Wednesday, 28 October 2015


In the total absence of direct evidence, and with only conflicting evidence of an indirect character, the Court cannot say what particular form was taken by the catastrophe, but the fact that no wreckage has been found in spite of the most careful and exhaustive search which was carried out, indicates that it must have been sudden. The Court, on the whole, inclines to the opinion that she capsized, but what particular chain of circumstances brought about this result must remain undetermined. 

The Court does not desire to travel outside the scope of its functions as a tribunal inquiring into a specific casualty, but, in view of the great prominence which the question of stability has assumed in this Inquiry, feels it not out of place to suggest whether it may not be possible, with the help of a committee of experts appointed for that purpose, to arrive at some conclusions concerning the minimum stability requirements of different types of vessel, consistent with safety at set. A careful investigation by such a committee, including, as it would necessarily do, examination of stability curves of many vessels in all trades, might show the feasibility of recommending minimum curves for different types of vessel for general adoption. If so, rules for the stowage of cargo for a particular ship could be formulated by the builder for the guidance of the shipowner, with greater precision than is now possible. 

The Court is fully aware of the complexity of the subject, and of the difficulties of making rules sufficiently elastic to meet the requirements of varying types of ships and of diverse trades, and, being so aware, refrains from making any more definite recommendation. 

In effect not a shred of physical evidence substantiated what had become of the Waratah. The Court did not accept any of the following items as having originated from the Waratah:

In the course of the lengthy Inquiry no attempt was made to establish on what grounds, for example, the cushion with the letter, 'W', and the hatchway washed up at Mosselbay, were definitively eliminated as originating from the Waratah. The same applies to the deckchair found at Coffee Bay. There does not appear to have been a monitored, forensic chain bringing the cushion, hatchway, and deckchair from the places of discovery to Barclay, Curle and Co (the builders), and, under forensic supervision, establishing whether these items could have come from the Waratah or not. The owners (Lunds) of the Waratah denied that any of the items were from their flagship - they would, wouldn't they.....

'Conflicting evidence of an indirect character' was about to play a crucial roll in creating the mystery we have today.

The alleged stability issues surrounding the Waratah were about to take centre stage and it is somewhat encouraging to read that despite the terrible tragedy, the tribunal intended to convene a committee of experts to establish what in fact should be the 'minimum stability requirements of different types of vessels in all trades', in terms of minimum stability curves. Importantly, this statement reveals that there were no such minimum standards in place at that time, the discretion falling on the builders in conjunction with the owners. It is no wonder that, given the grey zone clouding stability curves and cargo stowage plans, there were issues relating to the calculation of free board, load line and draught minimum requirements:

The case of the Waratah was about to highlight these limitations. The Board of Trade regulations clearly did not provide Lloyd's assessors with proven, regulated minimum requirement references for various ships and configurations. This immediately raises the question, how thorough could the Lloyd's assessors have been?? This scenario left too much up to the discretion of the builders and owners, who were motivated by profit before safety.

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