HC Deb 08 December 1857 vol 148 cc353-5

said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, What steps have been taken to prevent the interruption of the Steam Mail Service with Australia which is likely to be occasioned by the accident to the ship Emeu; and what provision will be made in future to prevent delay in this service in, case of accidents to one of the steamships engaged in the transmission of the mails between Australia and Suez?


said, that as the Emeu was to have taken the outward October mails from Suez to Sydney, and the accident occurred to her only shortly before she was to arrive at the former place, it was not possible for the company at home to take any steps to have that service performed by another vessel; and. unfortunately, there was not at Suez a spare ship belonging to the company. The Emeu ought in January next to have brought home the mails from Sydney, but the company could not take any steps to supply the deficiency caused by her absence, nor would the company's agent at Sydney be able to charter a vessel in her place, because the first intimation of the accident would be conveyed to Sydney by the Simla, which ought in due course to arrive at Sydney on the 9th of January, and the homeward mails ought to leave that port on the 14th of January. The loss of two mails would therefore follow from the accident to the Emeu. With respect to any provision to prevent delay in future, the Admiralty had directed their attention to the manner in which the service had been performed. They were aware of the interest with which the speedy and regular transmission of the mails was regarded both in this country and the Australian colonies. There was no doubt that the company in performing the service had experienced some accidents, but the contract had not been altogether carried out to the satisfaction of the Admiralty. In August last a letter was written to the company by the Admiralty, pointing out certain defects in the management of the mail service to Sydney. In reply, the Admiralty received an assurance from the company that a fifth or spare vessel would be placed on that station. Subsequently to that, the company's vessels having taken a longer time in making their voyages than was set forth in the contract, another letter was written to the company by the Admiralty, requesting information relative to the fifth vessel, and generally as to the performance of the service. The company stated in reply that they had chartered a vessel named the Victoria, which had been engaged in carrying out troops to Calcutta, and which was now there. The company hoped that the Emeu would be able to return, after being repaired at Bombay, to Suez, in time to carry out the February mails. The company's new ship Australasia would take her place on the station in exchange for the Simla in February. Another new vessel belonging to the company would be launched next month, the Tasmania, and they hoped that the Oneida, which broke down on her first voyage from Sydney, and which would be refitted with new boilers, would be on the station next summer. Consequently, in May next the company would have four vessels of full power and tonnage as required by the contract, together with the Emeu, which, although smaller than the others, was, as he had that day been assured by the Admiralty agent who had sailed in her, a very efficient vessel for carrying the mails. The Emeu would be a spare vessel, and next summer the company would have five vessels engaged in the service. He trusted that the company would fulfil their contract, and that next summer the mail service would be placed on a satisfactory footing, which would no doubt be done if five vessels were placed on the stations between Suez and Sydney.