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Colonial Cases

Sclias v. Eggleton, 1888

[shipping, collision]

Sclias v. Eggleton

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
23 June 1888
Source: The Times, 25 June 1888


LAW REPORT, June 23.




This was an appeal from a decree of the Judge of Her Britannic Majesty's Supreme Consular Court at Constantinople, of the 16th of March, 1887, in an action and cross-action relating to a collision at sea.  The appellant was the mate of a Greek brig called the Ilias and the respondent was master of the English steamship J. M. Smith, belonging to the port of Sunderland.

Sir Walter Phillimore, Q.C., and Dr. Charles Stubbs were counsel for the appellant; Mr. Charles Hall, Q.C., Mr. Aspinall, and Mr. R. M. N. Kerr for the respondent.

The collision happened on the night of the 21st of October, 1886, and resulted in the foundering of the brig Ilias with five of the crew, including the master, and in considerable damage to the steamer.  The Ilias was a brig of 267 tons register, and was at the time of the disaster on a voyage from Stagouni to Zante with a cargo of wheat, while the J. M. Smith, a screw steamer of 1,331 tone register, was proceeding to Constantinople with a cargo of coal.  It was alleged on behalf of the Ilias that the collision was caused by the negligence of those on board the J. M. Smith in not keeping out of the way and in attempting to cross the bows of the Ilias at the last moment, and that they were also in fault for not stopping and reversing the steamer's engine in time. On the other hand it was contended that the disaster was due to the fault of the Ilias in having defective lights and to her having changed her course when it was too late to cross the bows of the steamer without a collision.

The Judge of the Consular Court (Mr. Fawcett) found that the Ilias was alone to blame and gave judgment in favour of the J. M. Smith.  From that decision the present appeal was instituted.

SIR JAMES HANNEN, in delivering their Lordships' judgment, narrated the circumstances in which the disaster occurred, and stated that their Lordships were led to the conclusion that there was a defective lookout on the J. M. Smith, and that through this she was brought into such a position with regard to the Ilias that a risk of collision arose.  A steamer ought not to be navigated, with reference to a sailing vessel, on the assumption that the movements of the latter could be counted on with mathematical certainty.  Allowances must be made, not merely for contingencies that could be foreseen, but also for possible errors on the part of the sailing vessel, to which a sufficiently wide berth should be given to prevent those in charge being frightened into a wrong maneuver. 

But while holding the J. M. Smith to blame their Lordships could not acquit thr Ilias.  It was admitted that her helm was ported after the green light of the steamer was seen.  It was said that it was only a little, and in the last extremity, but it was sufficient, and soon enough to being thr Ilias across the bows of the J. M. Smith, for the blow was received by the Ilias on her port side aft.

Their Lordships were therefore of opinion that the Ilias was to blame in not keeping her course.  On the whole case their Lordships would humbly advise Her Majesty that the judgment of the Court below be varied and that both vessels be condemned and that each party do bear his own costs both on the appeal and on the proceedings in the Court below.

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