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Wreck Report for 'Lochiel', 1960

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Unique ID:20729
Description:BOT Wreck Report for 'Lochiel', 1960
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown




(No. 8013)

m.v. "Lochiel" O.N. 165966

In the matter of a Formal Investigation held at the Justiciary Buildings, Glasgow, on the 30th and 31st days of January and the 1st day of February. 1961, before Henry Stephen Wilson, Esquire, Advocate, Sheriff-Substitute of Lanarkshire, assisted by Captain H. A Shaw, O.B.E., and Captain W. R. Woodriffe, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the m.v. "Lochiel" in West Loch Tarbert on 8th October, 1960.

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 stranding was caused by the wrongful act or default of the master, Captain Lachlan McDonald and the Court orders that in respect thereof the said Lachlan McDonald be censured.

Dated this 1st day of February, 1961.

H. S. WILSON, Judge

We concur in the above report.








At this Inquiry Mr. D. M. McNiven, Solicitor, appeared for the Minister of Transport; Mr. A. Thomson, Q.C., and Mr. N. G. Wylie, Advocate, for the owners David MacBrayne Limited and Mr. Charles Barron Leith the designated manager; Mr. T. N. Risk, Solicitor, for the master; Mr. T. D. Watt, Solicitor, for the first officer and Mr. J. A. H. Lockhart for the helmsman.

The "Lochiel" is a twin screw passenger vessel constructed of steel and built at Dumbarton in 1939. She is registered at Glasgow, Official Number 165966. Up until the time of her stranding she was regularly engaged in the carriage of passengers, mails and cargo among the islands off the West Coast of Scotland and to the mainland. At the time of her stranding she was classed by Lloyds Register of Shipping. Her registered dimensions are 183.75 feet by 32.15 feet by 10.29 feet; and her tonnages are gross 603.08, underdeck 298.61, net 236.40. The propelling machinery of the ship consisted of two sets of four-stroke, single-acting eight cylinder diesel engines with reverse and reduction gearing giving her a speed of about 11 3/4 knots.

The "Lochiel" was equipped with the normal tackle and appliances for a vessel of her type including adequate life-saving appliances, compasses, radio telephone, Marconi Seagraph echo-sounder and Decca 212 radar. These had been subjected to survey in normal course, and, the Court is satisfied, had been properly maintained and were in good order.

The stranding of the vessel with which the Court is concerned occurred when she had almost concluded her normal run from Port Askaig on the Island of Islay to the pier at the head of West Loch Tarbert. The weather was fine and clear and nothing untoward, indeed nothing noteworthy, took place prior to her entering the loch for the run up to the pier a distance of some 7.6 miles.

When the vessel entered the loch at about midday the mate was on the bridge, having taken over navigation of the vessel at about 1050. Prior to that time the master had been on the bridge continuously, while the vessel was at sea, since she first left Port Askaig at 0550. When the vessel was approaching the entrance to the loch and in a position estimated to be 158 degrees (true) and 2 3/4 cables from the triangulation station on Eilan Traighe, the mate ordered a change of course from E 1/2 N (compass) to NE 1/2 N (compass). It was then about 1155 and the "Lochiel" was proceeding at her normal full speed of about 11 3/4 knots. At about this time the helm was taken by Donald Hamilton. The vessel continued on this course for a distance of a little over one mile when she was then off Corran Point. There the mate ordered a further change of course to E by N 1/2 N (compass). At that point the vessel was estimated to be in mid-channel. Very shortly thereafter the master resumed command on the bridge and the mate went below. When off Sgurr Mhein which is about 1 1/2 miles up the loch from Corran Point, the master ordered a further change of course to NE by E 1/4 E (compass). The configuration of the loch rendered a change necessary to keep the vessel in mid-channel. Thereafter the vessel proceeded, without any further alteration of course being ordered, for a distance of about 2.3 miles, when at about 1220 her port side struck an underwater reef known as Tor Turc causing extensive damage. The master immediately ordered "Stop engines" and the helm to starboard and the vessel cleared the obstruction. It very soon became obvious that she was making water fast.

What has been set out up to this stage is, upon the evidence put before the Court, beyond dispute. The first difficulty presented by the evidence is that if the "Lochiel" from a point mid-channel off Sgurr Mhein had been laid on and kept to a compass course NE by E 1/4 E she would have cleared Tor Turc. The master stated that having ordered the course he checked that his order was complied with and that he did not find it necessary thereafter to order any further alteration. No criticism was directed against the helmsman from any source. It falls to be observed that the Court did not find any satisfactory evidence as to the position of the "Lochiel" in the channel when this last alteration of course was ordered. Whatever be the explanation of this particular difficulty - and it is difficult to take the matter beyond mere speculation - the Court finds no shadow of justification for a finding of fault on the part of the helmsman.

In any event as the evidence was presented on behalf of the Minister and also the master the problem presented to those in command of the "Lochiel" after she entered the loch might more accurately be described as one of pilotage than as one of navigation. The Court accepts this view. The master was familiar with the run having done it, he said himself, some 200 times. He admitted to knowledge of the hazards including Tor Turc rock. He admitted, too, to being aware of the warnings and directions with regard to these in the West Coast of Scotland Pilot (8th Edition pages 154 and 155). He said that he was wont to check the position of his vessel by reference to various landmarks with which his local knowledge made him familiar. He said further, however - and this is crucial to the conclusion that we have reached - that after passing Sgurr Mhein he kept Eilean Eoghainn slightly on his starboard bow. This is an island further up the loch lying off the south eastern shore which is used as a landmark by those piloting vessels towards the pier. In keeping this mark to starboard lay, in the Court's view, the master's error. The inference that he kept an inadequate check on the position of his vessel and, at some stage, had Eilean Eoghainn dangerously far to starboard is, in the whole circumstances, irresistable. The mate, in his evidence, said that he considered it should be kept, on the relevant leg of the run, dead ahead or slightly to port. In this view the Court considers him well founded. It is true that he also said that it would not be wrong to have it fine on the starboard bow. In the context of the whole evidence the Court is unable to attach any significance, favourable to the master, to this qualification. The West Coast of Scotland Pilot states specifically that "from abreast Dummore a vessel should steer for Eilean Eoghainn -". It is necessary to take the matter little further than this, for the master himself with commendable frankness said in effect that in allowing the vessel to proceed with Eilean Eoghainn to starboard he had made an error of judgment.

The Court considers that his failure went beyond a mere error of judgment. It is true the rock was unmarked. But the master knew it was there. We have given careful consideration to the powerful and impressively delivered submissions presented by Mr. Risk but are unable to give effect to them. In the light of the whole evidence adduced the Court considers that there is clearly established in the statutory sense a wrongful act or default by the master in his failure to keep his vessel on a course which would avoid the hazard on which she stranded - a hazard the existence and location of which were known to the master.

Upon the events following the stranding, culminating in the successful disembarkation of all the passengers, their ferrying ashore in the ship's boats and the eventual salvaging of the "Lochiel", the Court finds it unnecessary to dwell at any length. The master tried unsuccessfully to reach the pier. Owing to the inrush of water the engines could not be kept going. The vessel eventually took the ground in mid-channel some 7 cables short of the pier and 2 cables off the south east shore. There was some understandable confusion in the evidence as to whether the passengers were all ashore before or after the vessel finally took the ground off the south east shore. Beyond that, suffice it to say that the steps taken following upon the vessel striking the rock, both for the safety of the passengers and to try to save the ship, reflect nothing but credit upon the master, the officers and indeed the whole ship's company. There was no panic. There was no lack of control. The boats were got away with commendable efficiency. One passenger in evidence went out of her way to pay tribute even to the courtesy with which she had been treated by members of the crew. There was a good deal of impressive evidence to support these views. There was not a shadow to the contrary.

There remains for consideration the position of the master. The Court was not asked on behalf of the Minister to consider either cancellation or suspension of the master's certificate and for that reason makes no order to either of these ends. The Court considers that in respect of his default the master should be censured and has so found.

In conclusion the Court has considered the suggestion, advanced not only for the Minister but also on behalf of the master, that this rock should be marked by buoy or some other means to give warning to those in charge of vessels navigating the loch. The Court strongly recommends to the responsible authority the taking of appropriate steps to that end. It may be worth saying that we do not make this recommendation lightly and simply because a serious shipping casualty has arisen on the rock. We feel that some such mark would be a valuable and justifiable contribution to the safety of shipping in the area.


The Court's answers to the questions submitted by the Ministry of Transport are as follows:—

Q. 1. By whom was the "Lochiel" owned at the time of her stranding and who was her designated manager?

A. Owners: David MacBrayne Limited, 44 Robertson Street, Glasgow. Designated manager: Charles Barron Leith.

Q. 2. When, where and by whom was the "Lochiel" built?

A. 1939, at Dumbarton by William Denny and Brothers Limited.

Q. 3. How many officers and crew did the "Lochiel" carry on the voyage on which she stranded?

A. Master, 4 officers and a crew of 15.

Q. 4. (a) With what compasses was the "Lochiel" fitted?

A. With 2 compasses viz. one 8 inch liquid compass in the wheelhouse and one compass fitted just forward of the after steering position.

Q. (b) When were the compasses last adjusted?

A. 31st October, 1959.

Q. (c) Were the compasses in satisfactory working order on 8th October, 1960?

A Yes.

Q. 5. (a) With what navigational aids was the "Lochiel" fitted?

A. Decca 212 radar and Marconi Seagraph echo-sounding device.

Q. (b) Were these navigational aids in efficient working order on 8th October, 1960?

A. Yes.

Q. 6. Did the life-saving appliances in the "Lochiel" on 8th October, 1960, comply with the Regulations in force and had they been properly surveyed and maintained?

A. Yes.

Q. 7. Was the "Lochiel" supplied with adequate charts and publications for the voyages undertaken on 8th October, 1960?

A. Yes.

Q. 8. Was the "Lochiel" in all respects seaworthy on 8th October, 1960?

A. Yes.

Q. 9. (a) At what time did the "Lochiel" leave Gigha on 8th October, 1960?

A. 1131 hours.

Q. (b) Where was she then bound?

A. West Loch Tarbert Pier.

Q. (c) How many passengers and what cargo was she then carrying?

A. 65 passengers, some livestock, 8 motor vehicles, together with a small amount of general cargo and mail.

Q. 10. (a) Who was in charge of the navigation of the "Lochiel" when she left Gigha on 8th October, 1960?

A. Chief officer.

Q. (b) Where was the master at this time?

A. Below.

Q. (c) Where had the master been from approximately 0500 G.M.T. to 1100 G.M.T. on 8th October, 1960?

A. On the bridge with the exception of a short spell for breakfast.

Q. 11. (a) What was the course and speed of the "Lochiel" after leaving Gigha on 8th October, 1960?

A. E 1/2 N. (Compass) 11 3/4 knots.

Q. (b) Who ordered the said course and speed?

A. The chief officer.

12. (a) On approaching the entrance to West Loch Tarbert was an alteration made to the course of the "Lochiel"?

A. Yes.

Q. (b) If so, to what was the course altered?

A. NE 1/2 N. (Compass).

Q. (c) Who ordered any such alteration of course?

A. The chief officer.

Q. (d) At what time was any such alteration of course made?

A. 1155 hours.

Q. 13. (a) At about the time of approaching the entrance to West Loch Tarbert was the helmsman of the "Lochiel" changed, and if so, why?

A. Yes. On change of watch.

Q. (b) If there was any such change of helmsman, who then took the wheel?

A. Donald Hamilton, A.B.

Q. 14. (a) Was an alteration of course ordered when the "Lochiel" was off Corran Point?

A. Yes.

Q. (b) If so, what was the new course ordered: and who ordered the new course?

A. E by N 1/2 N (compass). The chief officer.

Q. (c) What was the reason for any such alteration of course?

A. Of necessity, to keep in mid-channel.

Q. (d) At what time was any such alteration of course made?

A. Approximately 1203 hours.

Q. 15. (a) About what time, at this part of the voyage, did the master come on to the bridge?

A. Between 1203 and 1210 hours.

Q. (b) Did the master then take over the navigation of the "Lochiel"?

A. Yes.

Q. (c) Was the master then satisfied with the course, speed and apparent position of the vessel?

A. Yes.

Q. (d) What was the state of the weather, wind and sea at this time?

A. Weather fine, wind light easterly, sea calm.

Q. 16. (a) Was a further alteration of course made thereafter?

A. Yes.

Q. (b) If so, in relation to what object or objects was such alteration of course made?

A. There is no satisfactory evidence to enable the Court to give a specific answer to this question.

Q. (c) What was the new course ordered, and at what time was it ordered?

A. NE by E 1/4 E (compass). About 1210.

Q. 17. (a) Where and when did the "Lochiel" strand?

A. Tor Turc Rock. 55 degrees 48 minutes 40 seconds N, 5 degrees 29 minutes 21 seconds W. About 1220 hours.

Q. (b) What was the nature of the stranding?

A. Vessel's port side and bottom striking rock.

Q. (c) What engine and wheel orders did the master give on stranding, and with what effect?

A. Stop engines and hard to starboard and vessel cleared obstruction.

Q. (d) What did the master decide to do shortly thereafter, and what orders did he give in relation to the engines and the wheel?

A. He decided to try to make Tarbert Pier and ordered "Full Ahead" on the engines and helm to master's orders.

Q. 18. (a) What orders did the master give to the mate about this time?

A. He ordered him to ascertain extent of the damage.

Q. (b) What reports did the chief engineer make to the master about this time, and what orders did the master give to the chief engineer?

A. The chief engineer reported vessel making water rapidly in the engine room and the master ordered the chief engineer to keep the engines going as long as possible.

Q. 19. What was happening in the engine room during the period of about 15 minutes after the stranding?

A. The engineers were endeavouring to keep the engines going, to deal with the inrush of water by means of the pumps and bringing emergency lighting into operation, until owing to the volume of water the engines stopped.

Q. 20. As a result of events in the engine room, what steps did the master take relative to his vessel?

A. When the vessel lost way the master ordered the dropping of the starboard anchor in 14 feet of water and vessel settled on bottom forward. Soundings had previously been taken.

Q. 21. Where, when and how were the passengers got ashore?

A. In the vicinity of Escart Bay about a quarter of a mile from the vessel at about 1330 hours by means of the ship's lifeboats manned by ship's crew. The operation was completed efficiently and without panic.

Q. 22. (a) Did the "Lochiel" take the bottom?

A. Yes.

Q. (b) If so, in approximately what position, and at approximately what time?

A. 55 degrees 50 minutes 25 seconds N, 5 degrees 27 minutes 8 seconds W at about 1240 hours.

Q. (c) Were all the passengers by then safely ashore?

A. No.

Q. 23. (a) What endeavours were made to save the vessel by pumping during the afternoon of 8th October.

A. From about 1400 hours pumping was carried on with equipment provided and manned by personnel of the local fire service. Salvage officers arrived on board at 2200 hours with pumping equipment and pumping continued then.

Q. (b) What members of the crew of the "Lochiel" were put ashore, and when?

A. It is impossible to say upon the evidence when the different members of the crew were put ashore. Some, including the master and chief officer, remained on board overnight.

Q. 24. Was the "Lochiel" salved, and if so in what circumstances?

A. Yes. The salvors worked on the vessel until 20th October, when she refloated and was taken to Greenock for repair.

Q. 25. After the stranding were all proper steps taken by the master for the safety of his passengers, and crew, and for the preservation of his vessel?

A. Yes.

Q. 26. What was the cause of the stranding of the "Lochiel"?

A. The failure of the master to keep an adequate check on the position of his vessel in relation to the dangers to navigation in particular during the time between his last alteration of course and the stranding of his vessel. The absence of any mark on Tor Turc Rock may have been a contributing factor.

Q. 27. Was the stranding of the "Lochiel" caused or contributed to by the wrongful act or default of:—

(a) Her master, Lachlan McDonald?

A. Yes.

Q. (b) Her mate, Donald Gunn?

A. No.

Q. (c) Her helmsman, Donald Hamilton?

A. No.

Q. (d) Any other person or persons?

A. No.

H. S. WILSON, Judge







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