Wednesday, 2 December 2015



The next matter to be dealt with is the loading of the cargo on the last homeward voyage. The evidence as to this consists of, 

the manifests; 

the captain's stowage plan; 

the stevedores' stowage plan; and 

depositions made by the stevedores. 

The manifests are documents prepared long before anything untoward had occurred to the ship. On them freight was paid. They are therefore to be relied on.

Unless there was an attempt to pay less for freight which created a catch 22 situation of epic proportions !! 

The captain's, or rather the chief officer's, stowage plan also was made before anything had happened to the ship. It was despatched to the owners from Durban. There is no reason to suppose that, so far as it goes, it is anything but accurate and trustworthy. The information it gives is, however, very general in character; in some cases only are sufficient details given to enable any particular parcel of cargo to be identified.

'Very general' smacks of evasion.

The stevedores' plan is a document which emanates from Sydney, appears to be completed at Adelaide, and thence returned to Sydney. There is some attempt upon it to discriminate between the various ports of loading and also between those of destination; but it seems to be a hurried production, gives no weights, or particulars, beyond the names of the various commodities, and is obviously inaccurate in places both in its colouring and in its disposition of commodities.

It would be reasonable to expect that information be specific and complete, particularly in view of 'freight paid'. After all, this was a business and details of commodities in terms of 'particular parcels of cargo' had bearing on duties, warehouse storage, distribution and sale of such, upon arrival at London. 'No weights, or particulars' is almost bizarre. Under such circumstances, how was it possible to remain within the bounds of the Merchant Shipping Act (M.S.A.) ?

Regulations as to carriage of dangerous goods, and of horses and cattle.
38 & 39 Vict. c. 17.

301.(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act as to military stores, an emigrant ship shall not clear outwards or proceed to sea, if there is on board—
(a) as cargo, any article which is an explosive within the meaning of the Explosives Act, 1875, or any vitriol, lucifer matches, guano, or green hides, or
(b) either as cargo or ballast, any article or number of articles which by reason of the nature, quantity, or mode of stowage thereof are, either singly or collectively, in the opinion of the emigration officer, at the port of clearance, likely to endanger the health or lives of the steerage passengers or the safety of the ship, 

What did the emigration officer have to work with in terms of a complete and accurate list of all that was on board the Waratah ? The surveyor was expected to inspect the vessel before departure from port, and surely his observations required correlation with accurate stevedores' plans ? The statement goes so far as to say 'obviously inaccurate in places'. It is extraordinary that the Court did not take issue with this state of affairs. As illustrated above, how could the surveyor be sure there were no dangerous items in the cargo ? 

However, if one peruses the M.S.A. a possible loophole emerges:

494. If at the time when any goods are landed from any ship, and placed in the custody of any person as a wharfinger or warehouseman, the shipowner gives to the wharfinger or warehouseman notice in writing that the goods are to remain subject to a lien for freight or other charges payable to the shipowner to an amount mentioned in the notice, the goods so landed shall, in the hands of the wharfinger or warehouseman, continue subject to the same lien, if any, for such charges as they were subject to before the landing thereof; and the wharfinger or warehouseman receiving those goods shall retain them until the lien is discharged as herein-after mentioned, and shall, if he fails so to do, make good to the shipowner any loss thereby occasioned to him.

Duties on goods, appear to have been calculated on arrival at the final destination whereupon the wharfinger assessed the full and complete details of cargo in terms of contents / weights and value. The Waratah never made it to her destination, which in large part was the problem, contributing to confusion.

Confusion was mirrored in the press, when attempts were made to specify cargo on board the Waratah when she disappeared. The reports varied considerably - see:

The depositions were made after the event, and are confused and contradictory. The Melbourne deposition is misleading; the principal commodities are lumped together beyond hope of disentanglement, the smaller consignments are left out altogether, and yet a total is arrived at considerably in excess of the total manifest weights. The Adelaide depositions give no indication whatever of where the cargo was stowed.

It goes from bad to worse; 'smaller consignments are left out altogether', smacks of avoiding the issue of a cargo well beyond 6 260 tons. The fact that the 'total is arrived at considerably in excess of the total manifest weights', further confirms these suspicions. Where the cargo was stowed at this point, becomes a side issue in view of the blatant misrepresentation of precise details and weights of cargo on board. 

The Court has made a very careful collation of these documents, and desires to acknowledge its great indebtedness to Mr. Larcombe, the Board of Trade Surveyor, who was called as a witness to assist the Court in the matter. From the manifests it appears that, making a reasonable allowance for measurement cargo, about 6,500 tons of cargo were placed in the ship in Australia. The largest items were the 970 tons of lead concentrates shipped at Adelaide, and heavy consignments of wheat, oats, flour, tallow, wool, and skins, taken at the three Australian ports. About 240 tons of this total were consigned to Durban and Beira, and were discharged at Durban. No cargo was shipped at that port. 

Mr. Larcombe, by virtue of the above statements, offered a 'guesstimate' to the Court. The fact that a figure of 6 260 tons was quoted, is nothing short of mockery. In none of the 7 period newspaper articles (above link) was there mention of 970 tons of lead concentrates (only 300 tons). 1000 tons of lead concentrates were used to enhance ballast, rather than form a component of cargo. I believe the 1000 tons were loaded at Adelaide inbound and remained there, outbound. Only a further 300 tons were loaded at Adelaide, outbound.

The method adopted in fixing the distribution of the cargo was to take Captain Ilbery's plan as the best guide, utilizing the other documents to supply its deficiencies where possible. An indication of the accuracy of the captain's plan was that it was found to be in general accord with the manifests. 

This statement is a little more encouraging, but still subject to Captain Ilbery's plan, which apart from being general, might very well not have given the full picture, for obvious reasons.

On this basis the distribution of cargo leaving Durban was approximately as follows: 

Holds                               4,230 tons. 

Lower 'tween decks             1,425 tons

Upper 'tween decks               595 tons 

Total                                6,250 tons. 

We know that the 'tween deck reserve coal bunkers were used to stow cargo, rather than coal. The cargo weights were sensibly graded, with heaviest concentrations lowest down - confirmed above - improving overall GM. But what the true values were, probably also sensibly graded, is anyone's guess and numerous press reports at the time referred to a value of 9 000 tons (excluding 1300 tons of lead). 

* Important to note that the Lunds wanted a ship which could carry 12 000 tons of heavy cargo......

During the Waratah's final voyage inbound, a question was posed by the Court; why did Waratah consume 15 tons of additional coal per day? A major reason would have to be significantly increased weight, aside from speed, which was roughly consistent for all voyages. 

Let us take a closer look at this highly controversial issue:

The "Waratah," Official Number 125741, was a twin screw steamship, built at Whiteinch in 1908, by Messrs. Barclay, Curle & Company, Limited, of that place. Her length was 465 feet, breadth 59.45 feet, and depth in hold from tonnage deck to ceiling at midships 35.05 feet. Her gross tonnage was 9,339.07, and registered tonnage 6,003.96.

The dimensions for the Waratah and Geelong:

Waratah:             465 x 59.45 x 35.05 ft.             = 968 930.96
Geelong:             450 x 54.5 x 38.5 ft.                 = 944 212.50

differential: 3 %

Even taking into consideration the simplicity of the calculation, it is alarming that the Waratah was registered for 6004 tons, cargo, and the Geelong, 5030 tons, a relative increase in Waratah's cargo of 16 % (roughly the weight of two jumbo jets).

But the problem does not stop here, it is just beginning to unfold. 

What do we know about the Waratah's specifications according to the Inquiry document ?

- hull depth:                 35.05 ft. 
- max. draught:            30 ft. 4 1/2 in
- freeboard:                  8 ft. 1 in. at above max. draught.

Hang on, this does not add up. 

- hull depth - max. draught = 4.75 ft.,  NOT  8 ft. 1 in. !!!!

Hull depth of 35.05 ft. above refers to depth of hold to the first hull - there was a further space of 3.4 ft. between the two hulls making up to the total of 38.5 ft.

If we take a closer look specifications for the Geelong:

- depth:                   38.5 ft.
- draught:                26.9 ft.  (again, similar hull, similar figure)
- freeboard:             11.6 ft

Extract from a previous post, 'overloading steamers':

Grey River Argus, 2 May, 1908.

3.2.2 The minimum freeboard at any point along the freeboard deck (Hmin) should be not less than: Hmin = LBP/40 (where LBP is length between perpendiculars)

If we employ this rough calculation for the Waratah:

Hmin = 465/40 = 11.6 ft.  

The Geelong subscribed to this recommended figure, precisely. Even though she was 15 ft. shorter than the Waratah, there is no ambiguity regarding her compliance with freeboard safety regulations.

In order for the Waratah to have complied with a freeboard of 11.6 ft., she should have been restricted to a max. draught of 26.9 ft. Waratah was very tender with a draught of only 26.9 ft..

The Waratah, according to the above, departed Durban with a freeboard of only 9.75 ft., significantly less than the above figure of 11.6 ft... This precarious situation alluded to significantly reduced buoyancy and vulnerability to seas washing over her main deck.

Mr. McDiarmid, Pilot, Port Adelaide, gave us an important clue: When the Waratah arrived at Port Adelaide, she drew 25 ft. 8 in. forward and 26 ft. 4 in. aft. This draught range complied with a max. of 26.9 ft. and was relatively acceptable; 28 ft. or more was not. However, in such condition, the Waratah was too tender.

The trouble with a draught of less than 27 ft. is twofold: the Waratah was GM unstable and profits, compromised. 

Let's review the comparative dimensions:

Waratah:          465 x 59.45 x 38.6  = 1 067 068.05
Geelong:          450 x 54.5 x 38.6    =  946 665.00

This adjustment, relative to the Geelong, would give us a more realistic net tonnage, 5670, for the Waratah, which is still less than the registered tonnage of 6004. In this case, we could argue that the Waratah was intended to carry 339 tons more cargo for the same relative volume.

It still comes down to pretty much the same thing, the Waratah needed the additional dead weight, low down, to maintain an acceptable GM, and the increased profits from functional overloading (to the tune of a jumbo jet's weight and far, far more), did not hurt business either.

If indeed this disparity existed between the Geelong and Waratah's draughts - similar hulls - it raises the very important question:

Why did the Board of Trade approve an increase in draught, beyond 30 ft. (freeboard, 8.12 ft.) when clearly this contributed to reduced buoyancy ? My feeling is that the draught range was approved in view of the fact the Waratah was ambiguously classed:

She was to be built to Lloyd's Rules (1907-1908) for the 100 A1 spar-deck class with freeboard (which means that freeboard assigned, is a condition of the class). The minimum freeboard when fully loaded to 30 feet 4 1/2 inches mean draught was 8 feet 1 inch. She was a larger ship than was contemplated by those rules, and her scantlings were practically the same as those for the three-deck class. 

(2) The centre of this disc shall be placed at such level as may be approved by the Board of Trade below the deck-line marked under this Act and specified in the certificate given and shall indicate the maximum load-line in salt water to which it shall be lawful to load the ship.


(2) If any mark required by this Part of this Act is in any respect inaccurate so as to be likely to mislead, the owner of the ship shall for each offence be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds.

Being a larger ship than 'contemplated by those rules', suggests that the freeboard of 8.12 ft. was a significant underestimation. This is the crux of the matter. We have already seen above that the Waratah's minimum freeboard should have been in the region of 11.6 ft, for her size.  I feel that somehow, this grey zone between classes created a problem (loophole) establishing the Waratah's load line. What's more, the owners would only have been expected to pay a fine of 100 pounds if it were found to be incorrect. Hardly a disincentive!


The Waratah was legally sanctioned to operate with a freeboard, 3.48 ft. less than ideal. This allowed for technical overloading, but which to a large degree was necessary to maintain a suitable (profitable) GM. She was a deeply flawed steamer.

Also see:

Principessa Iolanda - it was either this for the Waratah, or deeply, OVERLOADED, to keep her upright.

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