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Wreck Report for 'Progress', 1895

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Unique ID:16649
Description:BOT Wreck Reoirt for 'Progress', 1895
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 5080.)


The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held in the Debts Recovery Court, Glasgow, on the 23rd, 29th, and 30th days of January 1895, before JOHN BLACK LESLIE BIRNIE, Esquire, Advocate, Sheriff-Substitute of Lanarkshire, assisted by Captains BAIN and ERSKINE, Nautical Assessors, into the circumstances attending the stranding and ultimate loss of the British S.S. "PROGRESS," near Staithes, Yorkshire, on the 24th December 1894.

Report of Court.

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 caused by shaping too fine a course; neglecting to verify the position of the vessel by the lead; proceeding at too great a rate of speed after ten p.m. considering the state of the weather, and the failure to place a proper look-out.

The Court therefore finds the master, Mr. James McNamara, in default, but in respect of his previous good character, and in consideration of the circumstances in which he was placed at the time of the stranding, suspends his certificate, No. 102,342, for the period of one month only from the date hereof. The mate, Mr. Archibald Munro, who held no certificate, and was in charge of the deck at the time of the casualty, is censured.

Dated this 30th day of January 1895.



J. B. L. BIRNIE, Judge.

We concur in the above report.









Annex to the Report.

This was an inquiry into the circumstances attending the stranding and ultimate loss of the British steamship "Progress," and was held at the Debts Recovery Court, Glasgow, on the 23rd, 29th, and 30th January 1895, before Sheriff Birnie, assisted by Captains Bain and Erskine, nautical assessors. Mr. C. D. Donald, writer, represented the Board of Trade, Mr. W. W. Grieve, writer, appeared for the master, and Mr. A. M. Bannatyne, writer, for the owners.

The "Progress," official number 87,708, was a British steamship, built of iron by Messrs. Murdoch and Murray, Port Glasgow, in the year 1883. She was schooner-rigged, and fitted with two inverted direct acting engines of 65 horse-power (combined), her dimensions being—length 156.7 ft., breadth 23.05 ft., and depth 11.8 ft.; her gross tonnage was 414.00 tons, and after deducting 182.79 for propelling and crew space, she was 231.21 tons register.

She had two compasses, one of which was almost new, and both appear to have been in good order. She was owned by Mr. R. B. Ballantyne and others, whose names appear on the transcript of register, Mr. Robert Brown Ballantyne, 21, Hope Street, being the managing owner. She had two boats fitted as lifeboats in chocks and under davits ready for use, properly equipped, and in accordance with the Life-Saving Act requirements. The compasses had been adjusted in July 1894, and appear to have been in good order. In regard to the general equipment of the vessel, it may be stated here that the evidence of the master and mate, particularly in regard to the running gear, did not indicate her having been well found in this respect on the voyage in question, but beyond a staysail halyards having been carried away, which was afterwards spliced and made to do duty until the sail burst, none of the witnesses had any further complaint to make in this matter, in so far as her sea-going requirements were concerned. The owner's explanation was that the running gear referred to was delayed, otherwise it would have been on board.

The owner, Mr. R. B. Ballantyne, having at his own request been made a party to the case, stated that the "Progress" was insured for 5,000l., and 1,500l. on disbursements, in the event of total loss, making in all 6,500l., and that although over 1,100l. had been spent in supplying new boilers lately, he had not made any change in the value insured.

The "Progress" loaded a cargo, consisting of 419 tons of coal, at Amble, Northumberland, and sailed from thence, bound for Boulogne, in France, on the afternoon of the 24th December last, but being short of two able seamen, came to an anchor outside, and waited there until the men joined. Her draught of water was 13 ft. 5 in. aft and 11 ft. 7 in. forward. She was under the command of Mr. James McNamara, who held a certificate of competency numbered 102,342, and had a crew of 10 all told, made up as follows:—The master, mate, boatswain, two able seamen, a cook, who acted as steward also, and kept no regular watch, the chief engineer, second engineer, and two firemen. On the arrival of the men referred to she was got under weigh, and at about 4.15 p.m. her distance off the Coquet was estimated to be one mile. The weather at this time was described as clear, sea smooth, with light airs. From her position off the Coquet a course S. by E. magnetic was set and steered, according to the master and mate, until the fog signal was heard on Sutar Point, with the exception of a quarter of a point alteration more to the eastward, which was, they maintained, made some short time before. Up till this time, however, the engines, which had been kept going full speed, were now by the master's orders reduced to between slow and half speed, and, according to the master and mate's evidence, the course was altered from S. by E. 1/4 E. to S. by E. 1/2 E. As stated elsewhere, the men who steered the vessel from 6 to 8, and from 8 until she stranded, stated that the course S. by E. 1/4 E. was not changed to S. by E. 1/2 E. until after 8.30 p m. Be that as it may, either course was, after the flood tide set in about 8 o'clock, taking the vessel into dangerous proximity to the land. At 8 o'clock the mate went on watch and took up his place on the flying bridge, observing the course steered, he said, from time to time from the after part of the steering compass, there being no light in the upper binnacle. At 10 o'clock the mate, thinking the weather sufficiently clear, went below, reported to the master, who was turned in, that he thought they could now go full speed. The master's reply was, "Use your own judgment." The mate, after telegraphing full speed ahead, which order was immediately carried into effect, again took up his position on the flying bridge. At about 10.30 the mate saw something black, which he thought must be a fog bank, but before anything was done, the vessel, going full speed, struck the rocks, which were, he said, now perfectly visible. The master, hearing her grating on the rocks, rushed to the bridge. The engines were stopped and reversed, but without avail, the engineer reporting that the water was putting out the fires. Signals of distress were made and replied to by shore boats coming off, and very soon afterwards by the Staithes lifeboat. Meantime, however, the ship's own boats were put over, and the crew, with the exception of the master, mate, and second engineer, who landed shortly after in the Staithes lifeboat, got into them with, we were told, the bulk of their bolongings. Next day the vessel broke up, and ultimately became a total wreck about half-a-mile to the north of Staithes Nab.

The Court now desire to put on record the evidence adduced in support of the contention that ten men, distributed as they were in the "Progress" on the night in question, were sufficient for her safe navigation. We have expressed elsewhere our opinion on that question, and will now name the vessels which were known to the witnesses and considered by them as amply provided in the matter of men where a similar number performed all the sea duties required on coasting voyages. Mr. John McMeol, at present in command of the "Bessie Barr," one of Mr. R. B. Ballantyne's steamers, stated that he had sailed the "Progress," "Otto McCombie," and "Bessie Barr," boats of a similar size, with ten men in each, and never experienced any difficulty in doing so, and was of opinion that ten men were quite sufficient crew for such vessels. In a fog he always placed a man on the forecastle head, but in ordinary weather he had the look-out kept from the upper bridge. When the lights wanted trimming he was always called.

Mr. Archibald Johnstone, who had been in command of the "Otto McCombie" until she stranded lately near Holy Island, considered ten men an ample complement for her, and having commanded the "Doon" and "Afton," belonging to the Ayr Steam Shipping Company, found ten men quite sufficient. He considered two men and a watch quite as effective as three. Personally, he preferred the look-out kept from the forecastle head.

Mr. George Nisbet, clerk to Messrs. J. and M. Smith & Sons, shipowners, Glasgow, said they managed the steamer "Dunvegan," a vessel similar in size and rig to the "Progress," and that her crew consisted of ten men; regarding which they never heard any complaints. Their steamer "Bordeaux," carrying 600 tons, had 11 men. The "Rosslyn," carrying 650 tons, had 12, and he thought the "Achilles," carrying 500 tons, belonging to them also, had only ten of a crew.

On the other hand the former master of the "Progress," Captain Mackay, who the Court was informed had a civil action with the owners pending, produced letters, which were submitted to the Court, showing that when the reduction of the crew of the "Progress" from eleven to ten was suggested, he refused to sail her with that number. It transpired, however, that since then he had sailed the "Maggie Barr" with ten men, and never complained. The master of the "Progress," whose conduct formed the subject of this inquiry, stated that he would have been all the better of another man, but the owner, Mr. R. B. Ballantyne, arranged what crew she should carry, and he had simply to do the best he could with the men at his disposal.

The following questions were submitted to the Court:—

1. What number of compasses had the vessel, where were they placed, were they in good order and sufficient for the safe navigation of the ship?

2. When and by whom were they last adjusted?

3. Did the master ascertain the deviation of his compasses from time to time, were the errors correctly ascertained and the proper correction to the courses applied?

4. Whether the vessel was properly and sufficiently manned, and properly and sufficiently found?

5. Whether proper measures were taken at or about 4.15 p.m. of the 24th December last to ascertain the position of the vessel? Whether a safe and proper course was thereafter steered, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide and current?

6. Whether safe and proper alterations were made in the course at or about 6.45 p.m. and thereafter, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide and currents?

7. Whether, having regard to the hazy state of the weather after 4.15 p.m. of the 24th December, the vessel was navigated at too great a rate of speed?

8. Whether the total neglect of the lead was justifiable?

9. Whether a good and proper look-out was kept?

10. What was the cause of the casualty?

11. Whether the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care?

12. Whether the master and mate are, or either of them is, in default?

In the opinion of the Board of Trade the certificate of the master should be dealt with.

Dated at Glasgow this 23rd day of January 1895.




Solicitor representing the

Board of Trade.

Answers to Questions.

1. The "Progress" had two compasses, one on the flying bridge, and the other on the lower bridge, by which the courses were set and steered. They appear to have been in good order, and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel.

2. They were adjusted by Mr. Andrew Christie, Glasgow, in July 1894.

3. The master stated that he did ascertain the deviation of the compasses from time to time, and also that from previous experience, steering the same course as on the night in question, both compasses were showing correct magnetic.

4. As the mate and an able seaman formed the one watch, and the boatswain and an able seaman the other, the Court, notwithstanding the evidence adduced on behalf of such a practice, is of opinion that the "Progress" was at the time of stranding neither properly nor sufficiently manned, and in this connection express the opinion that a vessel of her size and rig sailing in crowded waters should not have less than three men in each watch. The evidence of the master and mate regarding her equipment reflected somewhat on the condition of some running gear, which, it was explained by the owner, was delayed, and failed to reach the vessel before leaving Dundee. It was not contended that the condition of the running gear had any bearing on the stranding of the vessel. The boats' tackle and equipment appear to have been in good order and ready for use.

5. The only measure taken to verify the position of the vessel at 4.15 p.m. on the 24th December was estimating her distance at one mile off the Coquet Lighthouse. The course set and steered, namely, S. by E. from the Coquet, and altered more easterly later, would have been safe and proper if it had been made good; but in the condition of the weather, it having become thick and hazy as she proceeded south, the Court think the course continued from Sutor Point, whether it was S. by E. 1/4 E. or S. by E. 1/2 E., should have been altered more to the eastward. No allowance was made for the tide, the master calculating that the ebb would set him off the land. This would have been the effect of the tide while the ebb lasted; but previous to stranding the vessel experienced over two hours of flood, which, while carrying her along at a greater rate of speed, had the effect of setting her towards the shore.

6. In regard to the alterations made in the course after 6.45 p.m. there is a conflict of evidence. The master and mate testified that the course was altered to S. by E. 1/2 E. at 6.45 when the fog signal on Sutor Point was heard, and that for an hour previous the course had been S. by E. 1/4 E. The man who steered her from 8 o'clock until she struck at 10.30 p.m. maintained that he got the course S. by E. 1/4 E. at 8 o'clock, in which he was corroborated by the man he relieved at 8 o'clock, and he continued steering it until 8.30 or 9 o'clock, when it was altered to S. by E. 1/2 E.

7. Taking into consideration the condition of the weather the Court is of opinion that the vessel was navigated at too great a rate of speed after 10 p.m.

8. The neglect to verify the position of the vessel by the lead was not justifiable.

9. A good and proper look-out was not kept. The man at the wheel said he could see nothing on account of the haze and glare of the binacle lamp. Whether the look-out kept by the mate when on the upper bridge was as effective as it ought to have been the Court is unable to say, but it is in evidence that he left the bridge for a shorter or longer period to report to the master the condition of the weather.

10. The cause of the casualty in the opinion of the Court was (1) shaping too fine a course, (2) neglecting to verify the position of the vessel by the lead, (3) proceeding at too great a rate of speed after 10 p.m., considering the state of the weather, and (4) the failure to have a proper look-out placed.

11. She was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.

12. The master is in default.

But the Court, after due consideration of the circumstances in which he appears to have been placed by the owner's limitation of his crew, and their appreciation of his previous high record, only suspend his certificate for a period of one month.

In regard to the mate, who holds no certificate, the Court considers he ought to have suggested the verification of the position of the vessel by the lead when reporting the condition of the weather to the master at 10 o'clock.

For the manning of the vessel (upon which the Court has already expressed its opinion) Mr. R. B. Ballantyne, the managing owner, is wholly responsible, as is proved by the correspondence submitted to the Court, but as the evidence adduced in support of the contention that ten men is not an unusual complement for a large proportion of the "Progress" class of vessels trading along our coasts, and looking at the fact that up to the present there is no hard and fast rule in regard to manning, the Court refrain from ordering Mr. Ballantyne to contribute to the expenses of this inquiry.



J. B. L. BIRNIE, Judge.

We concur.









81564—202. 180.—2/95. Wt. 60. E. & S.


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