Wednesday, 16 December 2015

NEGLIGENCE?

WARATAH INQUIRY.

THE ALARM OF PASSENGERS.
HER CONTINUAL LIST.
A MATHEMATICIAN'S EXPERIENCE
LONDON, Dec. 17.

A letter in which the owners informedthe builders that Captain Ilbery was convinced that her stability was less than thatof the Geelong was read.
It stood to reason. As we have seen in previous posts, the hull of the Waratah was a virtual identikit of the Geelong's, but marginally larger. However, in the case of the Waratah, these hull dimensions were expected to support an additional superstructure deck, creating the same stability (under normal loading circumstances) as that of the Geelong. How absurd. 

Mr. Peck a director of Messrs.Barclay and Curle the builders of theWaratah said that the owners did notcomplain respecting the behaviour of thevessel on her first voyage but they complained regarding ability to shift thesteamer from one dock to another withoutballast, convinced them that thestability of the Waratah was equal to thatof the Geelong.
The reporter captured the diversion tactics and confusion created by the misleading comparisons with the Geelong. Most steamers (from the era) unloaded in a harbour setting were unstable, requiring some degree of water ballasting and trimming. Having said this, naturally without the additional deck, the Geelong would have been easier to manage, water ballast aside. 
However, the crucial issue, which both the builders and owners were keen to avoid, related to the Waratah's behaviour on her maiden voyage. The fact that the Waratah departed London without stability curves and an explicit stowage plan, opened its own can of worms. 
Negligence
If the fault lay at the door of the builders, there would surely have been a complaint submitted in writing by the owners. It is interesting to note that the builders did not pursue finger pointing in the direction of the owners. 
Why ? 
It suggests that by the start of the Inquiry more than a year later, the owners and builders had put aside their differences in lieu of a combined effort to avoid the prosecution of negligence, or worse, allegations of producing a defective steamer, affecting both parties to a large degree. 
It is even more peculiar and disturbing that the Court, in view of the fact that stability curves were not on board for the maiden voyage, did not pursue this act of negligence. But Waratah did not go down during this voyage making the issue moot to some degree. 
Of course, Captain Ilbery, gone to a watery grave, highlighted the shortcomings of the Waratah's behaviour and received advice from the owners regarding appropriate, corrective stowage and ballasting, confirming that there had indeed been a 'complaint'. 

Admiral Davis sharply cross examinedMr Peck why no investigations were madeinto the complaints of Captain Ilbery.
Hear, hear!
Talk about ducking and diving. The very fact that the builders had suggested filling ballast tank 8, was confirmation in itself that Captain Ilbery's 'complaints' were taken very seriously by all parties. 

Captain Clarke an emigration officertestified that Captain llbery, master of theWaratah, after the first voyage said thatthe Waratah was a very satisfactory vessel, his exact words were 'very handy ship.'
Let us remind ourselves that Captain Clarke, a representative of the Board of Trade, had allowed the Waratah to depart English waters with about 400 emigrants in excess of the number limited by the Merchant Shipping Act. This man was not to be believed on any score, and one wonders the extent to which the Lunds had influence over the powers that were.
At this time, Winston Churchill was President of the Board of Trade. What on earth was going on during 'his watch' ?

to be continued.....






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