Thursday, 19 November 2015

LETTERS OF DISCONTENT.

The correspondence after the ship's return from her first voyage was as follows:

This letter, dated after the return of the Waratah from her maiden voyage, is revealing in a number of respects. The concerns raised directly contradicted Mr. Lund's earlier statement that Captain Ilbery was entirely satisfied with the new ship. The issues raised, MUST have originated from feedback submitted by Captain Ilbery, on his return from the maiden voyage.

" 5th April, 1909. 

" Messrs. Barclay, Curle & Co., Limited, 

" Whiteinch, 

" Glasgow, N.B. 

" Dear Sirs, 

" T.S.S. 'Waratah.' 

" The contract for this vessel provides that she is to be able to stand and shift without any ballast, but this our superintendent does not think she will do. Please let us know if you consider it safe to tow this vessel, without ballast, from one berth to another in dock, and if so, will you take the responsibility?" 


It was clear from the experiences of the maiden voyage that there were problems shifting the Waratah without ballast, in a port setting. It is misleading to quote the 'superintendent' as the source of this concern, for the simple reason that he would have aired these concerns before the Waratah departed on her maiden voyage. These concerns could only have come from one source: Captain Ilbery, on his return. Suddenly the implications of potential mishaps in port were brought to the owners attention who, via correspondence, were eager to absolve themselves of this responsibility. However, in whose name was the insurance cover registered??

"The vessel was also to be designed, if possible, to go to sea with permanent coal and water ballast only, and although it states 'if possible,' we agreed this wording on account of your assurance that she would be able to fulfil this condition. This, you will agree, was not fulfilled, as you stopped the coaling of the vessel in Glasgow last October, before the permanent bunkers were full." 


The Lunds and Captain Ilbery had created a wish list for their new flagship, a departure from existing models, in the form of an original sketch of their 'desired' Waratah. I have to agree, that once the tender was accepted by the builders, formal design plans should have been sound enough to account for all permanent coal, including spar deck coal, which appeared as such on the plans. 'you stopped the coaling of the vessel.' refers to loading coal into the spar deck bunkers. Otherwise the builders should have stopped the project until adjustments could be made to fulfill this criterion.

"We would refer to our letters of the 3rd and 13th December, 1907, and your reply of the 14th December, 1907, referring to deadweight and stability. Regarding the former, the cargo on the first voyage was not such as would allow us to test the shifting, but as regards the stability, from what our representatives report, it seems clear that she has not the same stability as 'Geelong.' Will you please inform us if your heeling tests prove this?

This is a crucial paragraph proving that the owners had received legitimate feedback from Captain Ilbery, en-route, maiden voyage. How else could they possibly have known that the Waratah did not have the same stability as the Geelong? So, letters home did not only include trivia about cows and dogs. It is strange that the owners were not au fait with the results of the heeling test and the comparative implications. Seems to me they had devolved responsibility until problems became apparent during the maiden voyage raising the sensitive issue of safety and seaworthiness. Ultimately they were responsible for the Waratah, not the builders.

"Captain Ilbery informs us that you omitted to place on board a framed plan of stability curves, as provided for in clause 2 of specification. It is most important that this should be on board; kindly therefore send these, and a spare copy by return; such important plans should not have been omitted. 

In my opinion (sorry general public), this was a serious matter, one that could be construed as negligence on the part of the builders. Such negligence would have to have been shared by the owners who allowed the Waratah to depart London without the curves. We have to remember that Captain Ilbery was an employee and as such, not at liberty to delay the departure of the flagship on her maiden voyage, until such time as these curves were placed on board. Hasty maiden voyage departure = slipshod.

"With reference to your letter of the 25th March, we must again express our surprise at your not sending us a copy of the lines of this vessel; there are no secrets, and we think it quite reasonable to consider that we are entitled to plans relating to any part of the vessel, which is constructed for us. 

This final paragraph reveals that the owners were more than a little unsettled by the performance of the Waratah on her maiden voyage. Suspicions were running high that the builders had created a defective steamer, and were 'reluctant' to hand over the true details of the 'plans'. Until details of the adjusted cargo loading plan and ballast were addressed and tested, this must have been a time of considerable worry for the owners of the new Waratah. If the Waratah's hull was indeed based on that of the Geelong, there could not have been too many 'secrets' and in the same breath considerable concern because Geelong had only two superstructure decks.

"Yours faithfully, 

" W. LUND & SONS, 

" London." 






" Whiteinch, 

" Glasgow, 7th April, 1909. 

" Messrs. Wm. Lund & Sons. 

" London. 

" Dear Sirs, 

" 'Waratah.' 

" In reply to your letter of 5th inst., our calculations show that the vessel can be shifted in dock without ballast, and we are satisfied of the accuracy of these calculations. As to taking the responsibility of such shifting, we consider this is a matter outside of our province, and, on reflection, we are sure you will take the same view.

Talk about passing the buck - in this case more like a hot potato. It was always going to be a risky business shifting the Waratah in port, without suitable ballast (Ref. various conditions in previous posts). The Waratah was significantly tender in very light condition. But the builders were correct. The owners had paid for Waratah and the builders had signed her off. Any concerns should have been addressed at this point, not months later when Waratah had been to and returned from half way round the world.

" As to going to sea with water ballast and permanent coal only, we agree with you that this is unsafe, but it would have been impossible to design the ship for this condition whilst adhering to the contract plans.

For the first time the builders alluded to creating a ship with expectations beyond that which could be effected in practice. They patently pointed a finger at the Lunds for expecting too much from Waratah and let's face it why would Waratah go to sea with only water ballast and permanent coal? This was not operational. Remember that the design plans had originally been drawn up by other shipbuilders and the tender not accepted. Barclay Curle & Co inherited the Warath project. Ship production was down during this time and to some extent beggars couldn't be choosers - but there were consequences.  

" Our calculations show that with the ship empty the initial stability is the same as the 'Geelong.'

I'm sure this applied to most steamers of the time - empty in port. These vessels depended on ballasting. It almost seems ridiculous to compare Waratah with Geelong in this context.

" Regarding the stability curves, we sent you a copy on 17th December, 1908, but regret we do not appear to have forwarded other copies. We now enclose two prints of same.

If a copy was sent, where was the original, and was this original not made available to the owners before the Waratah departed on her maiden voyage? Strange that copies would have been sent more than a month after Waratah departed London. What happened to the original? Whose fault was it that these stability curves were not on board before Waratah departed on her maiden voyage? Neither side admitted to this in the letters.

" Trusting that this information is sufficient for your purposes. 

"We are, 

" Yours truly, 

" For Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd., 

" H. Soully, Secretary." 

" 16th April, 1909. 

" Messrs. Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd., 

" Whiteinch, Glasgow, N.B. 

" Dear Sirs, 

" T.S.S. 'Waratah.' 

" We duly received your letter of the 7th inst., and the information you give us is in no way satisfactory to us. 

Oh dear, tensions ran high.

" We certainly consider you should take the responsibility of moving the vessel without ballast, as perhaps you may have done so yourselves, and as you had several opportunities of doing so, please let us know if you did.

Precise and to the point. A barbed and sarcastic reference to Waratah being released into the custody of the owners without such a basic test being conducted. 

"We have consulted Captain Ilbery, and he has been able to convince us that this vessel has not the same stability as the 'Geelong,' and considering he was present during the construction of these two vessels, and has commanded them both, he is in a perfect position to judge this and all other matters. 

During the maiden voyage there can be no argument that this was the case. Strange that Captain Ilbery's close involvement with the process and his experience with the Geelong did not warn him that this was never likely to be the case - but there again he went away just before the heeling test was conducted, suggesting that he did not want to witness the very outcome he suspected - limitations and Waratah did not have the same stability as Geelong !!

"Our contract was that this vessel should have a greater stability than the 'Geelong,' which has not been carried out. We consider also that the contract conditions for shifting the vessel with no ballast, and also for going to sea with ballast, and bunkers and reserve bunkers full, have not been fulfilled. 

A passage saturated with projected responsibility. The owners' accusations flew in the face of logic. I doubt whether they did not know that their new design with three superstructure decks, 38% of the length of the hull, was not going to have a negative impact on stability - certainly by comparison with the two deck Geelong. Their demands were unrealistic and when Waratah did not perform as she was expected to, they petulantly passed the blame. 

"It being your responsibility that the design and plans would permit of the conditions as agreed, we must hold you responsible for anything that may happen, and we will record again our protest to your objection to supply us with a copy of the lines of this vessel's hull; we consider, as before mentioned, that we are entitled to all and any plan in connection with the construction of our ship, although the responsibility of the vessel's performance is entirely with you. 

The time to 'thrash' out these issues had long passed. The owners had accepted the Waratah as is, placed the lives of a great many emigrants and passengers on board (for a considerable fee, of course), and sent them off, half way round the world. They had taken out insurance, not the builders and they were responsible for Waratah and her souls - period!

"Yours faithfully, 

" WM. LUND & SONS." 

Following on the last letter, Mr. Peck (a director of Messrs. Barclay, Curle) called and saw Messrs. Lund. He fixed the date of the interview as about the 23rd of April. Mr. Peck says he assured them that in any condition the "Waratah" was as stable as the "Geelong," and they accepted that statement. "There was never," he said (paragraph 563 of the printed evidence) "any question raised between us with regard to the vessel at sea." After putting this complexion upon the interview Mr. Peck in his evidence dealt only with the moving of the ship in dock.

The Lunds could not have accepted Mr. Peck's assurance that the Waratah was as stable as the Geelong. The above correspondence made this matter perfectly clear. It seems almost ridiculous that Mr. Peck would claim that the Waratah's performance at sea was not raised. The builders made adjustment recommendations based on this fact. But in light of the Inquiry efforts were being made to diffuse the very direct implications of the correspondence.

Mr. Lund gave a similar account of this interview. He represented himself as easily satisfied by Mr. Peck's assurances. The correspondence cannot be reconciled with this account of the interview. Captain Ilbery, "a most experienced captain," who "undoubtedly knew a very great deal about ships in every way," and by whom "we were guided in most things" (answer 2797), and who moreover "has commanded them both" (i.e., "Geelong" and "Waratah") and "is in a perfect position to judge" had been "able to convince us that this vessel has not the same stability as the 'Geelong,'" and "we consider that the contract conditions . . . . . . for going to sea with ballast, and bunkers and reserve bunkers full have not been fulfilled;" yet a few words from Mr. Peck settle the whole matter. His mere assurance carries more weight than Captain Ilbery's considered representations. 

Note the peculiar shift in tone. Now we have Mr. Lund agreeing with Mr. Peck's summary of the interview. The owners and builders were backtracking as fast as they could, creating maximum distance from the aggressive and highly controversial correspondence, quoted above. It had become a farce, facilitated by the absence of the late Captain Ilbery who would never be able to refute this nonsense.

It will be noted that Captain Ilbery never had the vessel in the extreme light condition on her first voyage, and his representations could not, therefore, have had reference to that condition; moreover, to compare the two vessels in their extreme light condition it would not have been necessary for him to have "commanded them both."

Oh dear, it was downhill from here.... At least there is an element of sense - Captain Ilbery was not likely to have taken the Waratah to sea in extreme light condition, comparisons or not. He simply claimed that Waratah was not as stable as Geelong (in commercial sea-going condition). 

The Court considers that neither Mr. Peck's nor Mr. Lund's account of this interview is complete. The Court can only leave the matter there.

This was being very diplomatic and kind. It was a mess.

Mr. Lund endeavoured to explain away these strong letters by saying that at the time he wrote them, his firm and the builders were in conflict over a question of demurrage, the vessel having been delivered after the contract date. He said that his complaints about the ship were mere "bluff" intended to facilitate the forcing of a settlement of the monetary claim. It is a comment on this explanation that Mr. Lund was unable to remember whether a final settlement of the demurrage question, which he had considered so important, had ever been arrived at.

Confusion, upon confusion. Ridiculous that Lund could not 'remember' whether demurrage was settled or not. The Blue Anchor Line was a business enterprise, with pounds and pennies forming the bottom line. 'Bluff' is an interesting twist to the drama. Why would Lund want the Court to believe that he and his colleagues were actually 'satisfied' with the Waratah after her maiden voyage and the product in general? By now, I imagine panic had set in, and the Lunds wished to distance themselves from any suggestion of a defective Waratah, irrespective of whom was to blame.   

The Court has had an opportunity of examining the correspondence on this question. On the 30th November 1908, in an account prepared by Messrs. Lund and sent to Messrs. Barclay, Curle, a claim for £1,900 "demurrage from 16th September to 20th October, 38 days at £50 per diem," was set against the balance of contract price &c. This is the first time a claim was made for demurrage. In their reply of the 8th December the builders declined to entertain the claim, and on the 8th February, 1909, Messrs. Lund paid in full, under protest. The matter there rested until the ship returned from her first voyage. Then a number of repairs were done to the ship, the large item being deck caulking. Messrs. Lund claimed the cost of these repairs from the builders, to which the latter objected. Then Messrs. Lund, in a letter of the 26th May, 1909, revived the demurrage claim, the history of which it is unnecessary to trace beyond this point. 

Demurrage had not worked out in the Lunds' favour, which can, in monetary terms result in 'amnesia'. The owners and builders were not on good terms, let's be honest. The demurrage claim, on the surface, seems valid enough, excluding the return from the first voyage. The builders had good reason objecting to covering the cost of deck caulking. The Waratah, after all had been halfway round the world and back. Shipowners' running costs spring to mind. It seems to me that the Lunds were hard businessmen looking for any avenue to reduce expenditure.

I would not be surprised to read if half the people in Court were fast asleep by this stage....


  


Geelong


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