Notes: An Unnecessary Ship Loss

By Ian Buxton, published November 2021


A large number of ships were lost in the 1870s and highlighted in reports on unseaworthy ships. One particular Board of Trade loss report (no. 565), that of the steamer Marlborough 2308 grt built in 1878, reveals the culpability of one shipowner before new safety legislation was introduced.1 In great detail it spells out all the things which went wrong; the ship should never have been lost. It left Cardiff for Genoa on 29 November 1879, grossly overloaded with 2,511 tons of coal and 859 tons of bunkers (enough for a round voyage), making with stores and water a deadweight of about 3,400 tons at a draft of about 23 feet. After dropping the pilot, it was never heard of again. This was in the days when shipowners were free to put the loadline mark wherever they pleased, although the rule of thumb was 3 inches per foot of hull depth (keel to deck) which in Marlborough’s case would have been over 6 feet rather than the 4 feet the owner chose.

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Filed under: Popular Topics
Subjects include: Manpower & Life at Sea | Merchant Marines

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