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R E P O R T.





In compliance with the Minute, dated the 3rd day of April 1894, we have considered the memorials which have been received, and the correspondence which has taken place, on the subject of Floating Derelicts. We have taken the evidence hereto appended, and have now to make the following Report.

We find that the prayer of all the memorials is to the same effect as that of the memorial presented to the First Lord of the Treasury on the 16th March 1894, which was ultimately signed by 1,119 captains of British vessels who state that they have navigated the North Atlantic within the last two years. That memorial prays “ That at the earliest possible moment Her Majesty's Government may join the United

States Government and other Powers in destroying derelicts in the North Atlantic as they are a great danger to life and property.

From some of the evidence given before us, more especially by those who were most active in promoting the above memorial, there would seem to be an impression that the United States Government bave put into operation some special scheme for dealing with derelicts in which it is desirable that Great Britain should co-operate. Also that no steps are taken in this country for dealing with derelicts and similar obstructions to navigation.

It may, therefore, be well to state at the outset the law and practice of the United Kingdom on the subject of derelicts near her coasts, and also to refer to the action recently taken by the United States.

As regards the United Kingdom.--Under the Removal of Wrecks Acts, 1877 and Practice in 1889, the three general lighthouse authorities, viz., the Trinity House for England, the the United Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses for Scotland, and the Commissioners of Kingdom. Irish Lights for Ireland, are charged with the duty of dealing with any obstruction to navigation caused by a vessel which is “sunk, stranded, or abandoned” in any fairway or on the shores of the United Kingdom outside the jurisdiction of any harbour or conservancy authority. Within that jurisdiction the harbour and conservancy authorities have similar functions.

This duty has been performed unostentatiously for many years with the result that the shores of the United Kingdom up to a distance of some 50 or 60 miles from the coast are constantly being freed from such dangers to navigation. This jurisdiction of the general lighthouse authorities does not, of course, extend to the open Atlantic, but it was stated in evidence that the Trinity House had, in cases of emergency, dealt with wrecks at a distance of more than 100 miles froin the coast.

As regards the United States.—From various sources of information we gather that Practice in in the United States there has been in former years no such systematic provision as

the United

States. exists in Great Britain for the removal of wrecks off the coast which impede navigation, or of floating derelicts near it, but it appears that in later years some special steps have been taken; principally in the direction of destroying the wrecks which have accumulated on their seaboard.

With respect to the removal of wrecks in the open Atlantic, it is stated in a despatch from the Hon. H. A. Herbert, the Secretary of the United States Navy, received

Appendix by the Board of Trade through the Foreign Office, “ That it has been the custom of A., p. 72.

this Department, upon receiving information of the existence of a wreck or derelict,

being a menace to navigation, to send a Government vessel to destroy the same, “ but no scheme has been formulated for patrolling ocean routes to keep themi clear of “ such dangers.”

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In the United States pamphlet hereafter referred to, an account is given of the work performed by United States naval vessels, detailed from time to time for the purpose, during the seven yoars 1887 to 1893 inclusive. This was entirely confined to the immediate neighbourhood of the coast, and resulted in the removal of 27 wrecks on the ground and 3 floating derelicts; while 21 wrecks, reported and searched for, could not be found.

It does not appear that any action has been taken to destroy derelicts in the open sea, and the work done seems to be similar to that performed in this country by the general lighthouse authorities, one of whom—the Trinity House--in the five years ended 31st March 1894 removed 129 wrecks on the ground and 17 floating derelicts,

in addition to searching without success for 82 wrecks reported to them. Derelicts in

Derelicts in the Atlantic.—On the question of dealing with derelicts in the open

Atlantic, we have examined witnesses, both those interested in shipping who have
originated the memorial and seamen who have signed it, and have also consulted the
official records placed before us by the Board of Trade.

We find that all those witnesses who entertain the prevalent idea that such derelicts
present a great danger to navigation appear to base their opinion mainly, if not
entirely, on the number of reports that have been collected during past years by the
United States Hydrographic Office.

Whilst fully realising that collision with a floating derelict may be productive of serious damage, that collisions take place from time to time, and that the greater the number of such derelicts the greater the chance of striking them, it appears to us that the number of reports of abandoned vessels in the vast ocean affords no effectual means of ascertaining the actual danger to navigation, but that it can only be properly gauged by studying the number of collisions reported and the resulting damage.

To this we have, therefore, applied ourselves.

The seamen witnesses we examined were not able to afford material help in this respect. Whilst a fow could speak of sighting derelicts, only two had actually been in collision with them. Nevertheless, the

were nearly unanimous in desiring that they should be cleared away.

This is not astonishing to us, nor is it surprising that so many have, when asked to do so, signed the memorial requesting that action should be taken. Seamen are naturally anxious that all possible dangers should be removed from their path, while they are not at all concerned with the difficulties or cost attending such labours; nor have they apparently studied the real extent of the danger which derelicts present.

Opinions were also offered to us that some of the unexplained disappearances
of vessels in the North Atlantic are probably due to collision with derelicts, the
cases of the “ Naronic and Hornhead” being cited by their owners and those
interested in them. No evidence was, however, adduced in support of these
opinions, which appeared to rest solely on the absence of known cause for the loss
of the vessels. The presence of ice reported about the time not very far from the
tracks had apparently been disregarded as an equal if not more probable cause of the
loss of these ships. Moreover fire, collision with another vessel also lost, accidents
to machinery, and other known perils of navigation, may account for such

We, therefore, mainly rely on the evidence of records.
Board of Taking those furnished by the Board of Trade, which included all the cases brought

to our notice by witnesses, we find that in the three years ended June 1893 a total records,

of 103 casualties to British ships all over tho world are attributed to striking floating

objects, being an average of 34 collisions out of about 36,000 ships, or less than one AppendixF., in a thousand per annum. No. 4, p. 99.

39 of these casualties are stated, or supposed, to be due to striking some large floating substance; but out of these there were probably only 8 cases in which the whole, or a large portion, of the hull of a derelict vessel was encountered ; 44 cases are stated, or supposed, to be due to striking wreckage, such as logs of timber, spars, &c.; 20 cases are stated, or supposed, to be due to striking an obstruction in shallow water, either a sunken vessel or the ground.

It is remarkable that 56 of the cases reported resulted simply in damage to the propeller, crank shaft, or engine, and in almost all cases without damage to the hull of the vessel. We have it in evidence that the shock caused by a propeller-blade flying off without striking anything is indistinguishable from that caused by a collision, and, as in at least 21 of the 56 cases the damage is only supposed to be due to wreckage,

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June 1890– 93.

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we consider it probable that some of these may be put down as simple loss of propeller-blade from previous injury or a flaw in the material.

Only two vessels (schooners) were lost, close to the British coasts, one about four miles from Dungeness, the other off Forfarshire, after striking what was supposed to be floating wreck or wreckage.

In no one of these 103 casualties was there loss of life.

The 103 casualties are geographically distributed as follows:

Near the coasts of the British Isles
In the North Sea
In the Baltic Sea
Near the Western coast of Europe
In the North Atlantic
Near the coasts of the United States
In the West Indies
In the White Sea
In the South Atlantic
In the Mediterranean
In the Black Sea
In the Red Sea
In the Arabian Sea
In the Indian Ocean
In the Pacific Ocean


Board of

June 1883


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Of the 13 cases reported in the North Atlantic, 9 were cases in which wreckage was struck with damage to propeller or slight damage to the hull ; in 4 cases only were whole hulls probably encountered. Of the 54 cases which occurred near the British coasts—more than half the total number -39 were cases in which the object struck was uncertain, whether wreckage or the ground; in only one case was the damage probably occasioned by encountering a floating derelict vessel.

Another official record shows that in the 10 years, ended June 1893, 21 British Trade vessels were lost from collision with derelicts or wreckage. The whole of them Records, were near coasts except one, a schooner in the Atlantic. Only one life is recorded as lost in the 10 years.

Appendix F.,

No.5, p. 109. We have received through the Foreign Office a pamphlet recently issued by United the Hydrographic Office of the United States. It has been widely circulated, and States contains als the information collected by that Department on the subject of wrecks records. and derelicts for the years 1887 to 1893 inclusive. Considerable attention has been


K., p. 120. drawn to this pamphlet, and we have thought it our duty to carefully examine the statements made in it; and we find that unless certain important facts as to the methods

upon which it has been compiled are continually borne in mind, a misleading inference may be deduced from it. For instance, the list of derelicts reported but P. 126. once contains 29 names of ships which have never been heard from, while 8 are stated to have foundered, and 49 are simply reported as abandoned. There is nothing to show that any of these vessels remained as floating derelicts, or caused any obstruction whatever to navigation; and this has apparently been recognised by the compilers of the pamphlet, as 80 vessels seem to be omitted from the abstract P. 121. table, presumably for the above reason.

Again the portion of the pamphlet which refers to cases of collisions and damagethe most important from our point of view—must be closely scrutinized if error is to be avoided. It is necessary to bear in mindFirstly.—That the lists given are made up of vessels reported to have struck

(1.) Floating derelicts or floating wreckage;

(2.) Wrecks on the bottom in shallow water;
and that collisions with wrecks on the bottom, to which this enquiry does not

refer, are by far the most numerous.
Secondly.That the reports are in many cases so vague that it is difficult to

decide in which class to place the collision ;
Thirdly.—That the majority of the cases are American or other foreign vessels in

American waters; and
Fourthly.That experience teaches that all reports of damage or accident require

strict examination.

While, owing to the third fact mentioned, we have not been able to investigate more than a percentage of the cases quoted, reference to official reports and enquiries shows that there are cases where these reports do not coincide with the statements of the pamphlet, and leads us to conclude that such test has not always been applied before compiling these lists.

For instance, out of 10 vessels stated to have been totally lost owing to collisions with derelicts and wrecks during the seven years dealt with, only one, off the Bahama Islands, was in the open Atlantic; one was in the Gulf of Mexico; and most of the other cases were due to striking wrecks on the bottom or floating wreckage near the American shore.

In the case of two of these 10 vessels alleged to have collided with derelicts, the official reports are as follows:—The “ La Paz” was lost on the rocky Aceitera Shoal off Cape Trafalgar, after coming into contact with a wreck previously lost on the same

shoal. The enquiry in the case of the “ Cragside” failed to determine the cause of Appendicf., her loss, the allegation of the master that she struck a derelict being wholly No. 3, p. 98. unsupported, while the fact of the accident taking place in the neighbourhood of

the well-known Bull Rock off Nova Scotia makes it far more probable that she struck

on that danger. Appendir F., In the case of another of these 30 vessels, the “ “ Glenrath,” given in the list as No. 2, p. 96. striking a wreck off Cape Look-out in the United States, it was found by the Court

that tho vessel stranded on the Bibb Shoal, and that the casualty was caused by the careless navigation of the master.

The examination of the other lists given of vessels that have, from collision with wrecks and derelicts, sustained either “ Considerable damage,” · Slight damage,” or “Damage unknown,” affords similar results. The analysis of these lists is given on pp. 65–67 of the evidence appended to this Report, but as an instance it may be stated that out of the important list of 23 ships which are said to have received “ Considerable damage” in only five cases can the damage be attributed to a collision with derelicts or wreckage in the open sea, and in none of them did the damage received involve more than remote danger to the ship ; while in some the damage scarcely appears “considerable." Thus the “St. Enoch ” is included, but the official report says, “Lost three blades of propeller. Supposed to have struck sunken wreck or some very large fish”; also the “ Forest Fairy,” which is simply recorded as passing over a derelict, the damage not being mentioned.

The analysis of the complete lists in the American pamphlet for the seven years 1887-93

may be put thus :

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The examination of these British and American records, together with the evidence we have taken, has satisfied us, firstly, that an actual collision with a derelict vessel in the open sea is rare, and secondly, that the damage resulting from such collision is ordinarily slight.

In connexion with the question of the amount of risk of collision with derelicts incurred by vessels, we find from the evidence given by the Deputy Chairman of Lloyd's that underwriters, when effecting insurances, regard derelicts as an ordinary, and not as an extraordinary, peril of the sea, and do not on that voyage increase the usual rate of premium charged.

Q. 17691763.

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