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Wreck report for 'Adur II', 1946

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Unique ID:14195
Description:Board of Trade wreck report for 'Adur II', 1946.
Creator:GB Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


Crown Copyright Reserved

No. 7949

s.s. "ADUR II"



In the matter of a Formal Investigation held at The Temperance Institute, Carlton Crescent, Southampton, on the 15th, 16th and 17th September, 1947, before R. F. Hayward, Esq., K.C., assisted by Mr. James Young, Captain J. P. Thomson and Mr. J. Shand, Assessors, into the circumstances attending the loss of the Steam Tug "Adur II" off Hartland Point, on the 10th August, 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 casualty was due to the neglect of proper precautions by her owners, The Standard Lighterage Company, and the delivery contractors, Messrs. Tinmouth, Lister Ltd., and it orders that they pay respectively £400 and £100 towards the cost of this Inquiry.

Dated this 20th day of September, 1947.

R. F. HAYWARD, Judge.

 JAS. YOUNGAssessors.


The Court answers the Questions submitted by the Ministry of Transport as follows:—

Q. 1. (a) By whom was the "Adur II" owned at the time of her loss?

A. (a) The Standard Lighterage Co. Ltd.

Q. (b) How long had she been so owned?

A. (b) Since 6th May, 1946.

Q. 2. (a) By whom was the "Adur II" built?

A. (a) Hepple & Co., South Shields.

Q. (b) When was the "Adur II" built?

A. (b) 1912.

Q. 3. (a) From whom did the last owner of the "Adur II" purchase the vessel?

A. (a) H. Covington & Sons Ltd., Chelsea.

Q. (b) What was the purchase price?

A. (b) £ 1,050.

Q. (c) What insurances and for what total amount?

A. (c) Hull and machinery £2,000, disbursements £600, demurrage 30 days at £12.

Q. 4. With what compasses was the "Adur II" fitted?

A. One magnetic compass in the wheelhouse.

Q. 5. With what wireless transmitter was the "Adur II" fitted?

A. None.

Q. 6. On what voyage was the "Adur II" lost?

A. Thames to Liverpool.

Q. 7. When the "Adur II" sailed on the fatal voyage was she seaworthy and properly equipped to meet the perils of the voyage then to be undertaken?

A. No.

Q. 8. What was the number of the crew all told on the last voyage of the "Adur II"?

A. Five until leaving Newhaven, when there were six.

Q. 9. On what date did the "Adur II" commence her last voyage?

A. 13th June, 1946.

Q. 10. By whom was the "Adur II" being delivered?

A. Messrs. Tinmouth, Lister Ltd., of South Shields.

Q. 11. (a) Did the "Adur II" put into the port of Newhaven?

A. (a) Yes.

Q. (b) If so, when and in what condition?

A. (b) 7.55 p.m., 15th June, 1946, in leaky condition and with compass non-effective.

Q. (c) Did the "Adur II" take the ground and become totally immersed in Newhaven Harbour?

A. (c) Yes.

Q. 12. (a) Was the "Adur II" salved at New-haven?

A. (a) Yes.

Q. (b) Was the hull examined and what repair work, if any, was done to the vessel?

A. (b) Yes, and repairs due to sinking were carried out together with a few minor Owner's repairs.

Q. (c) Was any certificate of seaworthiness given after the work was completed and, if so, by whom?

A. (c) Yes, by F. W. Luff, Newhaven.

Q. 13. When did the "Adur II" leave Newhaven for Liverpool?

A. 28th July, 1946, at 11.15 a.m.

Q. 14. Was the "Adur II" carrying a lifeboat?

A. No.

Q. 15. If the "Adur II" was not carrying a lifeboat, had any exemption been applied for and granted in respect of the L.S.A. Rules of 1938 (Class XIII)?

A. No.

Q. 16. On or about the 28th July, was the "Adur II" anchored off the Isle of Wight, and, if so, why was this?

A. Yes. The tug had made water and the pumps and suction pipes required overhauling, and the bilges required cleaning.

Q. 17. (a) Was the "Adur II" moored in Portland Harbour on or about the 31st July; if so, why was this?

A. (a) Yes, because of strengthening wind from the westward.

Q. (b) On or about the 3rd August was the "Adur II" moored in Brixham Harbour; if so, why was this?

A. (b) Yes. The weather was becoming hazy.

Q. (c) On or about the 4th August was the "Adur II" moored in Falmouth Harbour; if so, why was this?

A. (c) Yes. For engine repairs, bunkers and stores.

Q. 18. What repairs, if any, were done to the low pressure engine at the Repair Wharf, Falmouth?

A. Low pressure engine and piston opened 'up spring repaired, tongue piece welded, bottom end bearing oilways recut and liners provided.

Q. 19. When did the "Adur II" leave Falmouth?

A. 9th August, 1946, at 3.15 p.m.

Q. 20. When did the "Adur II" pass the Lizard?

A. At about 6.5 p.m. on 9th August.

Q. 21. What were the conditions of the sea, wind and weather on the 10th August, and was the "Adur II" taking in water on that day?

A. The day opened with a light breeze and sea, and worsened to a moderate gale from N.N.W. at 6 a.m., at noon N.W. by W. force 5, and at 6 p.m. W. force 4. The "Adur II" was taking in water from about 8 a.m. until she foundered.

Q. 22. What distress signal, if any, did the "Adur II" exhibit or make?

A. S.O.S. signals were blown on the tug's whistle which were picked up by the Coastguard at Hartland Point who observed the wisps of steam.

Q. 23. On what day and at what time and where-abouts did the "Adur II" sink?

A. 10th August, 1946, at about 2.45 p.m. about one mile to the northward of Hartland Point.

Q. 24. Were all the members of the crew picked up by the Clovelly Lifeboat; if so, where were they brought ashore?

A. Yes. Clovelly.

Q. 25. Did one member of the crew die shortly after being brought ashore?

A. The chief engineer, though picked up, was found drowned.

Q. 26. What was the cause of the sinking of the "Adur II"?

A. Foundering due to excessive leakage and failure of pumps to cope with the influx of water.

Q. 27. Was the loss of the s.s. "Adur II" caused, or contributed to, by the wrongful act or default of:—

(a) The owners, The Standard Lighterage Co. Ltd.?

A. (a) Yes.

or of

Q. (b) The delivery contractors, Messrs. Tinmouth, Lister Ltd.?

A. (b) The Court finds that in some degree the delivery contractors are at fault for not refusing to continue the voyage from Newhaven until the undiscovered source of leakage was found and repaired and proper life-saving appliances and distress signals provided.

or of

Q. (c) The repairers at Newhaven, the Southern Railway Company?

A. (c) No.

R. F. HAYWARD, Judge.

 JAS. YOUNGAssessors.

Annex to the Report.

The "Adur II" was a flush deck screw tug of 54 tons gross, of 70.3 ft. in length, and about 16 ft. beam with a depth of 7.2 ft. She was built in 1912, by Hepple & Co., of South Shields, and fitted with compound engines. For nearly a year prior to the casualty she had been lying on the mud at Chelsea, at the premises of her previous owners who sold her for £1,050, the property passing to the Standard Lighterage Co., of Liverpool (hereinafter called the owners) on the 6th May, 1946. The owners intended to use the tug on the Mersey, and contracted with Messrs. Tinmouth, Lister, Ltd., of South Shields (hereinafter called the Delivery Contractors), to deliver the tug from London to Liverpool, for £495 with a demurrage clause of £12 per day, and subject to a seaworthy certificate being obtained. The owners insured her for the voyage for £2,000 plus £600 for disbursements and £360 for demurrage. The Delivery Contractors arranged for a survey for a seaworthy certificate and Mr. J. T. Keith of Messrs. Freeman & Co., of Leadenhall Street, London, visited the tug on the £17th May, 1946. She was on the mud and the inspection made outside omitted the bottom, one side, and part of the rubbing band, and a rivet hole in the port quarter which was shortly afterwards discovered at sea was overlooked. The interior of the cabins remained covered with wood sheathing and the bunkers were not entered. It was apparently not ascertained that the steam windlass was unworkable. The bulwarks were holed with corrosion. The pumps were not effectively tried and defects in her bilge suction pipes revealed when the tug was at Newhaven were not seen. There was no lifeboat and no one sought the necessary permission from the Ministry of Transport for the tug to proceed to sea without one. Though her raft was adequate it had no oars or tanks or distress signals. Save for her steam whistle the tug was equipped with no means of making any distress signal. Mr. Keith's notebook contains a note "Safety appliances to be arranged for by Mr. Lister", but no such arrangements were made and on the date of his survey Mr. Keith certified in writing that subject to the provision of a few minor requirements such as three overboard discharge valve spindles to be made workable, and skylight canvas covers and battens and a piece of fire hose being supplied, the "vessel is in a sound and seaworthy condition to proceed from the River Thames to Liverpool."

Manned by an ex-temporary lieutenant R.N.R., who was hoping to become one of the delivery contractors' permanent staff, and four hands, the tug sailed from Chelsea on the 13th June, 1946. On approaching Tilbury landing stage to embark the compass adjuster the tug's engines failed to work astern and she collided head-on with a stationary tug without damage to herself. After proceeding down river the stern gland was leaking badly, and the tug anchored. The leak was dealt with and, on attempting to weigh anchor, the steam windlass was found to be unworkable and her anchor had to be hove up by hand. The voyage continued through the 14th June in moderate weather, and on the morning of the 15th June when off Beachy Head the standard compass fixed on a bracket in the wheelhouse collapsed and became non-effective. At 4.30 a.m. the tug was found to be making water, pumps were started and a course was shaped for Newhaven. At about noon the pumps became choked, the stokehold was awash, and baling by buckets was resorted to. To maintain steam it was found necessary to get dry coal from the top of the bunkers and pass it in buckets to the fires. Nevertheless, on entering Newhaven at about 8 p.m. there was insufficient steam to manœoeuvre the engines, which had been knocking badly. By orders of the Port Authority the tug was moored in a berth. The exhausted crew went to sleep, and shortly before 8 a.m. on the 16th June a Southern Railway Company's servant noticed the tug deep in the water and listing to starboard, and after calling the attention of the crew and taking them off the tug, she heeled over and sank.

On the 28th June the "Adur II" was refloated by the Southern Railway Company, and placed on their grid, where she was examined. The Railway Company cleaned her out and painted her. They also cleaned down the main engines, repaired the heel of the stern frame, repaired the skylights, did minor repairs to the steering gear, re-packed the stern gland, and put the windlass in order. The donkey pump was put in order. The compass bracket was renewed, and the compass refitted after repair. But for a few minor repairs nothing more was done but to supply bunkers, ropes, one cold chisel, one hand hammer and three files. One suction pipe which was flattened out was repaired; two others, which had been lengthened with rubber piping which had deteriorated and closed in, were removed and the pipes lengthened. For owner's account the boiler was built up with electric welding in the way of the blow down valve. The hole in the port quarter, which had been plugged with wood en route, was closed with a bolt.

A Mr. Luff, an engineer on the staff of the Southern Railway at Newhaven, certified in writing on the 26th July, 1946, that "the ship ("Adur II") is now in a seaworthy condition." In evidence, he supported this certificate by his description of the state of the vessel, but after describing the bulwarks as having very very slight corrosion, had to admit that there were holes through the bulwarks due to rust in several places. He admitted that a screwdriver was an essential part of the engine room equipment, but he did not see one there. He defined "a seaworthy condition" as being "in a fit condition to make the voyage from Newhaven to Liverpool, with life raft in good order, sufficient lifebelts for all the crew, life-buoys in good order, and a sufficiency of rocket appliances, etc." He, however, never saw any rockets and explained that he was under the impression that the owners would have supplied them. Apparently no determined attempt was made to locate the source of the leakage, and no proper test to ascertain it was made. The tug continued her voyage on the 28th July, but within about five hours, in a fresh breeze from the westward, she again made water in the stokehold and engine room and had to shelter off Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. On the 29th and 30th July, during part of which time the weather was bad, the crew overhauled the pumps, suction pipes, etc., and cleaned out bilges. On the 31st July, the voyage was continued, but after an hour's steaming the L.P. engine developed a heavy knock, and with a freshening head wind the tug was taken into Portland at 7.30 p.m. During the 1st and 2nd of August, some work was done to the main engines by the tug's engineer, and on Saturday, 3rd August, the tug proceeded and put into Brixham on account of hazy weather. On leaving Brixham harbour on the 4th August, the L.P. engine bottom end was knocking badly, and the tug put into Falmouth harbour, where on the following day she proceeded to a repairing wharf. On the 6th and 7th August, she received 8 tons of bunkers, and ship repairers carried out the repairs mentioned in answer to Question 18. On the afternoon of the 9th August, the tug left Falmouth and passed the Longships during the evening. Early in the morning of the 10th August, the wind which had been light shifted to the northward and at the nearest meteorological station, St. Eval, its direction and force at 0600 hours was reported as being N.N.W.7. The tug shipped water, and reduced speed, and at 6 a.m. altered course to the north-eastward to bring the wind abaft the beam. At about 8.30 a.m. water entered the stokehold and the pumps were started, and shortly before noon they choked and baling by buckets was resorted to, but the water continued to gain and the tug's list to port increased. The crew donned their life jackets and at about 2.45 p.m. the tug heeled over and sank, her raft floating clear. Two men were able to swim to it, and the remainder were supported in the water by life jackets and life-buoys. The tug had no means of making distress signals, but shortly before sinking, her master blew an S.O.S. on his steam whistle. Though this signal was not heard the vigilant coastguard at Hartland Point, about a mile distant, spelt out an S.O.S. from the wisps of steam coming from the whistle. He accordingly summoned the Clovelly and Appledore lifeboats, and called out his own men to line the shore to watch for survivors drifting on to the beach. The crew were picked up by the Clovelly lifeboat but unfortunately, and in spite of long artificial respiration the chief engineer died.

The Court strongly holds the opinion that the Surveyors who issued seaworthy certificates were, as events proved, wholly unjustified in so doing, and they feel that in the interests of safety of life and property, seaworthy certificates should not be issued lightly, but only after searching examination of hull, machinery and equipment. At the same time the Court strongly feels that ship owners and others should not, as was done in this case, seek to shelter themselves behind seaworthy certificates, particularly in matters affecting the safety of ships and lives of which they cannot fail to be aware, as for example in the matters of adequate equipment and life-saving appliances. In this case the tug owners further sought to shield themselves behind the delivery contractors without justification, and the Court is also of opinion that the delivery contractors were in fault for taking the tug from London, and from Newhaven, without ascertaining that proper safety measures had been taken.

In the circumstances the Court orders the Standard Lighterage Company to pay £400 (four hundred pounds) towards the costs of the Inquiry, and Messrs. Tinmouth, Lister Ltd., to pay £100 (one hundred pounds).

R. F. HAYWARD, Judge.

 JAS. YOUNGAssessors.

Issued by the Minister of Transport in

London, in December,


To be purchased directly from H.M. Stationery Office at the following addresses:

York House, Kingsway, London, W.C.2; 13a Castle Street, Edinburgh, 2;

39-4I King Street, Manchester, 2; St. Andrew's Crescent, Cardiff;

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