Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

The Woosung, 1875

[shipping, salvage]

The Woosung

Admiralty Court
Phillimore and Trinity
Source: The Times, 2 August 1875

(Before the Right Hon. Sir R. J. Phillimore and Trinity Masters.)
  These were cases of salvage, the hearing of which occupied the Court on the 25th of June and the 16th and 26th inst.
  On the 20th of February, 1874, the screw steamship Woosung, laden with a general Indian cargo, of the value of about £500,000, struck on a coral reef off the Island of Kotana, in the Red Sea. The passengers and crew, between 50 and 60 in number, were conveyed to the island, which was uninhabited and without water, and the second officer was despatched in the lifeboat to cruise off Jubbul Lee, about 30 miles off, and on the 28th spoke the Corinna, bound for London, which received on board the passengers and crew, leaving some of the officers behind. The Governor of Lolicea, and a Greek trader who came to the assistance of the ship, the latter of whom agreed to attempt to save the cargo upon being paid one-third of the net value received on sale. A telegram was also sent to England, and thence a telegram was forwarded to the Political Resident at Aden, and the Kwangtung went to the ship. The Kwangtung is a despatch boat employed in political duty, and the Bombay Government.  The Kwangtung arrived on the 6th of March, and during six days' service succeeded in saving cargo which realized £23,900. The master of the Woosung, before the services began, signed an agreement by which he agreed to give the master and crew of the Kwangtung half the net proceeds of sale, as a salvage reward.  The latter sued upon the agreement, and the Corinna also, and the master and crew, and for saving the passengers and crew and for other salvage services. For the owners of the cargo it was contended that the agreement as against them was inequitable, and that in the circumstances the services of the Corinna did not amount to life salvage and were in other respects insignificant.
  Mr. Butt, Q.C., Mr. Herschell, Q.C., Mr. Clarkson and Mr. E. Jones appeared for the salvors; Sir Henry Jones, Q.C., Mr. Cohen, Q.C., and Mr. Phillimore for the owners of the cargo of the Woosung.
  His Lordship in considering whether the agreement was inequitable, said it was deliberately made by the masters of the two ships, both of whom were aware of all the material circumstances of the case. The services were attended with much suffering, as the sailors were for six days exposed to the most noxious gases and putrid smells, and suffered seriously in health, and inasmuch as the chief engineer had been paid £3,000, the stewardess £1,900, and the Greek trader one-third of what he recovered, his Lordship thought that the agreement was not exorbitant.  He therefore pronounced for the agreement with costs, and expressed a hope that those who had to distribute the amount would specially recognize the eminent services of Lieutenant Edwards.

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