attempt had
been made to collate the various repair accounts and survey
reports. Indeed, it was only on the last day of the Inquiry that
certain survey reports with regard to wastage in the ship's bottom
plating were forthcoming, having been filed at Lloyd's Register
under the name of "Stoke" which had been her name while under
requisition. As the change of name was known to those in charge of
investigating the matter on behalf of the Minister, the Court is of
opinion that these documents could and ought to have been
discovered much sooner. Had they been so discovered, they must or
ought to have led (in conjunction with the relevant repair accounts
which were held at the Ministry) to further enquiries.
The "Security", as indicated above, had a forecastle extending
for more than half her length. Although an old ship, she had had a
long and useful life in sea and river towage. According to the
masters of the other tugs, she appeared on account of her long
forecastle to be making better weather of it than the other tugs
until shortly before she disappeared, when she was seen to be in
In these circumstances it became material to consider whether
there was anything in her design or condition which might have been
the cause of such difficulties arising.
To deal first of all with the question of design, the result of
having a long forecastle was to create a comparatively narrow
alleyway about 5 feet wide on each side of the ship. On the inboard
side of each alleyway there was a fiddley door with a sill 19
inches high situated 9 or 10 feet from the after end of the
According to the evidence, the practice on board the "Security"
at the time in question was to leave the doors open when at sea. As
however the top of the sill was brought to water level with a list
of about 30°, there was obvious danger in such a practice with the
vessel in a rough sea from abeam to right aft. Indeed, a previous
master of the "Security" described such an incident with heavy
water piling up in one of the alleyways, a disaster only being
averted by reason of the doors being closed at the time.
There appears to be no doubt that the final cause of the sinking
of the "Security" was entry of water down the port fiddley door
which was open, and possibly also down the door from the engine
room to the after deck. Once that started to happen there can have
been little or no chance of any recovery.
There was not sufficient information available to enable any
reliable calculations of stability to be made, but there is no
doubt that the "Security" had ample initial stability and also
sufficient reserve stability provided the fiddley and other doors
were kept closed.
The position, however, with regard to the condition of the
"Security" was unsatisfactory. This was due partly to war
In August, 1939, the "Security" was requisitioned, and for the
next five years was employed in Admiralty service. From July, 1942,
until re-delivered to her owners in August, 1944, she was managed
by Messrs. Watkins, tug owners, on behalf of the Admiralty.
In November, 1942, the "Security" underwent her third No. 3
Special Survey, and as a result was re-classified Lloyd's 100A for
towing purposes. During that survey about thirty per cent. of her
side plating was drill tested, that is to say every strake of
plating from the main deck down to but not including the strake
next the bar keel, the drilling being done in three places along
the length of the vessel, just aft of the forepeak tank, amidships
and just forward of the after peak tank.
It is important to notice that, as stated in the previous
paragraph, the plates in the strake next to the bar keel port and
starboard were not drilled, the reason being that there was thick
cement laid on the inside. This is of importance because the two
plates port and starboard in this strake amidships were found in
March, 1944, to be so badly wasted that two large doubling plates
had to be fitted on the outside. This was discovered because a leak
developed while the "Security" was at anchor off the Tyne in the
course of towing another vessel from the Thames to the Firth of
Forth in calm weather. Temporary repairs were carried out and the
"Security" completed her voyage to the Forth, after which she was
drydocked at Sunderland. There it was found necessary to fit
doubling plates port and starboard, each 7 feet 6 inches by 28
inches by 8/20 inch.
Unfortunately, this was one of the matters which only came to
light in the course of the Inquiry, on the fifth day, and in
consequence it was impossible to get any exact information as to
the extent of the wastage because of the lapse of time, and also
because of the illness of the Lloyd's surveyor who examined the
vessel in dry dock. It is however clear that for the purpose of
temporary repairs in the Tyne it was necessary for the diver to
insert in the plate on the port side a wooden plug no less than 2½
inches in diameter. After repairs in dry dock she was re-classed by
Lloyd's and there is no suggestion that this was not proper, but
the fact that such wastage had occurred was obviously important,
and steps should have been taken to ensure that the fact was not
forgotten. During the invasion of France, the "Security" was
employed for towage purposes across the Channel, but on the 10th
August, 1944, she was handed back to her owners. On that day an
offsurvey was held when the vessel was placed on the hard at
Gravesend. Various people were present, including the Owners'
Superintendent and a Consultant Engineer on behalf of Messrs.
Watkins. The latter had been present when temporary repairs had
been made to the bottom of the vessel in March, 1944, as described
above, but had not been present when the vessel was dry-docked at
Sunderland. The Consultant Engineer was aware that two doubling
plates had been fitted, but did not know why it had been found
necessary to fit the second plate. No one else had been present on
behalf of Messrs. Watkins, at Sunderland, but on the other hand
presumably competent surveyors had been present and passed the
repairs on that occasion. Although, therefore, with a normal
peace-time routine it would have been imperative for the owners (in
which capacity Messrs. Watkins were then acting) and their
representatives to have taken more active steps to enquire into the
reason for the repairs, it is understandable that nothing further
was done at a time of such stress and overwork of all those
connected with shipping.
As stated above, the "Security" was on the hard when examined on
the 10th August, but owing to the depth of mud no examination of
her bottom was possible below the turn of the bilge, and it is
unlikely that there was any real examination above that point.
There was thus no opportunity for the Owners' Superintendent or
anyone else to observe that doubling plates had been fitted, and
most unfortunately, the Superintendent received no information on
the point either from Messrs. Watkins' Consultant Engineer, or from
the master of the tug who was in the employ of her owners. The
vessel was re-classed, and again there is no suggestion that this
The "Security" a few months later was placed in dry dock for
collision repairs and was re-classed, the last survey being on 13th
November, 1944, after all repairs had been properly carried out.
During those repairs it is material to note for reasons which
appear later that the steering gear was dismantled. Advantage was
taken of this dry-docking to carry out the annual freeboard survey.
Certificates in respect of both damage repairs and load line survey
were duly issued on behalf of Lloyd's Register. The certificate in
respect of damage repairs stated, inter alia, that the
condition of the outside plating in the way of the side lights was
"Good" and there was a similar statement in the second
The next occasion on which an examination was held on behalf of
Lloyd's Register was on 15th March, 1946, for the purpose of the
annual load line survey, when again the condition of the side
scuttles was certified as "Good". it is therefore somewhat
surprising that, only about a fortnight later, when the crew were
engaged in chipping the side inside the crew space one of the
chipping hammers went through the side near but below the water
line and below the after side light or scuttle on the starboard
side. The plating was wasted to the thickness of paper in the way
of the hole. Temporary repairs by plugging were made by the crew,
and a day or two later the vessel was placed on the hard and a
plate about a foot square was welded on the outside. No more
chipping had been carried out by the crew after the incident, but
apart from a cursory examination in the vicinity of the hole
nothing further in the way of examination was done.
Moreover, the Owners' Superintendent who gave orders for the
plate to be welded on omitted to call in Lloyd's Surveyor. He gave
an unsatisfactory reason for this omission. Whether he would have
done differently had he known of the wasted bottom plates must
remain a matter of conjecture.
This incident was another of the matters which only came to
light quite by accident by a chance answer of one of the ship's
witnesses. Had a proper examination been made beforehand of the
repair accounts, as should have been done on behalf of the
Minister, the matter would have come to light and have been
investigated before the Inquiry. This would have ensured a more
orderly presentation of the case on behalf of the Minister and
would also have avoided much waste of time.
There was a second incident affecting the seaworthiness of the
"Security" where again the Superintendent failed to call in Lloyd's
Surveyor. In September, 1946, the "Security" had been in collision
as a result of which she had suffered damage to her stem. In
consequence, in the course of her normal working in the river,
water obtained access to the forepeak under pressure by reason of
headway. Thereafter the water used to spray out. While accepting
the evidence that it was difficult to obtain docking facilities at
the time, the Court was left with the impression that the
Superintendent was not then taking that active interest that he may
have done in the past. Whatever be the facts as to that, there is
no doubt that repairs were eventually made in November shortly
before the "Security" sailed. There is no suggestion that such
repairs were otherwise than satisfactory or that they had any
connection with the vessel's loss, but there is no doubt that this
was a matter affecting the vessel's seaworthiness and that Lloyd's
Surveyor should have been summoned.
Another matter which only came out accidentally during the
course of the Inquiry was with regard to the steering gear which
was of a rare if not unique pattern, and was as fitted when built.
As pointed out above, it was dismantled in November, 1944, and
further repairs were carried out in July and September, 1945, and
March and November, 1946. There was evidence that the gear was
frequently giving trouble and was liable to jamb, and it is clear
that the gear did jamb at Dover while the vessel was on her way
round to Falmouth. There was evidence from a former master of the
tug which to some extent contradicted the other evidence, and the
Superintendent denied that there was anything wrong with the
Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Court has come
to the conclusion that insufficient attention was paid by the
Superintendent to complaints with regard to the steering gear which
the Court is satisfied were made and were justified.
There were several other respects in which the condition of the
vessel was not good at the time she sailed for Falmouth.
The starboard hawse pipe, where it should have joined the side
plating, was cracked and admitted water on to the main deck.
The bilge pipe line in the space under the crew space was wasted
and holed, rendering it useless for the purpose of pumping out that
The horizontal bolts which secured the belting to the ship's
side were leaking and admitted water both to the crew space and to
the bunkers. Whether water entered in this way to such an extent as
to contribute to her loss will be discussed later.
Having regard to all the circumstances the Court has come to the
conclusion that the "Security" was in a "ripe" condition. It may be
that such condition had developed fairly rapidly in the last year
or two, but the Court is of opinion that more care in supervision
would have revealed her state.
It is in the light of the above conclusion as to her condition
that the Court has to consider the question (Number 6) whether the
"Security" was seaworthy when she sailed from Gravesend for
There is a further point concerning signalling arrangements as
between the three tugs themselves and the vessel to be towed. This
seems to have been left by the owners entirely to the individual
masters, and no provision was made either for up-to-date signalling
equipment or to see that any of the crew was able to use what
equipment there was. The only one of the tugs which was properly
equipped in this respect was the "Watercock", which carried an
Aldis Lamp and someone competent to work it, whereas on board the
"Security" the mate had to borrow the engineer's torch in order to
make the signals referred to hereafter. When the arrangements for
the towage were made, it was appreciated that the towage would
occupy at any rate a week and the need for proper signalling
arrangements should have been apparent. Although the Court does not
desire, in the present case, to attribute the lack thereof to
anything but an error of judgment, the Court desires to emphasize
the necessity for proper arrangements in the future as it considers
these are necessary for the seaworthiness of the tug in carrying
out the operation.
Having regard to all the circumstances, the Court has no
alternative but to answer Question 6 in the negative, that is to
say that the "Security" was not seaworthy when she sailed from
Gravesend for Falmouth.
The arrangement under which the three tugs concerned were
employed for the towage was made between the owners of the
"Kelletia" and the owners of the "Security". A question was raised
at Falmouth by the master of the "Kelletia" as to whether the two
smaller tugs were suitable for a winter towage which was to occupy
a period of at any rate a week. The Court is satisfied that the
doubts of the master of the "Kelletia" were to some extent shared
by the tug masters themselves, and it is not without some
hesitation that the Court has given the answer to Question 27. The
Court, however, does not attribute any blame to the owners of the
"Security" for her selection for the towage of the "Kelletia".
The three tugs left Gravesend on the 18th November, 1946, en
route to Falmouth, but owing to bad weather the "Contest" did not
arrive there until 3rd December and the other two the following
The "Security" and the "Watercock" had to run into Dover for
shelter, and here there were two incidents which affected the
seaworthiness of the "Security".
On arrival at Dover, and while proceeding to a berth alongside
the "Watercock", the steering gear of the "Security" jambed causing
her to take a sheer. As stated above such a thing had happened
before, and apparently the master regarded it as all in the day's
The second incident at Dover was that during bad weather the
"Security" and the "Watercock" ranged together to such an extent
that some of the fender of the "Security" on the port side, just
forward of amidships, was broken away and dropped into the water.
Some of the horizontal bolts securing the fender were sheered or
distorted, thus enabling water to enter the bunkers in rough
weather. No repairs were made at Dover.
The two tugs left Dover on the 26th November, but had to put
into Newhaven for shelter that evening, where they remained until
1st December. Heavy weather was again experienced and both vessels
put into the Solent.
About an hour before their arrival there, a quantity of water
was discovered under the floor of the crew space which is situated
just abaft the forepeak. This water was pumped out not by the
ordinary bilge pump but by hoses led from the salvage pump room
aft. It was stated that this course was adopted in order to save
time, but the Court suspects that it was done because it was known
that the bilge pipe line in that compartment was defective.
According to the evidence efforts were made to find out how the
water came in, but without success. The chief engineer thought the
water must have come down the chain pipes which led down at the
forward end of the crew space, but the other witnesses said that
this could not have happened without being seen.
The quantity of water in the space was estimated by the ship's
witnesses as about three tons, but on the measurements given it may
well have been considerably more. Whatever the source, it should
have been regarded as a disquieting event.
But although the "Security" after anchoring at Cowes went into
Portsmouth and remained there until 4th December, no report of any
kind was made to his owners by the master of the "Security" as to
these three happenings, which must be regarded as having a vital
bearing upon the seaworthiness of the tug for a winter towage of a
large engine-less tanker in ballast.
A further incident occurred between Portsmouth and Falmouth when
water was observed trickling out from the door of the port bunkers
in the stokehold. This was in the way of where the damage to the
belting had been done and it is probable that sea water entered
through the bolt holes. The chief engineer stated that he made
temporary repairs at Falmouth. This again was a matter vitally
affecting the seaworthiness of the vessel but no report was made at
Falmouth or any request for an examination.
The master of the "Security" lost his life when the vessel sank,
and there is no evidence as to why he failed to report these
matters, but the Court has felt itself bound to regard his failure
as a most regrettable error of judgment. Had all this information
been available to those charged with the final decision to order or
allow the "Security" to take part in the towage, it is
inconceivable that she would have been allowed to go.
As stated above the master of the "Kelletia", when he saw the
tugs, expressed doubts as to their ability for the operation. The
tug masters also had their doubts, but said that having been sent
to do the job they were willing to carry on. Eventually the master
of the "Kelletia" was instructed by the London office of his owners
to "proceed and make the best of things as soon as he thought the
weather was favourable and to take no chances during the voyage no
matter how long it takes."
The master of the "Kelletia" did not give oral evidence at the
Inquiry as he was abroad, but evidence by affidavit and a letter
written shortly after the loss of the "Security" were read. It is
not, however, clear why he made a sudden decision to leave shortly
after noon on Saturday, 7th December. Earlier that day after
consultation with the master of the "Contest" (the senior of the
three tug masters), the master of the "Kelletia" had cancelled the
sailing. Not very long afterwards, however, without apparently any
consultation with anybody the master gave orders to leave. The
South cone was flying, which indicated a Southerly gale, and the
Court considers that the master of the "Kelletia" was guilty of an
error of judgment in deciding to sail without any consultation with
the tug masters.
On leaving, the three tugs were made fast as follows:
The "Contest" towing ahead with 90 fathoms of 14 inch manilla
shackled to 45 fathoms of 4½ inch steel wire, which in turn was
shackled to the starboard cable of the "Kelletia" paid out to a
length of 15 fathoms.
The "Watercock" towing on the starboard bow with 10 fathoms of 5
inch steel wire shackled to 60 fathoms of 14 inch manilla, which in
turn was shackled to a length (probably about 60 fathoms) of 4½
inch steel wire, the end of which was made fast on the starboard
bow of the "Kelletia".
The "Security" towing on the port bow with 90 fathoms of 12 inch
rope shackled to 60 fathoms of 4 inch steel wire, the end of which
was made fast on the port bow of the "Kelletia".
The usual stop ropes were fitted at the stern and the tow ropes
were adjusted so as to bring the three tugs about level with one
The flotilla was off St. Anthony's Head about 12.40 p.m. on
Saturday, 7th December, the wind being strong and squally from the
Westward and a heavy swell from the Westward was encountered on
clearing the land.
Good progress was made and Start Point was abeam at 9.0 p.m. at
which time the wind after blowing North Westerly for a time had
backed to the South West. During the middle watch the wind
moderated to about force 4 but was still squally with a falling
barometer. Between 5.0 and 6.0 a.m. the wind backed suddenly to the
Southward and freshened. Thereafter it continued to back and by
about 8.0 or 9.0 a.m. was South Easterly, a moderate to fresh gale.
After proceeding with the wind abeam for an hour or so the master
of the "Contest" decided to alter course into the wind and all
three tugs altered accordingly. The wind was increasing all the
time and by 11.0 a.m. the flotilla was in effect hove to. There was
heavy rain with hard squalls. Weather forecasts had been received
on board both the "Security" and the "Kelletia", but events proved
these to be entirely unreliable. A review of the weather actually
experienced shows that a low and intense secondary depression
supervened on a primary depression causing the wind to back and
increase in an entirely unpredicted fashion. Some idea of what
might happen might possibly have been obtained by a consideration
of a very quickly falling barometer together with other signs, but
this would not have enabled any other action to be taken by the
flotilla. The only possible shelter was behind the Isle of Wight,
and the flotilla was still only to the Southward of Anvil
During the day there were two disquieting occurrences in the
engine room. Between 10 a.m. and 12 noon the fender plate on the
port side of the stokehold fell down owing to the securing bolt
shearing. This plate which ran from the side pocket to amidships
was for the purpose of preventing ashes and coal going down into
the bilge. The reason this happened was stated by the chief
engineer to be due to deterioration. The second disquieting
occurrence was that, according to the chief engineer, as soon as
the fender plate fell down two of the floor plates were forced up
by reason of water in the bilges to the depth of about a foot (that
is to say about half the bilge depth) going from side to side as
the vessel rolled. There was a faint suggestion by the chief
engineer that this was water from the ash cock used for cooling the
ashes, but he agreed the amount was more than usual and the Court
does not accept the suggestion that it was ash cock water. An
attempt was made to pump the water out by means of hoses led from
the salvage pump, but there appears to have been no reduction in
the quantity of water before the vessel sank. It was stated that
the water did not run aft into the engine room bilges because the
limber holes were choked. The question where this water came from
must remain a matter of conjecture, but in view of the evidence as
to deterioration of plating the Court is of opinion that it may
well have been due to opening of seams or leaks in other ways.
Whatever was the cause, the presence of loose water in the bottom
of the vessel was an obvious danger to stability.
The weather continued to worsen throughout the afternoon and
shortly after 4.0 p.m., the tow-rope of the "Watercock" parted.
Shortly afterwards the mate of the "Security" (who was one of the
survivors) received orders from his master who was at the wheel to
stand-by to let go. The mate went aft to the towing hook and
shortly afterwards received an order to let go which he carried
out. He said that the tow-rope went clear over the stern. He did
not know why the order to let go was given by the master. There are
several possible explanations. One is that with the "Watercock" not
towing he was finding or expected to find the "Kelletia"
uncontrollable, so endangering the "Security". Another and much
more likely explanation is that another jamb had been experienced
in the steering gear. In the conditions existing full helm one way
or the other was probably a necessity and it was when full helm was
being used that jambing had occurred previously. Moreover, support
is forthcoming for this view in that directly after slipping, the
master gave the mate another order which was to tell the
engine-room to "give her all they could,". The second engineer
carried out this order, but very shortly afterwards the tug took a
big list to port and seemed according to him to remain listed,
whereupon he left the engine room by means of the ladder on to the
after deck and stepped into water, the "Security" sinking shortly
The evidence is naturally confused as to exactly what happened
when the trouble started and as to the sequence of events. It
appears, however, that at about the same time as the second
engineer left the engine room the fireman left the stoke-hold by
means of the starboard fiddley door at which time water was pouring
through the port door. It is also clear that events moved very
As stated above, there is no doubt that the final cause of the
sinking of the "Security" was entry of sea water into the engine
room and stoke-hold spaces through the open doors. The Court is of
opinion that the fiddley doors should have been closed in the
weather conditions prevailing, and the failure to do so was an
error of judgment.
But the Court has also to consider how it was that the vessel
got into a position where water was able to get below in such a
The Court is of opinion that the master realised that for some
reason or another his vessel was becoming unmanageable. It has been
suggested above that a very likely explanation of this may be that
the steering gear jambed. There is also no doubt that there was
loose water in the stokehold bilges, and in view of the history set
out above there may well have been water elsewhere. This may have
caused the master to realise that she was sluggish or that
something else was wrong.
Apart however from the water in the stokehold bilge, the matter
must remain one of conjecture in view of the possibility of her
becoming unmanageable, without fault on the part of anyone, in the
very bad weather then existing. It would, therefore, be wrong to
come to a conclusion that it had been established that the loss of
the "Security" was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act or
default of anyone.
The Court is, however, of opinion that the actions and inactions
of the Owners' Superintendent cannot escape criticism as indicated
The Court desires to make certain recommendations with regard to
the conduct of a towage such as has been under consideration:
In the first place, it is imperative that the tugs concerned
should be fitted with up-to-date equipment for inter-communication,
both with the other tugs and the tow, and the personnel to work it.
There would appear to be no reason why a wireless telephone should
not be carried. One at least of the vessels concerned should also
be able to receive weather forecasts.
Secondly, it is considered that the question of who was to be in
charge of the towage should be discussed and understood by all
concerned at the outset. This had not been done in the present
case, and although no difficulty was caused thereby such a position
might well have arisen.
In conclusion, the Court desires to place on record the opinion
of the master of the "Kelletia" (with which it entirely concurs)
that all the tug masters carried out their duties with great
ability and that in particular the picking up of five survivors of
the "Security" by the "Watercock" was a praiseworthy act skilfully
performed in the weather conditions prevailing.
KENNETH S. CARPMAEL, Judge
| ||CHARLES V. GROVES|| |
| ||E. F. SPANNER||Assessors|
| ||J. P. THOMSON|| |
(Issued by the Ministry of Transport in
London in April, 1949)
Crown Copyright Reserved.
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY HIS MAJESTY'S STATIONERY
To be purchased directly from H.M. Stationery Office at the
York House, Kingsway, London, W.C.2; 13a Castle Street, Edinburgh,
39 King Street, Manchester, 2; 2 Edmund Street, Birmingham,
1 St. Andrew's Crescent, Cardiff; Tower Lane, Bristol, 1;
80 Chichester Street, Belfast
OR THROUGH ANY BOOKSELLER
Price 6d. net
Printed in Great Britain under the authority of
HIS MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE
by E. D. Paine (Printing) Ltd., Portland Road, Worthing,