Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Waratah - loading coal in spar deck bunkers, 'dangerous'.

The following is an extract from the Inquiry this time focusing on the sea trial of the Waratah and a very significant comment relating to loading coal in her spar deck bunker:

"On the 21st October, 1908, a load line certificate was issued by Lloyd's. The centre of the disc was to be 8 feet 1 inch below the spar deck line. "

"Mr. F. W. Lund was on board during this trip. He said that so far as he could recollect the water ballast tanks were full, and that about 3,000 tons of coal were on board."

"Mr. Shanks, the superintending engineer, who also made the trip, said she had 2,900 tons of coal on board, some in those permanent bunkers situated below the spar deck and the rest stowed partly in the spar deck bunker and partly in No. 3 hold, with some in the 'tween decks."

"He afterwards corrected this by saying there was no coal loaded in the spar deck bunker, as the builders stopped it being placed there, considering it unsafe that it should be so placed in this special condition for the voyage round to London."

"The weather was fairly good until the ship got to the English Channel, but it blew very hard when she was off Dungeness. There the ship was delayed an hour and a half waiting for a pilot."

"Mr. Land said that she behaved very well indeed, and that when manoeuvring off Dungeness in that gale of wind the remark of those on the bridge was how easy she was to handle. She rolled very little and had only a very slight list when broadside on to the gale."

"Mr. Shanks corroborated Mr. Lund as to the good behaviour of the ship, and said that nothing occurred which could have given rise to the statement attributed to Mr. Hemy (the third officer) by Mr. John Latimer, who made a deposition at Sydney, that...

"We got caught in some heavy weather in the Channel coming round from the builder's yard to London and she gave me a scare, because I thought she was going over on her broadside."

I have two comments to make from this extract:

Firstly, the official statement on the outcome of the sea trial was one of favourable performance. Messrs Hemy and Latimer's comments to the contrary were effectively referred to as 'false'. The Waratah officially handled well even in gale force sea conditions.

Secondly, we have the curious issue of a corrected statement regarding loading of coal into the spar deck bunker. Initially Mr Shanks claimed that coal was loaded into the spar deck bunker, but subsequently corrected his statement and added that the builders were not in favour of loading coal into the spar deck bunker for safety reasons. Well, this correction certainly begged a few questions, one being; why then did the builders agree to install twin coal bunkers on the spar deck if they believed them when loaded to be 'dangerous'? Surely a spar deck coal bunker was constructed for just such a purpose and not just for emigrant accommodation, which if one follows the same logic could also potentially add to top heaviness and instability as well?

However, it must be remembered that when the Waratah was brought round to London she was not fully loaded as she would have been when operating between the continents. Under such circumstances coal loaded into spar deck bunkers would contribute significantly to top heavy instability. But I do think the issue raised concerns and even if the Waratah was fully loaded an element of doubt was introduced regarding safety at sea. The builders, by claiming that coal should not be loaded into the spar deck bunker for safety reasons, admitted constructing a facility that even they believed was a contentious safety issue.

'Shooting oneself in the foot' does come to mind.


No comments: