FROM the pages of DCN


It has been held in England that to be seaworthy, a vessel must have a competent master and a competent and sufficient crew.

But Federal District Judge John Partridge, in a case recently decided at San Francisco, has gone further than this, and has held that the employment by the owners of a mate noted for his brutality to sailors makes the vessel unseaworthy as far as the sailors are concerned.

Several members of the crew of the barquentine Rolph sued the owners of that vessel for damages for personal injuries sustained by them as a result of beatings administered by the mate. It is reported that, by broadening the doctrine of the Osceola, 189 U.S. 158 (1903)*, which makes the vessel and her owners liable for an indemnity for injuries received by seamen in consequence of the unseaworthiness of the ship, the judge held that the “employment of a noted thug as mate rendered the ship unseaworthy,” and one sailor who was blinded by the treatment he received was awarded 10,000 dollars, another who had grown deaf 3500 dollars, and two other seamen 500 dollars each.

In awarding the damages, the judge stated that the Court took into consideration the fact of the implied privity of the master to the actions of the mate, though having paid him off at Antofagasta, instead of laying in formation before the Consul, which might have resulted in his being sent back to the United States as a Federal prisoner.

* The Osceola case was a US Supreme Court decision decided on 2 March 1903.


The death occurred suddenly on Monday evening (31 December 1923) of Captain James McNab, a well-known Sydney tug master.

Captain McNab was on duty until 6 pm, and he collapsed at his home about an hour afterwards.

Captain McNab was born at Peterhead, Scotland. He came to Sydney when a young man, and became associated with the tug boat trade. For a number of years he was master of J. & A. Brown’s tug Stormcock, and afterwards was placed in charge of the big tug Rollicker. Lately he had command of the Champion and was master of that vessel at the time of his death.

Many years ago, Captain McNab was associated with Fenwick’s tugs and was then in charge of the Newburgh.

Captain McNab had many friends in shipping circles, and was held in high esteem by his colleagues, both as a man and a captain. He is survived by a widow and a grown-up son. He was 61 years of age.

This article appeared in the February 2024 edition of DCN Magazine