HC Deb 23 February 1877 vol 232 cc893-4

asked the President of the Board of Trade, If his attention has been called to an affidavit made by Martin O'Brien, chief mate of the ship "Rock Terrace," at Tobes de Tierra, on the 29th July, 1876, to the effect that the captain of that ship (A. Kemay) was seen to alter the position of the load line by moving it two feet higher up the ship's side on the night of the 15th July, and which it is stated the captain admitted to be true at a naval court martial held at Callao on the 5th September, 1876; whether he is aware that the captain's charge of insubordination against Martin O'Brien then heard was dismissed; whether, although on the 25th September the ship was hauled into dock and discharged of 300 tons, the crew were imprisoned for three months for not sailing in her, in her original overloaded state, and the wages of the mate and seamen have not been paid; and, whether he will direct that steps be taken to inquire into the case, and to punish the captain, if guilty, and to obtain justice for the men by the payment of their wages?


, in reply, said, the load-line which the captain of the Rock Terrace moved was a mark made by the Peruvian port authorities, who, by a customary imposition, nicknamed "buying drafts," place a low load-line, and take a bribe, in this case of $600, to let it be moved higher. The Naval Court, of course, expressed disapprobation of this common practice. The captain moved the line to the place specified in the terms of the charter-party. If the ship had loaded only to the Peruvian mark, she would have been short of about 350 tons of the cargo she could safely carry. By a survey held by a surveyor appointed by Lloyd's surveyor, on her arrival at Callao, her average draught of water, fore and aft, was 23 feet, 1½ inches, giving her a freeboard of 5 feet, 9½ inches; and Lloyd's surveyor, together with two shipmasters, pronounced her seaworthy and able to carry her cargo. The Court found Martin O'Brien, the mate, guilty of insubordination, with extenuating circumstances, and ordered him to pay 1–23rd of the survey expenses and one-half of the Court expenses, and to be discharged from the ship. The seamen, who pleaded that the ship was overloaded, were found guilty of refusing duty without reasonable cause, and combining to disobey lawful commands. The Court held that the ship was not overloaded when the offences of the crew were committed. Martin O'Brien's wages were paid over to the Consul, but returned to him, as no expenses were incurred on his behalf. The wages of five of the seamen were forfeited to the ship. These Courts were held on the 5th, 11th, and 14th of September. He had no information of anything done since, and was, therefore, not aware that any cargo was discharged on the 25th of September.