Looking for ex-RML engineers

Carolyn Mohan
21st August 2009, 15:46
Dear All,

I hope you don't mind me joining your website. I've never been to sea but I work for a shipping group which, although now very small, was once a "significant player" in the history of the Merchant Navy.

Unfortunately, from time to time we now receive Claims from former seamen who were exposed to asbestos during their time onboard vessels.

At the moment, I am trying to progress a Claim that has been received regarding a gentleman who sailed on the Highland Chieftain, Asturias, Gascony, Paraguay, Brittany, Barranca and Potaro from 1943 - 1950. I could really do with some sort of description of the role of a 5th/4th/3rd Engineer at this time, or even for the early-mid 1950s. It would be especially helpful if any such gentleman worked for Royal Mail Lines Ltd at that time.

Is there anyone out there who would be able to give me some information?

Thanks for your time.

21st August 2009, 17:14
For Carolyn Mohan :

For the period in question and the vessels in question, steam propulsion and auxiliary Plant such as heat exchangers, pumps, generators, and other equipment that utilised steam, involved a significant use of thermal insultation by way of asbestos lagging. Inevitably, therefore, all engine room staff were exposed to this hazard, at a time before it was appreciated just how dangerous it was and what the long-term deleterious developments might be - that came much later.

Other non-engine-room crew members were not entirely sheltered from it either, steam services pipewrok, windlasses and winches, steam heating, etc involved the use of asbestos and anyone coming into contact with it was at risk. Even without coming into immediate or physical contact, it could be said that the risks were there - when strong sun's rays filtered down into the Engine Room from the Skylight the 'haze' of small spores hanging suspended in the atmosphere was not an uncommon sight. Invisible under normal light but significant with the strength of the sun's rays.

The problem was acute on steam propulsion ships, but could also be found to a lesser degree on Motor Ships as they still had small Donkey Boilers, Heat Exchangers, Calorifiers and other steam heating systems that involved asbestos.

Also, sheet asbestos was carried and used on board for various purposes, that meant it had to be 'worked' by hand.

Under routine and emergency repair and maintenance activities, invariably involving most of the Engine Room staff, exposure to asbestos increased tremendously, in these days the uses of breathing filtration accesories was unheard of. Junior and 4th Engineers carried the even greater risk when attending to the daily routine of tube-blowing (steam blowing soot deposits off boiler tube surfaces) as this entailed spending an hour or more up on and around the main Boilers where lagging was predominant.

Many of these same Engineers might already have had perhaps up to five years or more exposure to asbestos before they ever went away to sea, e.g. serving a heavy engineering apprenticeship in shipyards where they may have worked on up to 300-400 ships in that time, more than half of which would probably have been steam propulsion ships.

2nd and 3rd Engineers, and of course Chief Engineers, by the nature of their duties and responsibilities, might be less exposed than those junior to them, but it has to be remembered that before they 'climbed the ladder to seniority' they too went through the same processes and were thus exposed.

This applied to most shipping companies, Royal Mail Lines was by no means exceptional in any way.

The tragedy of asbestosis is that it is a latent disease that only comes to the surface when individuals reach their elderly years, typically starting in their 60s.

It is also a fact that there have been many cases of close relations, e.g. wives and mothers, being affected, who were never on board a ship, but were in contact through contaminated clothes worn by the shipyard worker.

Trust this gives some small insight to the problem.

non descript
21st August 2009, 17:43
Carolyn, a warm welcome to you. Thank you for joining the community and thank you for your first posting and for giving the honest and candid reason for your being here - that is appreciated. Do enjoy the site and all it has to offer, and we hope you get some useful information from the Members - clearly you already have one from a particualary helpful and useful person; so that is a good start. Bon Voyage. (Thumb)

K urgess
21st August 2009, 19:05
Welcome aboard from East Yorkshire, Carolyn.
I hope you get all the answers you require.
Meanwhile find your way around and enjoy the voyage.

21st August 2009, 21:40
welcome onboard to SN and enjoy the voyage

21st August 2009, 23:45
Welcome aboard from the Philippines. Enjoy all this great site has to offer

23rd August 2009, 08:41
Greetings Carolyn and welcome to SN. Bon voyage.
eriskay you are to be congratulated on your accurate and precise thread.

Carolyn Mohan
27th October 2009, 15:51
For Eriskay - sorry it's taken me a while to reply but I just wanted to say thank you for your help...it is much appreciated. You are certainly right regarding the tragedy of the nature of asbestos related exposure. Thank you once again.

bert thompson
27th October 2009, 17:03
Welcome Carolyn. Pleased to see that already you are receiving replies to your query
Best wishes

27th October 2009, 17:14
Carolyn, are you persuing a claim on behalf of this seaman or are you defending a claim made by him

Carolyn Mohan
28th October 2009, 11:59
Hello Joe Q, I used to work for Furness Withy & Company and following the closure of their office in 2005, I now work for one of their sister companies. We - sadly - receive industrial injury claims going back many years against old Furness Group companies and I don't have any documentation to help with trying to progress the claims - literally nothing apart from a book by D Burrell (albeit a very good one). My role is usually just to try and identify P&I insurers and to speed the claims along but occasionally it would be really helpful to know what the roles of the various seamen entailed. The particular claim I asked for help on goes back to the 1940s - much earlier than any I've seen before. To be honest, it would be great to ask for help from any seamen who ever worked for a Furness Group company (of which there seem to have been hundreds), just to be able to compile some sort of history dossier, but it's too wide a field! Please be assured that my role is solely to try and ensure that anyone who brings a claim against any of the old companies gets a prompt response and a swift resolution to their claim. I am very proud of the history of the Furness Group and extremely sorry that so many years after men served at sea, some of them are now facing such problems. I am not a solicitor/lawyer or such like - just an administrator.

28th October 2009, 14:54
Carolyn; so you work for a sister company to Furniss Withy dealing with claims made against your employer where your role is:

"solely to try and ensure that anyone who brings a claim against any of the old companies gets a prompt response and a swift resolution to their claim"

I may be getting a bit cynical but I doubt any shipping company would want a swift resolution to a seamans claim which would in any way favour the seaman. If you want a swift resolution pay the man what he is due while he is still alive to enjoy it.

Carolyn Mohan
28th October 2009, 15:09
Hi Joe, I'm sorry you feel like that - what I have described certainly is my role and I hope you can understand that it is often difficult to process claims relating to companies that current employees have never even heard of and ships that we have no documentation on. I can assure you that we try and process any claims received by seamen or their families as quickly as possible and the very reason for me joining this website was hopefully to help with this endeavour.