Colombo Incident

17th October 2006, 20:50
I've always been an admirer of Ellerman ships - nice design and colour scheme, etc.

I wonder if anyone can confirm and give the story behind an incident involving an Ellerman ship in the late 50's or early 60's. I remember seeing a City ship alongside the shipyards in Colombo harbour with a heavy list and we were told that she had hit a reef just south of Colombo the previous week. She looked as though she might have been floating on her tanktops and I think a lot of pumping was going on. I've often wondered about her in the intervening years and would be grateful for any information about the incident and her subsequent career.


Peter B

Jim S
17th October 2006, 21:17
I apologise for changing the subject but with reference to your pics of MAHRONDA in drydock at Colombo - was this a routine drydocking?
Like you I was an admirer of some of the Ellerman classes - City of Oxford class in particular.
Entering Tilbury Docks in the mid 1960's on MAGDAPUR we hit an Ellerman ship (cannot remember her name) just aft of the accommodation. Magdapur's bow sustained a minor dent but the Ellerman ship had her deck plates set in in way of the sheer strake. Magdapur was not blessed with a lot af astern power and that coupled with the stern tug not swinging our stern round were the main factors.

Harry Nicholson
17th October 2006, 23:35
hello Peter, I was on a Brock ship in Colombo, would have been 1957 to 1960, when a brand new City boat on her maiden voyage sailed out for the East. Some hours later she limped back in, tied up hurriedly alongside the quay just ahead of us and proceeded to settle in the water till she touched the bottom ever so gently.
We heard that some passengers pressed the Captain to go in closer as they were passing either Mount Lavinia or Galle (I forget) so they could have a closer look,. He did that and tore a hole in the bottom on the coral. I can't remember the ships name just now.

18th October 2006, 00:26
Thanks Harry - at least I'm not imagining it!

Jim S
2nd November 2006, 20:34
Peter B/ Harry N
I have just been looking through an early "Ships in Focus-Record 21".
The Ellerman ship in question was City of Ottowa of the City of Oxford Class.
She had sailed from Colombo for Calcutta on 16th March 1961. At 16,30, ten minutes after dropping the pilot the Master set course for Calcutta and ordered "Full Away". He was using a large scale chart that extended only about 6 miles into the intended course. The 3/O who had been on the bridge with the Master was relieved by the C/O as the new course was set.
The Master and C/O discussed ship's business, two minor alterations were made to avoid fishing vessels course. At 17.15 City of Ottowa hit rocky bottom at speed, although she did not remain fast considerable damage was done necessitating immediate return to Colombo.
The subsequent court of inquiry held that the Master's failure to set a correct course and keep a good lookout were the cause of the accident.
If the correct smaller scale chart had been used it wouyld have been seen that the course set was taking the ship into shoal waters. The Master's certificate was suspended for 18 months. The C/O had his master's certificate suspended for 12 months. The two alterations in course he had made to avoid the fishing vessels was evidence that he was in charge of the watch. City of Ottowa was renamed City of Leeds in 1971.

3rd November 2006, 21:12

Many thanks for your comprehensive reply which answers all my questions. A sad incident with which all navigators will empathise. As third Mate on the Matheran one morning the Captain and I were looking for the beacon which would let us alter course into Port Sudan. It was very hazy and these beacons were bits of iron and a cage stuck on reefs. We altered course at what we were convinced was the correct one only to have another dead ahead about 5 minutes later. Luckly I spotted it in time - hard-a-starboard and we were OK, but I often think about it and sweat a little! Thanks again for posting a great reply.

Kind regards
Peter B