HC Deb 27 January 1902 vol 101 cc954-5
SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that the demurrages charged on the detention of Government Transports at South African Ports has proved a burden on the Military chest of the Commander-in-Chief: and whether, to obviate it in future, it would be possible for him to arrange with the War Office for a different method of providing the necessary Transport Service, with the object of attaining greater regularity of arrivals at Table Bay, Algoa Bay, East London, and Durban, in such sequence as to remedy the recurring accumulations of steamers, with the consequent demurrage claims; and if, having regard to the maintenance of a force in South Africa in the future, the Admiralty will send to South African ports sufficient tugs and lighters, and provide adequate storage accommodation for Goxernment requirements, and so release from the Martial Law requisition the Harbour Board plant and warehouses for the ordinary service of the commercial and shipping community.


Full cargo boats laden with supplies and oats from this country are despatched at fixed dates laid down by the War Office, and being full-powered steamers, for the most part having the same speed, they arrive at the Cape with great regularity. The amount of demurrage incurred in respect of these steamers has been small, and is due to the military exigencies on shore not allowing the steamers to be cleared immediately on arrival. The serious loss on demurrage to which the hon. and gallant Member refers is principally in connect on with the shipment of forage by army contractors abroad. The vessels are frequently detained owing to the lack of adequate storage accommodation on shore, the vessels, for the time being, being treated as floating depots of store houses. In view of the military exigencies of the situation, it has not been found possible in all cases to avoid this delay. No representation has been received by the Transport Department of the Admiralty to the effect that Government tugs and lighters are required for landing cargo; but, if such representations be received, enquiry will be made as to whether such craft are considered necessary. It seems probable, however, that the difficulty to which the hon. and gallant Member refers arises not so much from the absence of landing facilities as from the want of sufficient means on shore for clearing the wharves and housing the stores. To erect large warehouses for stores at the present time will probably involve more cost than is occasioned by the present payment for demurrage.


Has the hon. Gentleman received from the Harbour Board any representations as to the necessity of having Government tugs and lighters at Table Bay?


Yes; and they have received the most careful consideration.