Saturday, 29 July 2017


This gives an account of what could happen in the case of an OFFICIALLY overloaded steamer:

The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 May, 1904.

The British steamship Workfield, a compara-
tively new vessel of 4257 tons register, came
to grief in the harbour yestorday under some-
what remarkable circumstances. She was
chartered by the Pacific Islands Company,
Limited, to load a cargo of phosphates at
Ocean Island for Stettin, Germany, and 
shipped about 6000 tons. A call was made 
at Newcastle on Monday, to replenish her 
bunkers for the Journey, but, owing to the fact
that her draught when fully laden was too great 
to permit her crossing the bar she came on to 
Sydney on Thursday to complete taking in
coal. The Workfield berthed at the Pyrmont
wharf, and after loading about 500 tons of
coal, was to have sailed early yesterday 
morning for Stettin, via Natal.
It appears that prior to the hour fixed for
sailing one of the inspectors of the Depart-
ment of Navigation visited the Workfield at
tho Pyrmont wharf, and found that she was
overloaded to the extent of three or four inches. 
A written notice was then served upon
Captain E. G. Broadhead, the master of the
steamship, requiring him to lighten the vessel. 
This request was ignored, and the next step 
taken by the departmental officers was
to cancel the clearance which had been is-
sued to him by the Customs Department.
The action taken by the officers, however,
had no effect upon Captain Broadhead, who
was distinctly told that he could not proceed 
to sea with the Plimsoll marks submerged. 
Arrangements had been made for a
pilot to take the vessel to sea at 9.30 a.m.,
and Captaln Broadhead had already paid the
necessary pilotage dues. The pilot, Captain
Sweet, however, upon learning that the ves-
sel was overloaded, declined to take her to
sea in such a condition.
The master of the Workfield, who,
it is alleged, steadfastly refused to
carry out the instructions of the
officials, thereupon determined, contrary
to the Navigation Act, to take the vessel to
sea himself without the aid of a pilot. It is
presumed from the fact that pilotage dues
had been paid that Captain Broadhead was
aware that compulsory pilotage in force
at this port, and he is not the holder of an
exempt master's certificate. He gave the 
orders to the engineroom and the Workfield
hauled away from the wharf. Captain Broad-
head was then confident that he was on his
way safely to Germany, despite the actions of
the Navigation Department, but he had not
proceeded far down the harbour before he
stranded the vessel on a mudbank. where she
remained fast for several hours.
Tho Workfield took the ground in what Is
known as the western channel, in the vicinity
of George's Head, and remained there until
3 o'clock in the afternoon, when under the
direction of a pilot she floated off without 
assistance. The vessel was then taken to 
Athol Bight, where the anchor was dropped. 
Shortly afterwards an officer of the Department 
of Navigation, acting under instructions from the
superintendent, served Captain Broadhead with
summons calling upon him to appear at the
Water Police Court on Monday next to answer
a charge of having committed a breach of the
Navigation Act by attempting to take his
vessel to sea when overloaded.
The Superintendent of Navigation, Captain
Edie, upon being seen, said that it was a
serious offence to take a vessel to sea with
her load-line submerged. The inspector was
only carrying out his instructions when he
served a notice on the master to lighten his
vessel, and had the request been complied
with all the trouble which had occurred would
have been avoided. The inspector had imported 
to him that he had served a notice on the master 
at 6 a m., and as it was ignored  the clearance 
was stopped. Under the provisions of the 
Navigation Act, overloaded ships came under 
the heading of "unseaworthy" ships, and the 
regulations had to be strictly enforced in the 
interests of life and property. He understood 
from the Inspector that the Workfield was 
overloaded to the extent of three or four inches. 
No notice having been taken of the orders of 
the department, the pilot, Captain Sweet, rightly
refused to take the vessel to sea. Captain
Broadhead then took upon himself the res-
ponsibility at attempting to take the steamer
out without a pilot, and without his clearance. 
The depth of water where the Workfield grounded 
was about 3 1/2 fathoms, or 22 feet 6 inches, and 
the Workfield at the time was drawing 23 or 24 feet.
Captain Sangster, an inspector under the
Department of Navigation, who detained the
Workfield, upon being seen in reference to the
matter, said that when the vessel was ready
for sea at the Pyrmont wharf at 6 o'clock
yesterday morning he found that she was 
below the load-line to the extent of 8 In. on 
one side, and that the Plimsoll mark was awash
on the other side. The Workfield was, therefore, 
overladen to the extent of about 4 in. in smooth 
water. He served the master with a written notice 
to lighten the steamer, but no notice was taken of 
the demand. Captain Sweet, the pilot, that declined 
to take the vessel to sea, whereupon Captain 
Broadhead proceeded on his own authority, and 
went aground near George's Head. When the 
vessel had been re-floated and moored in Athol
Bight he served the captain with a summons
to appear before the magistrate's court on
Monday next.
The agent for the owners of the Workfield
at Sydney is the Bellambi Coal Company, and
immediately upon learning that the steamer
was stranded, the manager of the company
(Mr. F. G. Waley) boarded the vessel and
interviewed the captain as to what had taken
place. Captain Broadhead assured Mr. Waley
that at the time he left the Pyrmont wharf
he was unaware that the vessel was over-
loaded, and that he was not served with a
notice to lighten the vessel until after
he was aground on the mudbank. The
captain also stated that as he had been
granted a clearance he presumed that he 
had a right to proceed to sea.
A survey of the Workfield will be conducted
this morning to ascertain whether she has
sustained any damage as a result of the
grounding. The steamer is not making any
water, and as the bank upon which she
stranded is only mud it is hoped that the
vessel has escaped damage. The agents for 
the vessel reported the mishap to Lloyd's 
representatives yesterday afternoon, and 
subsequently arrangements were made for a 
diver to descend this morning to view the 
bottom of the steamer.
Tho Navigation Act provides that "where a
British ship, being in any port in
New South Wales, is by reason of
the defective condition of her hull,
equipment, or machinery, or by reason of
under-manning or over-loading, or improper
loading or ballasting, unfit to proceed to sea
without serious danger to human life, having
regard to the nature of the service for which
she is intended, any such ship (hereinafter
referred to as 'unsafe ') may be provisionally
detained for the purpose of being surveyed, or
for ascertaining the sufficiency of the crew,
and either finally detained or released."
The penalty provided for proceeding to sea
after service on the master of a notice of 
detention is a fine not exceeding £1000, or 
imprisonment with or without hard labour for
any term not exceeding three years.

If Waratah had had an appropriate loadline in the region of 27 ft., max. draught, she would have been officially overloaded when departing Australian ports (av. 29 ft.). This would have made her, by law, unseaworthy. Captain Ilbery would have been issued with a fine of £ 1000 or imprisoned for 3 years (OMG). What would have happened if Captain Broadhead ('thickhead') made his escape to sea? Would he have escaped the fine etc...? Furthermore, the Workfield was surveyed after grounding on soft mud, to inspect for hull damage. This reminds me of the very heavy Waratah taking the ground in soft mud at Port Adelaide - one could NOT assume that the hull had escaped damage, even though it was not making water.

No wonder the Inquiry did not explore Waratah's loadline = unseaworthy = culpability = huge claims payouts

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