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Wreck Report for 'Borderer', 1895

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Unique ID:16814
Description:BOT Wreck Report for 'Borderer', 1895
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 5157.)



Chief Presidency Magistrate's Court,

22nd April, 1895.

IN pursuance of Government Resolution, Marine Department, No. 86, dated the 15th April 1895, appointing J. SANDERS SLATER, Esquire, Chief Presidency Magistrate, Bombay, Captain E. STREET, master of the P. & O. Company's S.S. "Ravenna," and Captain GEORGE MUNDLE, master of the S.S. "St. Enock," to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances attending the grounding of the S.S. "BORDERER" at Hodeida and near Jeddah, the Court met on the dates noted in the proceedings.

2. On perusal of the documents sent with the abovementioned Government resolution, and on inspection of the chief officer's log and other documents produced by the master of the s.s. "Borderer," the Court were of opinion that this investigation was likely to involve the cancellation or suspension of the certificate of the master or of some other officer of the said steamship, and therefore, under the provisions of sec. 13 of Act 5. of 1883, the Court constituted as its assessors for the purposes of this investigation Captain Brackenbury of the s.s. "Aeolus" and Captain N. Hocken of the s.s. "Spondilus," and proceeded to hear the evidence.

3. It appears from the evidence that the s.s. "Borderer" is a screw steamship built of steel at Glasgow in 1894 by Charles Connell and Company, and owned by the Border Steamship Company, Limited, registered at Liverpool. She has two masts, and is schooner rigged. Her registered tonnage is 1,934.60 tons. Her length is 320 ft., breadth 42.15 ft., and her official number is 102,138. She is fitted with triple-expansion engines of 280 horse-power nominal. Her working pressure of steam is 160 lbs., which gave her a speed of 10 1/4 knots on her trial trip. She is commanded by Archibald James Weatherhead, who holds a master's certificate, No. 06,639, granted by the Board of Trade at Glasgow, and dated 5th November 1883, and who has had nine years' experience in command of steamships. Although Captain Weatherhead has been up and down the Red Sea off and on for ten years, the voyage in which the casualty now under investigation happened was his first voyage to Red Sea ports. During that voyage he had under his command Mr. George Gilbert Hay as chief officer, who holds an ordinary master's certificate, issued by the Board of Trade at Arbroath, and dated 5th December 1891; Mr. Ninian Nicholl as second officer, holding a first mate's certificate, granted by the Board of Trade at Glasgow, dated 23rd May 1892; a third officer and a chief and three other engineers, with a crew making up a total of 30 all told. With the exception of nine firemen, who were Arabs, the crew was composed of Europeans. The "Borderer" carried three compasses. all supplied by Messrs. MacGregor and Company, of Glasgow. The standard compass on the upper bridge, which has the usual fittings for ascertaining the deviation, was exclusively used in the navigation of the ship. There were two chronometers on board, one supplied by MacGregor and Company, of Glasgow, and one by Hewitt, of London; and Watkin's patent taffrail log as well as hand logs, which last, however, were not generally used. The ship appears to have been properly provided with Admiralty charts and books upon navigation, and to have been well found and fitted in every respect. She was invariably steered by steam steering gear, and is said to have steered very well.

4. The s.s. "Borderer" left Calcutta on February 13th, 1895, bound for Berbera, Aden, and Red Sea ports, with a cargo of about 4,200 tons of rice, and arrived at Hodeida at 6.20 a.m. on the 5th March, nothing unusual having occurred on the voyage up to that point. At Aden an Arab Red Sea pilot had been engaged on the recommendation of the agent there. The ship was anchored in four fathoms of water, her draught then being 20 ft. 2 in. forward and 21 ft. aft, and commenced discharging cargo from Nos. 1 and 4 holds. While there the wind and sea increased, and at 2 p.m. it became necessary to suspend discharging cargo, as the lighters could not lie alongside. At about 1 a.m. on the 6th March the ship was observed to be touching the bottom, which is sandy. Steam was got up, and at 1.30 a.m. the ship was moved out into five fathoms of water and anchored. On the morning of the 7th March the weather moderated and the ship was taken closer in, and the discharge of cargo was resumed at 9 p.m. that day. The "Borderer" left Hodeida at 6.30 a.m. on the 8th March with about 3,000 tons of rice as cargo and with 19 or 20 passengers from Hodeida for Jeddah, and proceeded on her voyage.

5. At noon on the 9th of March the ship's position was latitude 18° 22 N., longitude 39° 51 E. This position was ascertained by observation by both the captain and the chief officer, and the results they arrived at corresponded to within a mile. The ship was then on a course N. by W. 1/2 W. by compass, N.W. by N. 3/4 N. magnetic. On the 4th March, when off Perim, Captain Weatherhead swung the ship from N. to W. to ascertain the error of the standard compass, and he states that the deviations he then ascertained corresponded with those ascertained on his previous voyage up the Red Sea on October 22nd, 1894. The course abovementioned was continued up to 10.30 p.m. on March 9th, when it was changed to N. by compass, N 1/2 magnetic, the ship having run 100 miles since noon. At midnight, the ship having run 14 miles on the N. course, her course was altered to N. 1/2 E. by compass, N. 1/4 E. magnetic, and the ship continued on this course up to 5.15 a.m. on March 10th, when she struck on Katah Kidan Reef. At the moment of striking, the chief officer was in charge of the ship, and was in the chartroom working out an observation he had just taken. As soon as the ship struck, her engines were stopped, and steps were taken to ascertain whether the vessel was making water, and to extricate her from her position. Soundings were taken all round the ship, and it was found that there were 10 fathoms or more of water all round, except from the after part of the bridge to right forward on the starboard side, where the water gradually shoaled from 18 to 12 ft.; and from forward to about 30 ft. aft on the port side, where there were from 12 to 20 feet of water. As the ship was making no water, No. 1 ballast tank was pumped out and the engines were moved full speed astern, and the ship came off and got clear of the reef after they had been so working for about half an hour. The ship then proceeded for Jeddah, and arrived there at 3.15 that afternoon, and anchored in the harbour. The ship was then making water in the fore-peak. The cargo was discharged and a diver was sent down to ascertain the damage the ship had sustained. He reported a small crack on the starboard bow close to the keel, and no other damage. A survey was held on the ship by the master and chief engineer of the s.s. "Godwit," of London, and they recommended certain temporary repairs, which were carried out, and they then granted the ship a certificate to proceed in ballast to a port of repair. The "Borderer" then left Jeddah on March 23rd and arrived at Bombay on April 4th, where she has been surveyed and repaired.

6. These being shortly the facts as ascertained by the Court, we now propose to consider our finding upon them. First, with regard to the touching at Hodeida on the 6th March, we are of opinion that the touching on this occasion was not the cause of any damage to the ship. It is apparent that all the damage which the vessel sustained upon this voyage was right forward, and the evidence satisfies the Court that the ship touched the sand lightly aft. The Court are of opinion that the master was compelled to take the ship close to the shore in order to discharge the cargo, and that as soon as it appeared that the sea was too rough for her to remain in that position without danger of injury she was promptly removed to a place of safety. The Court are of opinion that no blame attaches to any one in respect of this touching, and that it resulted in no injury to the ship.

7. Secondly, with regard to the stranding on Katah Kidan Reef. It appears that the courses which the master laid down should have taken the ship past this reef at a distance of eleven miles to the westward in the early morning of the 10th March, and past the Alkas Samiyeh Reef at a distance of five miles to the westward at about 7 a.m. of that day. The first question for the Court to consider is, whether this was a prudent and proper course for Captain Weatherhead to adopt. it appears that he did so after consultation with the Arab pilot. It also appears from the "Red Sea Pilot," as well as from Captain Weatherhead's evidence, that the Alkas Samiyeh Reef is a breaking reef, and it would therefore be easily discernible at a considerable distance by daylight. The Court are therefore of opinion that the courses steered by Captain Weatherhead after noon on the 9th March were, having regard to the position of the ship at that time, proper and prudent courses for him to have adopted. The next question for our consideration is, whether these courses were properly steered. Upon this point the evidence is all one way. The chief officer and the second officer, one or other of whom was in charge of the navigation of the ship the whole time from noon of the 9th March until the ship struck, both say that during their watches the courses set were properly kept. They also state that observations were frequently taken to ascertain the error of the compass. The Court can find nothing in the evidence or in the case itself which would justify them in discrediting this evidenee. The chief officer seems to have been fully alive to the necessity of watching the deviation of the compass, and of verifying the position of the ship. He states that he noticed the caution as to currents which is printed on the Admiralty chart of the Red Sea, but that he made no allowance for currents as they had experienced none. The observation he took at 4.25 p.m. on the 9th would tend to show that if the ship had been influenced at all by a current, it had been a current from the eastward, which would have the effect of placing the ship at a greater distance from the reefs than her course would take her, but he observed that the different results he obtained did not vary more than a.m. and p.m. sights frequently do vary. On consideration of all the evidence, the Court are of opinion that the courses set were properly kept. It also appears that a proper look-out was kept.

8. The next question for the consideration of the Court is, what was the cause of the casualty? The evidence in the case, in the opinion of the Court, leaves only one answer to this question, viz., that the ship was carried to the eastward by a current. The Admiralty charts, as is mentioned above, specially caution mariners of the currents which are frequently met with in the Red Sea, which at times set across from west to east, or from east to west, and which are very uncertain in their force. The Court consider that under the circumstances shown by the evidence the navigation of the ship was conducted with due care, and they cannot attribute blame to any one on board the "Borderer" for the occurrence of this casualty.

9. The Court have been obliged, in carrying out this inquiry, to depend entirely upon that verbal evidence given before them as far as the important question as to the means adopted for ascertaining the deviations of the compass is concerned; and though they have no reason to disbelieve that evidence, it is a matter of regret to the Court that they are not able to find that verbal evidence corroborated by regular entries in the chief officer's log. They are also of opinion that the dead reckoning by account should be regularly entered in the log. Captain Weatherhead is responsible for the state of the log, and is bound to see that all matters of importance are entered in it day by day. The Court consider that although they do not attribute the casualty itself to this omission, yet in omitting to keep a record of the observations made to ascertain the deviations of the standard compass, and of those deviations when ascertained and of the dead reckoning, Captain Weatherhead has been guilty of very serious neglect of his duty, for which the Court feel bound to reprimand him severely.




Chief Presidency Magistrate.




Master of the P. & O. Company's

s.s. "Ravenna."




Master of the s.s. "St.


Opinion of Assessors.

To J. Sanders Slater, Esquire, Presidency Magistrate, Bombay.

s.s. "Spondilus,"

At Bombay, 18th April 1895.


IN examining the evidence of the captain and officers of s.s. "Borderer," I have come to the conclusion that safe and proper courses were steered.

2nd. I consider the captain showed neglect in not keeping a proper record of the observations to ascertain the proper errors on his compass. I also think he showed great neglect in not making his officers keep a proper dead reckoning and noting the result of observations for the compasses in his log book.

I remain, Dear Sir,

Yours most respectfully,






Master, s.s. "Spondilus."


To J. Sanders Slater, Esquire, Chief Presidency

Magistrate, Bombay.

s.s. "Aeolus,"

At Bombay, 18th April 1895.


Re stranding of s.s. "Borderer." In reviewing the evidence of Captain Weatherhead and officers of the above-named vessel, I have come to the following conclusions regarding same, viz.:—

1st. That safe and proper courses were steered.

2nd. I think that the captain showed neglect in not keeping the proper record of compass errors.

I am,

Yours very respectfully,




Master, s.s. "Aeolus."

Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the

27th day of June 1895.




215 - 247.

87089—20. 110.—6/95. Wt. 165. E. & S.


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