The local Rep for the company that was an agent for a well known London based marine insurance firm was long overdue for some leave, and I was asked to fill in for a few weeks. If I had known what was in store I wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about taking it on. At the time Bundaberg was suffering the onset of a drought that was to last three years, and money was getting rather tight around town.
At first the job seemed simple enough, and was interesting. My first job was to go down to Tin Can Bay and do a survey on two trawlers that were up for insurance renewal. So it was arranged that I would drive down and should arrive at 10 AM to go over the first boat (about a two hour job); then be shouted a lunch at the pub while the second boat was being slipped; then tackle the second boat after lunch. This sounded great to me but I knew that there was no such a thing as a free lunch and wondered what was on !!!
I realize that trawl fishing can be a tough way to make a living, and sometimes money to spend, on what the owners consider unnecessary items forced on them by rules and regulations, is hard to find.
The first boat went alright, but maintenance was an issue. However all of the regulation safety equipment was there, and ticked off the list, and the boat appeared seaworthy enough.
Lunch was enjoyable, and rather drawn out. I had to refuse the beer that flowed freely and wanted to get on with the job.
The second boat was in better condition, and all of the safety equipment in place, although it all looked strangely familiar, but I ticked it off the list for that boat as required.
Back home and I was rather concerned about the safety equipment, so decided to phone the office in Brisbane and voice my concerns. The manager asked if all of the gear on the list was in place when the boats were checked, and he stated flatly that, “That is all you have to do, and don’t cause any waves.” My suggestion that safety gear should be marked with the name of the boat was disregarded.
I was left feeling a little uncomfortable with my first encounter with Head Office, and not prepared for my second job a few days later.
A Taiwanese Long Liner had gone up on The Swain Reefs and been abandoned by her crew, even though she was not in danger of sinking.
A Syndicate was formed by some southern businessmen to try and salvage the vessel, and after six weeks of working on it, the boat was freed of the reef. However the effort had cost them dearly, and there were only sufficient funds left to pay for a tow as far as Bundaberg.
She was very similar, but not as modern as this
The salvaged vessel was finally secured to the town wharf and this is when the problems really started. On board was several tons of tuna that had been without refrigeration for over six weeks, and the stink was terrible. The Harbour Master was very upset at the boat being brought into his port. Every one in town that lived down-wind of the wharf complained bitterly.
I was called in to look over the boat because the Syndicate had applied to have it insured, and it was to be slipped for repairs at The Bunding Ship Yard, but they wouldn’t slip it unless it was insured. I reported back that there was no way of certifying that the boat’s bottom was sound enough to insure without it being slipped first.
And that is where the row started. The Harbour Master wanted the boat OUT; the Council wanted the stinking fish moved; Bunding demanded that it be insured before slipping; and the insurance company wouldn’t insure before slipping!!! And the Syndicate was almost broke.
Here I was in the middle of it all. Head office still wanted to Insure the boat because their fee was at stake, and suggested I do a valuation.
(A) The value as scrap. (B) The value as a going concern.
This was all way beyond my expertise, but I went aboard again in spite of the stink, and had a good look around. How ever could anybody put a snap value on a boat in that condition? All of the electrical gear and the engine had been under water, the hull was badly buckled, and it was a foreign built boat with only five feet headroom between decks where the crew slept in what looked like a row of drawers. The galley consisted of two cast iron cooking pots over open fires in the middle of the deck.
The suggestion was made to me that I talk to the Syndicate, and have them insure for a minimum value until a proper survey could be done, but they wouldn’t agree to this.
- Bunding wanted the repair job.
- The Syndicate wanted the boat slipped and repaired.
- The insurance company wanted to insure the boat.
But no agreement could be reached.
Eventually the Syndicate found a new partner, and the extra cash meant that they could afford to have the boat towed away down to Ballina where the slip yard had agreed to take the boat uninsured.
I resigned my new position, and vowed to stick to boat building in future, however I did follow up on the fate of the boat, and this is what happened
The boat was eventually repaired and put in to good condition, and the Syndicate applied for Australian registration, but the Seaman’s Union had the boat banned because of the lack of head room and accommodation, and the owners were forced to send the boat back to Taiwan to sell.
Their final result after all that drama was that they didn’t even cover their salvage costs.
Salvage is never as good as it seems!!!