Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

China Navigation Co. v. Owners of the Hermes 1899


China Navigation Co. v. Owners of the "Hermes"

Norwegian Consular Court, Shanghai
25 March 1899
Source: North China Herald, 27 March 1899

Shanghai, 25th March.
Before Dr. F. Hagberg, Acting Consul-General for Sweden and Norway.
 This was a preliminary enquiry into the circumstances attending the collision between the China Navigation Company's steamer Tamsui and the Norwegian steamer Hermes, which occurred in the river on Thursday past.
 Captain Friberg of the Poochi and Captain Suensen of the Storc Nordiske sat as Assessors or Nautical Advisers.
 No representative of the China Navigation Company putting in an appearance the proceedings were conducted in Norwegian.
 A plan of the river was put in and Captain Jensen of the Hermes, together with the first and second officers and the first and second engineers, gave evidence. It was stated that on the day named the Hermes was coming up from Woosung and after crossing the bar and off Gough Island she met the Tamsui proceeding down the river. Captain Bell, the P. & O. pilot, was in charge of the Hermes and he noticed the Tansui about ten minutes before the collision took place. Between the Tamsui and the Norwegian vessel was a large lorcha, which was going from Shanghai to Woosung and beating up against the wind. Both steamers kept their own sides of the river.  The lorcha was going about and would not get through the wind and the Hermes had to starboard her helm to clear the lorcha.
 After this the Hermes pilot ordered her helm hard over to port to go over to Gough Island but she would not answer her helm and the engines were ordered full speed astern. The order was carried out in ten seconds, but despite the fact that the Hermes let go her anchor with fifteen fathoms of chain the two steamers collided with great force, doing damage already referred to in these columns.
 Mr. Knudsen, an Upper Yangtze pilot, gave the following evidence in English:
 I was a passenger on board the Hermes when the collision took place. I was sitting on a skylight on the lower bridge when I saw the masts of a lorcha about half a point on the port bow. This would be about two minutes before the collision. Then I saw the Hermes' head swing away to port and I noticed the pilot ring the telegraph "full speed astern." That would be about a minute and a half before the collision. The lorcha was close alongside the bank when I noticed her, otherwise I never paid any attention not expecting in the least that anything like a collision was going to happen. The Hermes took a sheer to port to avoid the lorcha. This was about a minute and a-half before the collision with the Tamsui, which was coming down the river.
 At this stage the Court rose.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School