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Wreck Report for 'Colintraive', 1895

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Unique ID:16724
Description:BOT Wreck Report for 'Colintraive', 1895
Creator:Board of Trade
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(No. 80.)


Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.

IN the matter of a Preliminary Inquiry before Captain JOHN S. CASTLE, Inspector for the Board of Trade, into the circumstances attending the supposed loss of the British sailing ship "COLINTRAIVE," of Ardrossan, which has not been heard of since leaving Newcastle, New South Wales, for San Francisco, on the 16th day of March 1894.


In pursuance of my appointment, dated the 4th day of March 1895, I held a preliminary inquiry as to the cause of the supposed loss of the above-named vessel, on the 12th day of March, at the Waterloo Rooms, Glasgow. Mr. D. McNiven appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr. James Mackenzie represented the owner, Mr. Hugh Hogarth. Having heard and carefully considered the evidence, I beg to report as follows:—

The "Colintraive" was a British sailing vessel, built of steel in 1892 by Messrs. A. Rodger & Co., of Port Glasgow, and was registered at Ardrossan, her dimensions being as follows:—Length, 265.3 ft.; breadth, 40 ft.; and depth of hold, 23 ft., whilst her tonnage was 1,907.44 gross and 1,747.17 tons net register. Her official number was 97,566. She was rigged as a ship and was the property of Mr. Hugh Hogarth and several others whose names appear on the transcript of the register, Mr. Hugh Hogarth being the managing owner.

The "Colintraive" was built under special survey at a cost of 17,920l. to class 100 A1 at Lloyd's, and was constructed to carry 3,100 tons on a mean draught of 20 ft. 10 in., with a free board of 4 ft. 9 1/2 in. The upper deck was composed of wood. The between decks were only laid from fore hatchways forward, and after hatchways aft, and between fore and after hatchway was a platform on each side about 4 ft. wide. She had a poop 33 ft. long, and 7 ft. 3 in. high, with a steel bulkhead without doors, the entrance being from the companion or chart house on the poop deck, and there were also two teak skylights. The captain and officers lived in the poop. The crew lived in the deck-house amidships, and there was also a topgallant forecastle 24 ft. long, and side houses with steel bulkhead, but the forecastle was open in the centre. There were three hatchways, the coamings of which were made of steel 21 in. in height.

They were of the following dimensions:—

No. 1, 8 ft. by 7 ft.

No. 2, 16 ft. by 13 ft.

No. 3, 8 ft. by 7 ft.

The hatches were made of solid 3 1/2 in. deals, and for each hatchway there were two sets of tarpaulins which could be secured with batten cleats and wedges in the usual manner.

There were six ventilators, viz.:—One through the forecastle into the hold, made of wood, 2 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. 6 in.; one through the forward deck house, of similar construction, reaching into the hold; one in pump well with cowl and shipped on malleable iron coamings, 3 ft. in height; one through fore part of after-house leading into after-hold; and two leading through poop-deck into after-hold, 10 in. in diameter. The wooden ventilators were fitted with skylights on top and canvas covers; whilst those made of iron had wooden plugs and covers. The three iron masts were also fitted so as to serve for ventilation when carrying grain cargoes. There being then a few holes in each mast in the hold, each hole being two or three inches in diameter; and there were caps at the mast head.

The vessel was provided with four boats, two of which were lifeboats, carried aft on beams near deckhouse with davits, and two cutters carried on fore deckhouse.

It appears that at the time the "Colintraive" was being built by Messrs. Rodgers & Co., they were also constructing another vessel on exactly the same lines, called the "Ballachulish," and before being handed over to Mr. Hogarth, one of them was inclined, and calculations have been made, and I have been told that with a fully laden coal cargo she would have a metacentric height of 2 ft. 7 in.

In October 1892 the "Colintraive" commenced to take in her first cargo, which was composed of 3,000 tons of coal and a small quantity of general cargo for San Francisco. She sailed from Glasgow on the 14th, and arrived at San Francisco on the 8th of February 1893. The coal was secured by shifting boards which had been supplied by the builders of the vessel, and they extended between the fore and main hatchways from the upper deck beams to the lower beams, and before the fore hatchway and abaft the after hatchway, where the coal was sloped towards the ends of the vessel, they were carried much lower.

Mr. Hogarth stated in his evidence that he considered the use of shifting boards in coal-laden sailing ships to be very necessary, particularly so in modern ships. I may here state that testing tubes were fitted in the fore and main hatchways, and thermometers were also supplied.

An abstract of the log of that passage has been produced, proving that the temperature of the holds had been carefully taken and registered, showing very little difference from the temperature of the deck in the shade.

From San Francisco she carried a cargo of 3,050 tons of wheat and barley to Liverpool, and then proceeded to Bary, where she loaded 3,070 tons of coal for Cape Town. Captain Raymond, in writing to his owners from Bary, 3rd October 1893, said:—"I think " a thousand long tons might do for ballast, it is just " little enough. With 1,019 tons, she draws 12 ft. " only. If we get overweight, no doubt it would do. " I think that little enough draft. I shall be careful of " shifting boards." This letter alludes to the ballast to be taken in at Cape Town, before sailing for Newcastle.

The "Colintraive" left Bary for Cape Town on the 20th of October 1893, and there can be no doubt but at that time the ship was in a good and seaworthy condition, and she was then valued by her owner at the original cost of 17,920l., and insured for that amount, whilst the freight was insured for 2,100l., the premium for the two policies amounting to 1,249l. for twelve months. She was under the command of Mr. William E. Raymond, who held a certificate of competency as master, No. 39,625, with a crew of 27 hands all told, viz.:—1 master, 2 mates, 1 boatswain, 1 carpenter, 1 cook, 1 steward, 14 able seamen, and 6 apprentices; two of the latter had been 15 months at sea, and the four others were on their first voyage, two of them having had premiums paid. For a ship of her tonnage, 1,907.44 tons gross, it appears to be a small crew, but taking into consideration that she appears to have been a handy vessel, having double-top-gallant yards, no royal masts or yards, with a short bowsprit, and labour-saving appliances on board, I think that she was properly and sufficiently manned. Very little more has been heard of the ship from those on board, but Captain Raymond writes on March 3rd from Newcastle, stating that "he had experienced a fearful " hurricane after leaving the Cape, but that he had " got out of it all right, and that the ship had behaved " splendidly."

Several affidavits which were taken at Newcastle, New South Wales, have been put in. Mr. Herbert Cross states, "He has been several years head manager of the " Newcastle Wallsend Coal Co.; that the 'Colintraive' " loaded 3,070 tons of that company's coal for San Fran- " cisco on the 10th to 14th of March 1894, during part of " which days it rained a good deal. This coal is hard, " bright and bituminous, possessing good qualities for " either gas, house, or steam, is free from moisture, and " will stand considerable pressure without crumbling, " and is therefore well adapted for shipment. It has for " the last 30 years been largely shipped to California " and West Coast of South America."

"The seam is worked entirely with naked lights, " therefore free from dangerous gases; one ton weight " as broken up for stowage will measure 45 to 46 cubic " feet."

Mr. Augustus Bartrum, shipping inspector, Newcastle, New South Wales, states "the Colintraive's " draught of water on leaving port to have been 20 ft. " 9 in. forward and 21 ft. aft, with a free board of 4 ft. 10 in. " centre of disc awash," and he further states that "she " would rise two inches on getting into salt water." Under these circumstances she cannot be said to be overladen, but had sufficient freeboard.

With reference to the stowage of the cargo, Johannes Bertram states that "he was the master coal-trimmer of that port, and had been so for many years. I super- " intended my gang in trimming this vessel; she had no " between-decks, but half-deck forward and aft. She " took 3,070 tons of coal. There was a space left in the " two ends of the vessel for about 700 or 800 tons, and the " coal was levelled down there. The coal was taken in " by three hatchways, and it was carefully trimmed and " in amidships right up to main hatches and deck. There " were no other spaces left, save those in the fore and " alter hold. No shifting boards were used." If this cargo was stowed, as stated by the above-mentioned Johannes Bertram, with those spaces in the ends of the vessel without shifting boards, it was not properly stowed, and in the event of the vessel meeting with bad weather, there would be nothing to prevent the coal from running at either end whilst the ship was either pitching heavily or scending, and it would naturally go over to the lee side of the vessel, which would give her a list, and thus further increase the cause of the shifting. I have some doubt as to the fact of the vessel having no shifting boards. The Declaration was made some six months after the "Colintraive" sailed, and it is quite possible the master coal-trimmer may have been mistaken. Mr. Hogarth, the owner, states that "he is " confident that the master would not have neglected " the precaution of having them put up, as he has " known Captain Raymond for 25 years, and had the " greatest confidence in him." The boards were on board and some of them had been used with the ballast, and it appears to be almost incredible that an experienced master should fail to use those means to secure the cargo when he had them at hand. The vessel was taken to sea on the 16th of March 1894 by John Leonard Sweet, a Government pilot, who left her the same day about four miles E. by N. from Nobble's Lighthouse.

The cause of the loss of the ship I am unable to account for. It may have occurred through the shifting of the cargo, or by spontaneous combustion, caused, first, from the coal having been shipped in a wet condition; secondly, by the through ventilation from the downcast from the ventilator in the pump well and up the iron masts; but this must be a matter of mere conjecture.

During the inquiry, Mr. McNiven put in the Report of Inquiry held at the Chamber of Commerce, Newcastle, to ascertain the best means of loading and stowing coal cargoes. This report, with the minutes, I append to my report.

JOHN S. CASTLE, Inspector.

20th March 1895.

REPORT of Inquiry held at the Chamber of Commerce, Newcastle, by the Committee, on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of October 1894, to ascertain the best means of loading and stowing coal cargoes.

Chamber of Commerce,

Newcastle, 29th October 1894.


OWING to the reported shifting of the cargoes, notably of the "Poltalloch," "Cambrian Chieftain," and "Parthia," which were recently loaded with coal at this port, and the fact that during the last four years eight vessels have sailed from this port and been posted as missing, the Committee of this Chamber feel that prompt and effective measures are necessary to save the credit of Newcastle, and to this end have held an independent inquiry as to the best means of stowing coal cargoes loaded here for foreign ports. It was thought that by taking the evidence of captains, shipping agents, stevedores, trimmers, and others interested, some decision might be arrived at which would benefit all concerned. This has been done, and, after carefully reviewing the evidence, the Committee have arrived at the following conclusion:—

1. That considerable laxity has been shown by captains, officers, stevedores, and trimmers.

2. That shifting boards and bulkheads, particularly in modern vessels, are absolutely necessary, and their adoption should be made compulsory.

3. That the trimming of all coal cargoes should be under the supervision of the Government.

4. That in no case (as is quite clear from the evidence) has any vessel sailing from this port, carrying Newcastle coal, solely, been lost through spontaneous combustion, but by a lamentable degree of carelessness in the supervision of the trimming.

5. That the following resolution, which was unanimously adopted by the Committee, be conveyed to the Colonial Treasurer, viz.:—"That a deputation wait upon " the Colonial Treasurer to ask the insertion of a clause " in the Navigation Act of New South Wales (now before " Parliament), making the use of shifting boards, and " where necessary, bulkheads, compulsory; and also " that the Government supervise the stowage of coal " cargoes here."

The Committee hope to inaugurate at an early date a better state of things at this port, and they trust that their action in endeavouring to investigate this matter fully may meet with universal approval. In the meantime, they would urge all shipowners to give captains strict instructions that their officers supervise the trimming of all coal cargoes at Newcastle.

Yours faithfully,

for the Committee,

D. J. MCLEAN, President.

MINUTES of meetings held by the Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, in the Chamber at 12 o'clock (noon) on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the 8th, 9th and 10th October, 1894, for the purpose of ascertaining the best mode of loading and stowing coal cargoes, to prevent the shifting of same.

Present: The President (Mr. D. J. McLean) in the chair. Committee: Messrs. R. A. Wallace, S. Keightley, J. R. Hall, W. B. Sharp, George Bewick, F. D. Phillips, A. Fenwick, and the Secretary (A. Birkett), (Messrs. E. A. Mitchell and Thomas Croudace were unavoidably absent); also representatives from several of the shipping firms, and a number of stevedores and trimmers.


The President, in opening the meeting, said he was pleased to see so many present in response to the circular issued by the Chamber, and he hoped that some light would be thrown on several matters that had come under notice lately, bearing more particularly on the loading and stowage of coal. It was thought by the Committee that if captains and other gentlemen well versed in the matter were summoned and asked certain questions, a correct version of the matter could be obtained. He would ask Mr. Sharp to read an extract from the San Francisco News, giving a reprint from a Liverpool paper on the subject under discussion, and he would then ask some of the gentlemen present, who were willing, some questions.

Mr. W. B. Sharp (Manager Dalgety & Co.) read the extract referred to. when, in response to the President's invitation, the following gentlemen volunteered information, and were examined as under:—

Captain Brabham (shipmaster) by the President:—I have had a large amount of experience in coal cargoes and stowing. I have had a cargo of coal shift. I used shifting boards, and saw that the vessel was well filled below to prevent the cargo shifting. I do not consider Newcastle coal dangerous if properly stowed. Shifting boards are a very old institution for the grain service in the Mediterranean and Baltic; they are compulsory there, and for coals they are absolutely necessary.

By Mr. F. D. Phillips (Manager Gibbs Bright & Co.): I think they are more necessary in the modern-built ships, and it should be compulsory for all ships over a certain tonnage to have shifting boards. In the absence of shifting boards I would fill the ship quite full, and bulk-head her off. If there is any space to be left, it should be bulk-headed off.

By Mr. S. Keightley (Newcastle Coal Mining Co.): I consider that the cause of the cargo shifting with me was through not having shifting boards, and getting into heavy weather. I attribute it to the vessel not being full. I prefer having the ship full, but if not full, to bulk-head the space off. I consider that a vessel should be divided into three compartments, and have the shifting boards right up to the deck, and the ship filled. The cost of shifting boards would not make it impracticable for vessels to have them aboard; it would be very small. It would not affect the freight of a vessel, as the timber could always be sold.

Captain Minns, of the ship "Lyderhorn," by the President: I have carried some of the largest coal cargoes that were ever shipped.

By Mr. John R. Hall (R. Hall & Son): I adopt shifting boards from the top of the 'tween decks to the underside of the 'tween deck beam, and in the lower hold, down some four or five feet. I never went to sea without shifting boards. The cost of shifting boards is nothing. I do not consider a cargo of Newcastle coal more dangerous than any other coal, if properly stowed. It is not dangerous at all; half of the spontaneous combustion is caused by neglect in ventilation. Shifting boards are carried in all grain ships, and in most of the first-class ships from Liverpool and London. In my opinion they are absolutely necessary, and should be compulsory. There is no reason why they should not be.

By Mr. Phillips: I do not know of any other system. I do not think there is any better or less expensive. Ships ought to be trimmed under the inspection of a good man who knows his business. I think an inspector should be appointed by the Government, and the ships charged a certain fee to pay the expenses. I place all shifting boards before I start loading. Wing hatches would supply all the timber and there is no expense at all, except the labour. Shifting boards are more necessary in the modern-built ships than in the old style.

Captain Schnauer, of the ship "John Ena" by the President: I do not think that the coal-trimmers are paid enough. I never bargain for my trimming, but get a good man. I think that shifting boards are very necessary, but the paying of the trimmer is the main thing. I have had a large experience in the stowage of coal. I have never had a cargo of coal shifted. I have carried thirty or forty coal cargoes. I use shifting boards. My ship carries 4,300 tons. I do not consider there is any danger from Newcastle coal if properly stowed. The shifting boards do not interfere with the running of the coal. No expense would be added to the trimming. There is no expense for shifting boards for vessels that have 'tween decks.

By Mr. Phillips: The trimming of the ship is the main point. I would not say that shifting boards are absolutely necessary. If there is any space left in a ship she should have shifting boards. In the event of my ship not filling herself I use shifting boards; when she is full they are not needed so much.

Captain Cowan, late of the barque "J. L. Hall," by the President: I have had experience since 1866 in and out of Newcastle, and had experience with coal years before I came to the colonies. I have had several cargoes shifted.

By Mr. Phillips: I think the cause of the shifting was space being left. I cannot say whether the cargoes that shifted were properly trimmed. I have been in vessels where the cargo has been properly trimmed, and then it has shifted. I introduced shifting boards, and found them no good; I then put bulk-heads in the ship, and they were satisfactory. I think the bulk-heads are better than the shifting boards. I consider bulk-heads in both ends of the ship are the best. I do not think Newcastle coal is dangerous if properly stowed. The cost of bulk-heads would be about 10l. The vessel I was in last, and in which I put the bulk-heads, was not a modern-built ship.

Mr. E. Wood, a master-trimmer, by the President: I have had experience in English and Australian coal. If the coals are properly trimmed I consider that shifting boards are not necessary. I have been twenty years at sea. I never had a cargo shift at sea. If a vessel is trimmed properly, that is, men sent down to build a wall as soon as the vessel starts to load, there is no necessity for shifting boards; but at the present time about 2,000 tons of coal are allowed to run into the ship with only one man to watch it. There is no danger of a wall breaking down if properly stowed. A weak vessel might work and shift it. I think in large ships a bulk-head should be built. A few years age the coal used to be built into a vessel as it went in, and if the trimmers were paid properly they could put men in the ship to do the same thing now.

Mr. William Marsden, a master coal-trimmer, by the President: I have had about twenty-one years' experience in trimming. My opinion is that in the modern ships the trouble is caused by space being left in both ends of the ships and no shifting boards. In many cases of 'tween deck ships the captains say the vessels are too stiff, and instruct us to put the coal in the 'tween decks, and the consequences are when the vessels roll the coal tumbles down. I do not think a trimmer should be allowed to finish the main hatch first, but he should be compelled to get an equal quantity in both ends of the ship. As a rule, wooden ships never shift their cargo; the reason is that they fill themselves up. Owing to the small prices paid for trimming, the work cannot be done properly. I believe in shifting boards in the ends of a ship, in the lower holds especially. I attribute the loss of vessels to the fact that there are no shifting boards in the ends where the loose coal is lying, and to 'tween deck ships with no hatches on the 'tween decks. As a rule, the trimmers do their work well, but at the present time there are some men trimming who do not understand their business. As a rule, the trimming is not started until the lower hold has run up, and, as a matter of fact, the lower holds are not full, because they will not run full without trimming. If an inspector was appointed, I think it would do away with this state of things. I do not believe in shifting boards in the waist of the ship.

At this stage the meeting was adjourned until noon on the following day, 9th October 1894.


The President said they were all aware of the point reached the day before, when the meeting was adjourned, at which time Mr. Marsden was giving evidence, and he would now ask that gentleman for any further views he had on the subject.

Mr. Marsden, continuing, said that in his opinion the cost of fitting a large ship fore and aft with shifting boards would be 10l. He did not consider if bulk-heads were put into a ship it would prevent the coal shifting at the ends.

Mr. R. Buhl, master stevedore, by the President: I have had about twenty-five years' experience in stevedoring. I have had experience with shifting boards. They are very good, but I think they can be done without. The coal will not shift in the ends of a ship, as she is too narrow there; it is in the centre of the ship that it shifts. In the absence of shifting boards I should fill the centre of the ship, and see the ends levelled down properly; in many instances at the present time this is not done.

Mr. Marsden, in asking the witness a question, mentioned the ship "Poltalloch," and was stopped by the President.

Mr. Buhl to Mr. Keightley: There are hundreds of vessels that have never used shifting boards, and there have been no accidents with them. That is not, in my opinion, due to the different build of ships. In trimming a ship I should start and build the wall to the upper deck, fill the main hatch tight, and shift the coal from forward and aft, and the cargo would never shift.

Mr. Buhl, by the President: In some cases it is necessary to have shifting boards.

Mr. Buhl, by Mr. Keightley: Shifting boards would cost about 10l. I do not see that there would be any extra expense for trimming, as they would not be in the trimmers' way.

Mr. Buhl, by the President: If a cargo of Newcastle coal was properly shipped, there would be no danger from spontaneous combustion.

Captain Sodergren, of the barque "Hesper," by the President: I have not had much experience in the coal trade.

By Mr. Keightley: I have been in and out of this port three times with coal cargoes.

By the President: I use shifting boards when I carry a deck cargo, and the hold is not full; but when the vessel takes a full cargo below, she is full, and the boards are not required. I think it is necessary to have shifting boards. I would not go to sea in my vessel without them if she was not full.

By Mr. Keightley: The build of my ship is very dissimilar to the general run of English ships.

Mr. West, foreman for Messrs. James Russell & Co., by the President: I have had eleven years' experience at stevedoring and trimming. I have heard of a cargo of coal shifting; and it is caused, in my opinion, through the coal being kept too high in the ships. The coal is built in the 'tween decks, and the ships get tender. They want shifting boards in the ends. One half of the ships are not full, and if they get in bad weather the cargo must shift. I would adopt shifting boards in the ends of the ship where the coal is loose. If an inspector was appointed to see that vessels were trimmed properly it would do no good—there would be 15 of them wanted, one for each crane. I have been to sea in coal-carriers. I do not consider a cargo of Newcastle coal dangerous if properly stowed.

By Mr. Sharp: Most of the vessels that have shifted their cargoes have had no shifting boards.

By the President: I know for certain that several of the vessels that have left this port and have never been heard of had no shifting boards.

The President then read a list of the vessels posted as missing lately, and it was ascertained from the various witnesses that the following vessels had no shifting boards:—"Lamorna," "Garvin," "Woolton," "Evelyn," and "Cambrian Chieftain."

Captain Cross (Wallsend Coal Co., Limited), considered that in coal-laden ships the thing most necessary for the safety of the ships was proper trimming, and to ensure this it was the duty of the captain to employ competent trimmers only and have the ship trimmed under the supervision of himself and officers, in the same manner as any other cargo is supervised in the stowing. He considered that the stowage of coal was of as much consequence as the stowage of wool or merchandise of any description, and that there should be some means used to keep the coal in the ends of ships working forward and aft; being in the narrow part of the ship it is not likely to affect the ship much if a little runs over. The danger is of the cargo shifting from side to side; therefore the danger lies amidships. I think that the coal should be trimmed right up to the lower deck beams as close as possible, and I am afraid if that is slummed the work is not done well. As to shifting boards, I certainly think that they should be used, especially in very large ships. They should be used amidships in the lower hold from about the after part of the fore hatch to the fore part of the after hatch, and the same in the 'tween decks.

By the President: I have never had a cargo shift:

Witness continuing: I certainly think that vessels should be compelled to use shifting boards, and I may tell you for your information that twelve months ago the Local Marine Board were in correspondence about the same subject, and they recommended the compulsory use of these boards. A great deal has been put down as the result of bad trimming which is caused by the low price at present paid; and, in fact, it is acknowledged that the work has been slummed. I do not know myself how the men can work for the money they receive, and I look to see them get a better price; but I will say, as I said before, that the first responsibility rests with the captains and officers. As to getting the Government to appoint an inspector, an inspector would be required for each crane; and it would be absurd to ask the Government for such an army of inspectors. If we can get the Government to make the use of shifting boards compulsory, it would then be a matter for the inspection of the Marine Board surveyor.

By Mr. Keightley: I do not know the price of shifting boards.

Mr. Langwill (F. & H. Langwill, shipping agents), said that the cost of shifting boards for a vessel 280 or 290 ft. in length would be between 12l. and 15l.

Captain Cross continuing, in reply to the President: I do not consider a cargo of Newcastle coal is any more dangerous than other coal, if properly stowed.

Mr. Michael Ryan, by the President: I am a stevedore, and have had about 10 years' experience in the stowage of coal cargoes. I believe in shifting boards being used in the ends of a ship, but not in the middle if she is properly filled. Some ships use them and some do not. They are more necessary in some ships than others. At the present time a large amount of the coal going into a ship is not trimmed properly because, as a rule, a hatch is run up without a man being below. That coal is underneath the stringers. This is caused by the low rate at present paid for trimming. To prevent this I would suggest that men be put down to trim the coal as soon as it gets to the stringer.

By Mr. Bewick (Waratah Coal Co.): I think that is the cause of some of the cargoes shifting—want of men and shifting boards in the proper places.

By the President: I do not think much good would be done by appointing inspectors.

Mr. McNeill, by the President: I am a stevedore, and have had about sixteen years' experience. I have had experience in coal-carriers at sea. I consider shifting boards necessary in the ends of ships, and underneath the beams, especially if the ship has a midship deck. With the modern ships I consider there is greater necessity for them than with the old ships. I am aware that vessels have left Newcastle and Sydney, carrying coal cargoes, and have never been heard of, and in my opinion the accidents have been caused by bad trimming.

By Mr. Bewick: Very few of the shipmasters see that the coal is properly trimmed.

By Mr. Keightley: Steamers are in different compartments, and this is of great assistance in keeping them stiff. To do away with the shifting of coal I would suggest that the master of the ship should be compelled to see that the coal was properly stowed from the time she took in stiffening until she finished. I think that shifting boards are necessary at certain parts of the ship.

By the President: I suppose the reason the officers do not superintend the stowing of the cargo is because they are afraid of getting dirty.

By Captain Cross: In my opinion the low price is the cause of bad trimming. Men are not sent down the hold until a couple of hatches are run up.

By Mr. Earp: I think that 3d. or 3 1/2d. per ton is a fair price for modern ships.

By Captain Cross: I cannot say whether the present price is a fair one; I am not acquainted with all the prices. I know if I do not get a fair price for deep. water ships I will not undertake the work.

George Marsden, by the President: I am a labourer. I have had thirteen years' experience at coal trimming. I was at sea in the coal trade. I have never been in a ship when the coal cargo has shifted. Shifting boards were not necessary twelve years ago, and, in my opinion, they are not necessary now if the vessels are properly trimmed. The rate twelve years ago was 3 1/4d. per ton, and I think if the same vessels came here now they would be trimmed for 2 3/4d., and it is impossible to trim them properly at that price.

By Mr. Earp: The trimmers consider that their only duty is to get the ships down to their marks, and not look after the stowage.

Captain Williams, Manager of the Union S. S. Co.: In my opinion this matter is in a nut-shell. At the present time the trimmers are not paid a fair price, and the consequence is they run the hatches of a vessel up without putting a man on the work. If the captain or officers looked after the work there would be no danger. In the ends of a ship there is so much space that unless it is blocked off the cargo must shift. The coal must be held by something.

By the President: I do not think that shifting boards are necessary.

By Mr. Earp: The Government could appoint an inspector to look after the trimming.

Captain Schnauer, of the ship "John Ena," did not think it was necessary to have an inspector. In his opinion, if the trimmers were properly paid they would look after their work.

Captain Williams continuing, in reply to the President: I do not know why the officers do not look after the trimming.

By Mr. Bewick: I have been in very bad weather, but have never had a cargo shift.

Captain Witherspoon (late ship-master), by the President: I have had no experience in coal from this port, but I have at home, and have had a good deal in carrying grain in bulk. The precautions taken to prevent grain shifting would apply to coal, that is, to put shifting boards and bulk-heads up at the ends. I believe in shifting boards to a certain extent, but not the same as in grain-carriers. For instance, I would have shifting boards in the lower hold about five feet, and in the 'tween decks about half the depth of the 'tween decks, and bulk-head off both ends. I have heard of vessels being missing, and have thought that their loss was probably due to the shifting of the cargo.

Mr. Roberts, ship-master, by the President: I have not had much experience in stevedoring, but have been to sea a good many years in coal-carriers. I have never had a cargo shift, and never had shifting boards; but ships I have trimmed have had them. 1 think a ship is all the better with them. I consider a cargo of coal dangerous when not properly stowed. As long as the coal is trimmed level there is not much fear of it shifting; but in large ships, if there is any space, the coal is bound to work there. I have drawn a rough plan of a vessel, showing how the coal lies, and if shifting boards were placed where I have marked with blue pencil, the ship would be safe. I would not use them in the ends.

At this stage the meeting was adjourned until the following day at noon, Wednesday, 10th October, 1894.


The President said he was pleased to see Captain Paton present, that gentleman having volunteered to give evidence, not in his official capacity, but merely as an old ship-master. He would call on that gentleman for his views.

Captain Paton, berthing-master, by the President: I have had about thirty years' experience in coal-carrying. I never had shifting boards, but believe in them. They generally bulkhead vessels that are in the one trade. I do not think shifting boards are used much, but they ought to be, especially in modern-built vessels that require no stiffening. I never had a cargo shift to any extent.

By Mr. Bewick: I always saw that the cargo was properly stowed to prevent it shifting.

By Mr. Wallace: I do not think that vessels are properly trimmed right up to the deck as they should be. There is no supervision to see that it is done.

By Mr. Sharp: I do not think the loading of vessels at night-time caused the work to be slummed, but there should always be an officer below, to see that the vessel is properly trimmed.

By the President: Trimming is not done as well now as it was years ago, as there are more reports of vessels shifting their cargoes now. I am aware that vessels have left here, and have never been heard of, and I have often thought that the cause was shifting of cargo. In the event of a vessel not filling herself when loading I would secure the cargo.

By Mr. Bewick: I would bulkhead the vessel off, but it is rather difficult to do this with a vessel that is not regularly in the trade.

By the President: I do not think there is any danger from spontaneous combustion in Newcastle coal, if properly stowed. I have had Newcastle coal on board for three months, and saw no heat in it.

Mr. Cremor, master-trimmer, by the President: I am a trimmer, and have had between thirteen and fourteen years' experience. I have taken note of the vessels missing for the last four or five years. I think a few of those vessels had shifting boards where they were not required. Shifting boards are not at all necessary in the body of the ship. For the proper protection of vessels, especially modern ones, I think they require filling up in the body and in the fore batch, where sometimes the wall is not backed up. A wall should be built from the skin to the main deck. I was second mate of a vessel that was on her beam ends for forty-seven hours, through the cargo shifting. If we had used shifting boards I do not think they would have been any advantage. There is no occasion for them in the body of a vessel. If the wall in a vessel is not backed up, there is danger of the ship, when pitching into a head sea, shifting the cargo from one side to the other. The prices for trimming have been very low, and it was the duty of the agents to see that a fair price was paid, and competent men employed. The most vital point is getting competent men to trim the vessels. When the Newcastle Coal-Trimmers' Union was in vogue, men had to be placed to trim vessels as soon as they started, but now the vessels run in 1,400 or 1,500 tons of coal without a man being below, and the consequence is the safety of the vessel is endangered.

Mr. Bewick then rose, and in addressing the President. said: Before calling on any other witnesses, Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a few words to give them an opportunity of replying. During the inquiry we have elicited the fact from more than one that many of the ships loading here are not properly stowed. It has been admitted that a large quantity of coal is put into the main hatch before any men are put on to the coal at all, and the result is that space is left. These stevedores contract to trim the coal at a certain price, and they also undertake to trim the coal to the satisfaction of the master, and in a proper manner. Setting aside the question as to whether they receive sufficient remuneration for their services or not, is it not a fair thing to ask them to carry out the contract, considering the serious consequences involved? I maintain that when a stevedore takes the work in hand he should carry it out. It was pointed out yesterday that the masters and officers of vessels did not pay sufficient attention to the trimming. I maintain that a man who takes the trimming should carry it out without the supervision of the master or officers.

By the President: I have never heard a captain or officer say anything about spontaneous combustion. I heard one captain say that he would not load his ship without shifting boards.

Mr. Alan Wallace (R. B. Wallace) quite agreed with what Mr. Bewick had said. They had got the opinion of a good many, and it seemed that if the ships were properly trimmed there would be no necessity for shifting boards; but as it was impossible to get the vessels properly trimmed, the boards were necessary. We have also heard from the trimmers that the officers are stoned below; if the trimming was faithfully done, there would be no necessity to frighten the officer out of the hold.

By the President: I do not know that Newcastle coal is liable to spontaneous combustion. I have only heard of two instances where the coal has caught fire. Of course there are cases where there has been heating to a certain degree. In one case some Cardiff coal had been lying for nearly nine months in the ship, and in another case the coal was in the ship an unduly long time. When I was in Liverpool, the Secretary of the Liverpool Underwriters' Association communicated with me on the subject of trimming, and he stated that the conclusion they had arrived at was that the Newcastle coal was improperly stowed.

Captain Cloud, by the President: I have had considerable experience in coal carrying. I never use shifting boards; I do not think they are necessary if the cargo is well stowed in the middle of the ship. In the event of the cargo not being properly stowed, I do not think they would prevent it shifting. I think the cargo should be properly stowed in the body of the ship.

By Mr. Bewick: I would put shifting boards or bulkheads in the ends.

By Mr. Sharp: I think the boards are necessary in the ends of a vessel.

By Mr. Wallace: If the ends shifted it might cause the coal in the body to shift, but there would be nothing very serious from the ends alone shifting.

By Mr. Sharp: In my opinion, if the shifting boards were properly fastened, and the cargo shifted, the boards would break.

By the President: I have never had a cargo of coal shift. My ship is a modern-built ship.

Mr. Sharp, by the President: I think all ships should have shifting boards. I have heard captains very frequently express the opinion that they are necessary. I have never heard of a case of spontaneous combustion in Newcastle coal.

In response to the President's request that he should give his views on the subject under discussion, Mr. Sharp said: I am very glad to see so many present in response to the request of the Committee, and I am very pleased that I brought the matter up, so that we can get opinions from all sides. I feel quite certain that a great many of the vessels that have been lost after leaving Newcastle have had their cargo shifted. This has been confirmed by the evidence of nearly all the trimmers here. We have also heard that a great many of the ships, owing to the low rate paid, have been scamped, and it has been admitted by more than one that a large space has been left under the stringer, as they cannot pay men to trim underneath the stringer. My own opinion is—I only give it as my opinion—it is a very serious difficulty that is menacing the port of Newcastle, and unless rectified we shall all be the losers. I think the Government should be asked to intervene in the matter, and we should have experienced trimmers, licensed by the Government, and they should be made responsible for the stowage of the ship. Over those licensed trimmers I would ask the Government to appoint an inspector. it has been pointed out that an inspector could not be down a dozen ships at one time, but he could drop on certain ships, and report on the work of the trimmer if not satisfactory, and have their certificate cancelled at the second or third offence. I should have labour put on when the ship started. For that, an increased rate would be charged, but I do not think that a shipowner would begrudge to pay an increased rate, as it would be to his benefit and to the benefit of the insurance companies. Besides this, there is great risk to human life in vessels improperly stowed. It might be said if there were twelve licensed trimmers, how were they going to get work? They could make an arrangement to take turn and turn about, and two independent men should be appointed to say what would be a fair rate for the different vessels, and also say whether shifting boards were required or not. Those are my views; and until we have something of this kind, the business of trimming of coals is a serious menace to Newcastle. It is my opinion that the vessels posted as missing have been lost through the bad trimming of coals. With regard to spontaneous combustion—we know that the "Cedarbank" and "King James" had other coals on board, and the fire may be accounted for by that fact. I think that until something is put before the Government, we are bound to have accidents. A better rate should be paid, too. There is a man appointed to stop vessels going to sea overladen; why not one to see they are properly stowed? I think that after the inquiry is over the committee should visit one or two of the vessels in the port. I hope that some good may come of the conclusion arrived at by the committee.

By the President: If the trimming was placed under the supervision of the coal mines it would be no good. I think we should have licensed trimmers, and if they did not carry out their work as per the ideas of the inspector, they should have their certificates cancelled.

Mr. Hans Bertram (master trimmer) by the President: I have had a good deal of experience in trimming, and have been to sea in coal carriers. I have used shifting boards and believe in them. I always insist on shifting boards being put up in the 'tween decks. I think the coal shifts in the ends and not in the body. I would "plug" the fore-hatch and shoot the coal against the other coal, and would level the coal down in the ends. I consider the shifting boards are more necessary in the modern-built ships than the old style. I trimmed the "Colintraive," which vessel, after leaving here, was never heard of. The captain would not put up shifting boards, and I told him that if he did not he would never reach the next port, but he said he did not require them. I should make the officers of the ships look after the trimming and would not appoint an inspector. If a man takes a contract to trim a ship he is the inspector. Two inspectors could not look after the whole of the cranes. Ships are not as well trimmed now as they were 10 years ago, the reason being that the price paid for trimming is too low. I consider that 3 1/2d. is a fair rate for open ships, and 4 1/2d. for 'tween deck ships. Five years ago I got as much as 5d. and 6d. per ton for trimming, and last week I had one for 3d., and the captain told me that he could have got the work done for 2 1/4d.

By Mr. Wallace: In trimming a ship I start a wall on the bottom and bring it about three beams on the slope in towards the main hatch and the same in the 'tween decks; I then get a plug in the fore hatch and shoot the coal up against the wall. I always have two or three men at the stringer.

By Mr. Bewick: I meant when I said I made a ship pay, that instead of levelling off the coal I left it.

By Mr. Sharp: If the inspector was an experience man there would be no chance of burying him.

Mr. G. F. Earp (Earp Gillam & Co.), by the President: I have had 20 years' experience in shipping and ship owning. The vessels that I was interested in did not use shifting boards. I believe in shifting boards. but in the first place I believe in correct stowage of cargo—in the matter of stowage of coal there seems to be no attention paid. If the trimmers knew that the work would be superintended by experienced men they would not "cut" prices, but would put in tenders at such prices as would enable them to put on labour. With regard to the vessels leaving Newcastle and being reported as missing—this has been a matter of great regret to me. The loss of vessels after leaving is out of all proportion to the loss of vessels coming to the port. It has been said that it is spontaneous combustion, but during my connection with shipping I have known a lot of vessels of fire, laden with salt and ordinary cargo. I think the real reason is the improper stowage of the cargo. It was a matter of astonishment that the masters neglected the stowage of coal, and until the masters did attend to that matter no rates paid or inspectors appointed would do any good. It is the duty of all shipping agents to bring the matter before masters and point out the vessels that have been lost. Shifting cargoes I believe to be the most prolific of all causes, and that is caused by bad stowing.

Mr. John Henderson, ship-owner, by the President: I agree with what Mr. Earp has said, and think that the captain and officers should inspect the trimming, and not appoint a Government inspector. At the time a good rate was paid the trimming was done well. If inspectors were appointed there would be eight or nine required. The ship's officers ought to inspect the trimming and the trimmers get a fair price. I never used shifting boards, but I believe they should be used in large ships that do not fill up, either shifting boards or bulk-heads.

Mr. John Brown (James & Alex. Brown), by the President: I am not a trimmer, and can only speak from conversations I have had with different shipmasters that have had coal cargoes. Every master I referred to was in favour of shifting boards, especially with the modern ships. I have heard of a number of vessels having left this port that have not been heard of afterwards, and my one opinion has been that they have not been trimmed properly, or their cargoes would not have shifted. To remedy this bad trimming I think shifting boards should be used, and a regular scale for trimming fixed to enable the men to trim the ships properly; but to do that I think it would be necessary for every colliery to appoint its own trimmer, and then it would be certain that the ships would be trimmed properly. Insurance has gone up from 25s. to 40s., in consequence of so many ships being lost. I think you can always get a ships insured at Lloyd's at a rate. I have never had any difficulty in effecting insurances, but some companies object. In England you cannot get trimming done for under 3d. to 4d. per ton, and they do not pay half the wages they do out here. The agents can remedy the evil by paying a fair price for their trimming. I think that the colliery proprietors could soon fix the matter up by seeing that a good man is employed, and I am going to insist upon ours in any ships we charter. We are going to insert a clause in the charter party to that effect. If this is done the collieries will get a bad name by other cargoes shifting, or it being put down to spontaneous combustion.

By Mr. Bewick: I take the experience of ship-masters, and they have all told me that they use shifting boards, and would not go without them.

By the President: The coal proprietors could remedy the bad trimming if they appointed proper trimmers and paid the men for the work. Some ships would be trimmed cheaper than others, but there should be a proper clause.

By Mr. Wallace: The scale should be arrived at by a conference of trimmers.

Mr. Wallace to the President: I know that several insurance companies have declined to accept the risk on coal cargoes.

Mr. Earp: I have had the same experience as Mr. Wallace. You can always insure at Lloyd's if you pay the price.

Mr. Cuthbertson (of Cuthbertson & Co., shipping agents): About a fortnight ago I loaded one of Messrs. W. H. Smith & Sons' boats, a first-class risk, but could not get a company to accept it.

Mr. Langwill pointed out that the refusal of risks by the colonial offices, was caused by the small portion of business offered them. If the whole of the business were placed in the colonial offices' hands they would accept them, and probably at a lower rate than that now ruling. The matter of shifting boards is also of interest to insurance companies, and that is the reason I have attended. I think that Mr. Sharp hit the nail on the head when he stated that the shifting boards or bulk-heads were necessary, and that supervision was required. We hear that it would be almost impossible to have supervision because of the number of cranes requiring attention; but I do not think that there are ever fifteen ships loading at the same time. Inspectors would be required. Shiftings boards are of no good without proper stowage. I think there are men who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves in the hold of a vessel.

This concluded the evidence taken, and the meeting then adjourned until one day the following week (day not named.)

In all probability the committee will decide to publish the evidence, and circulate it as widely as possible. At the invitations of Captain Minns of the "Lyderhorn" and Captain McLeod of the "Poltalloch," the committee subsequently visited those vessels, the former being fitted with shifting boards throughout.


(Extract from Newcastle Herald, October 22nd, 1894.)

The subject of the trimming of cargoes of coal shipped at this port has recently attracted considerable attention, and there can be no doubt that the interest taken in the matter has not been exhibited one moment too soon. Indeed, there are fair grounds for believing that if the question had received more practical attention during the past two or three years, the waste of life and property which has resulted in connection with the loss of vessels which sailed from this port would not have had to be recorded. The recent inquiry, conducted under the auspices of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, was a thoroughly practical way of dealing with the question, and, although it was not initiated at the instance of the Government, the results attained are just as important as if it had been conducted under the ægis of the State. The existence of an evil in connection with an important trade was disclosed, and advice as to the proper remedy to be applied was freely given by persons well qualified to express opinions on the matter in hand. That vessels sailing from this port had not been well trimmed was not denied, and the causes alleged for this state of things were pointed out. In the first place, the price paid for trimming had fallen so low that men were prepared to perform it at rates far below those allowed for the same kind of labour in the old country. In England about 4d. per ton was charged for this work, whereas at this port it had been undertaken for about half that rate. The consequence was that the pressure placed on the men to hurry the work was so great that the result was adverse to the ship and all those who sailed in her. Doubtless, if the work had been done under strict supervision, the trimming contractors would either have to complete it properly at a loss or throw up the job, and allow others to perform it at a rate which would pay them and allow of good work being done. It was stated by leading shipowners here that marine insurance rates have gone up from 25s. to 30s. per cent. on vessels from Newcastle, in consequence of recent known losses, or the posting of vessels as missing. The evidence given on this point was clearly to the effect that in coal-trimming, as in many other industrial occupations, the cheaper the work the more likelihood there was of it being nasty. In matters where human life is not concerned the principle of buying in the cheapest market may be left to regulate itself; but it becomes a very serious question when carelessness on the part of both employer and employed leads to the increase of widows and fatherless children in households none too well provided for. In arrangements of this kind the buyer does not get what he is presumed to be buying, and the seller only appears to render what he has bargained to give. It is therefore a bad system all round, and the sooner it gives place to a healthier state of affairs the better for everyone interested.

Another point clearly established was the necessity which exists for the use of shifting boards in the holds of the very large vessels by means of which the over-sea export trade of this port is conducted. It seems difficult to understand why, even with the low freights now prevalent, the masters of vessels should accept risks which might be avoided with regard to the stowage of their cargoes. None know better than experienced mariners the dangers of the seas, and none are in a better position to fully realise the difference between a badly stowed and a well stowed cargo on the results of a voyage. With bad stowage neither comfort nor safety, nor hearty co-operation on the part of the crew in time of danger can be looked for on board, and if matters come out all right the result is felt to be more due to chance than good management. We do not envy the feelings of a shipmaster who knowingly and wilfully determines to risk his life, those of the crew, and the vessel under his command, in order that he may save a 10l.-note on a three months' voyage. Such action cannot be too strongly condemned, and if the results of the shipping trade drive shipowners to reckless courses such as this, it is high time that a change were made. When it is clearly seen from the nature of a certain bulk cargo that care in stowing is absolutely necessary, there ought to be no hesitation in making those provisions for safety which common sense and ordinary observation inculcate. The sensation consequent on hearing cargo playing loose in the hold, while the leeside remains for a lengthened period at an angle which suggests the question whether the vessel is about to turn turtle, is so unpleasant as to make captains who have gone through such an experience regret that they had not spent a few pounds more in fixing up the cargo by shifting boards, and in its more careful stowage generally.

It is hoped that this inquiry will have a permanent and healthy effect on that important part of shipping operations. After all, good stowage is a part, and a truly essential part, of the mariner's duty, although in the majority of instances it devolves, by division of labour, on shore folk. One local colliery owner and agent stated that he felt so strongly on the subject that in future charter parties he would insist that the trimming be done by trimmers from his colliery. The finding of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce on the subject is that (1) low rates are responsible for bad trimming; (2) that the trimming should be supervised by captains and officers; and (3) that the use of shifting boards or bulk-heads be made compulsory. It was also resolved to send a deputation to the Government of this colony for the purpose of having a clause inserted in the Navigation Act to make the use of the above-mentioned appliances necessary, and that the trimming be under the supervision of the Government. So far as the latter suggestion is concerned, there ought to be no legal difficulty in the matter, seeing that at present a Government inspector is appointed to prevent overloading, and to look after the general provisions made in order to ensure seaworthiness. In addition to this action the local Chamber of Commerce will communicate results of the inquiry to the Chambers of Commerce of London, Liverpool, Glasgow, San Francisco, and New York. Much good ought to result from this interchange of ideas, because it is most essential that the co-operation of all interested in the principal shipping ports of the world should be enlisted in a matter of so much importance. The fact is that a word from the great shipowners of the United Kingdom to the masters of their vessels would have the effect desired by all who are monetarily or morally interested in the welfare of those who sail on ships leaving this port. But as there are shipowners who conduct their business on the principle of cutting down the disbursements on account of their vessels to the lowest possible point and "chancing it," other measures will have to be taken if an improvement be not speedily made. The Government of New South Wales cannot quietly look on while any practically murderous system is allowed to prevail in connection with the conduct of one of the principal industries originating within its jurisdiction. It should be the duty of every one connected with the staple trade of this port to say that they sell coals but not the lives of men.

81564—238. 180.—3/95. Wt. 60. E. & S.


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