- 1 History
- 2 Service
- 3 Events / Stories
- 3.1 Changsha Salvage Report
- 3.1.1 Preliminary T0 Salvage
- 3.1.2 Resumé Of Events Subsequent To Stranding
- 3.1.3 Beginning Of Salvage
- 3.1.4 Method Of Refloating
- 3.1.5 Unloading Of Cargo Stores
- 3.1.6 Damage Inspection
- 3.1.7 Weather
- 3.1.8 Dredgers
- 3.1.9 Co-operation Between Ship And Shore
- 3.1.10 Ground-Tackles
- 3.1.11 Fishermen's Foreshore Rights
- 3.1.12 Engine Room Fire - 17th December 1959
- 3.1.13 Feng Shui
- 3.1 Changsha Salvage Report
- 4 Images
Changsha went aground in Tokyo Bay on 28th March 1956, but was refloated shortly afterward. The ship went aground in full daylight in clear weather with the Master on the bridge, in a position which visual observation should have told him that the ship was off course. The Master, Francis Nettleton Booth accepted full responsibility.
September 26th.1959. The "Changsha III" was blown ashore by typhoon “Vera” and was stranded on shifting sands, nine miles west of Nagoya. It took six months to excavate and refloat the vessel. The Master John Frederick Follet in command. Hong Kong office commented that he handled the formalities of the Changsha's grounding stranding very well, handling ship in a most competent manner.
Changsha was sold in 1969 to Pacific International Lines, Singapore and renamed "Kota Panjang". She was placed in service on the Hong Kong-Straits trade.
June 16th,1981. Arrived at Gadani Beach for breaking up.
Changsha and her sister ship Taiyuan III were built for C.N.Co.’s post-war re-entry into the East Australia trade, their names recalling the earlier class of steamers, which had pioneered the Company’s liner service to Australia in the nineteenth century.
Changsha carried 50 first class passengers in spacious, air-conditioned accommodation and had steerage class space for 126. In addition, she carried general and refrigerated cargo. She became a popular holiday ship for round-trips from Australia to Hong Kong and Japan.
Events / Stories
22nd January 1960
Changsha Salvage Report
Preliminary T0 Salvage
Changsha anchored for shelter off Yokkaichi at 1100 hours on September 26, 1959. The weather continued to deteriorate as typhoon Vera approached, until a wind force of over 100 knots was experienced. At 1910 hours it was observed that the vessel was dragging in a westerly direction broadside on to the wind. "CHANGSHA" finally stranded broadside on, in soft sand at 1940 hours on Saturday, 26th September, 1959, in a position : Yokkaichi Breakwater light bg. 027° dist, 11/2m.
On Monday 28th September at 1000 hours. Butterfield & Swire Manager for Japan, with his senior Japanese Assistant and the Marine and Engineer Superintendents from Hong Kong presented "Changsha's" case to the Head Office of the Nippon Salvage Company, Tokyo (Messrs. Ise and Ichikiawa), Meanwhile their local area Manager, Captain Kato, was en route from Moji to Nagoya, where he joined forces with ButterfieId & Swire Manager for Japan and the CNCo Superintendents, and together they boarded "Changsha" the same (Monday) evening from the Coastguard ship placed at their disposal by the Authorities.
Captain Kato remained at "Changsha" in control of salvage operations until completion, with occasional departures from the scene during the early period.
Resumé Of Events Subsequent To Stranding
It should be noted that associated with the storm was a tidal wave, estimated to b« fourteen feet high In this area, which would account for the vessel being driven ashore until she was high and dry, over areas of shoal water across which she would not normally be able to proceed. The vessel bumped moderately once or twice as she grounded and thereafter was continually pounded on the port side as she lay against the beach broadside on to the wind and sea until the weather subsided.
After 2230 there was an improvement in the weather and the force of the wind decreased, though seas still pounded the port side. The vessel was not making any water below, but water had entered the after dining saloon where some of the scuttle-port glasses had been smashed, and it also penetrated some of the accommodation on the port side. Later it was discovered that water had entered No.4 lower hold where shell plating had been damaged, and also No. 5 lower hold.
The section of the foreshore on which the vessel had grounded was directly in front of the fishing village of Isosu, which has its own fishing harbour, from which about three hundred boats operate. The fishing harbour is a lagoon, the seaward side of which lies perhaps six hundred feet inshore from high-water mark, where the "Changsha" lay. It was on this section of beach, lying between the vessel and the fishing harbour that most of the salvage gear was subsequently assembled; it was where the camp tents were erected in which the crew lived until the vessel was brought upright; and, later, it was where much of the sand, excavated from under and around the ship, was deposited.
Radio messages were sent to the vessel's agents in Tokyo as soon as she grounded, but were not immediately received owing to the confusion in the Nagoya/Tokkaiohi area. Many other ships were in distress and were sending out messages, but the devastation on shore was appalling and all communication services suffered badly. There was communication between Nagoya and Tokyo by road and rail, and also between Yokkaichi and Osaka, but none between Yokkaichi/Nagoya, except a very round-about route, or by water. Telephones were out of order and postal services disrupted.
Beginning Of Salvage
After the passengers had left for Osaka on Sunday, September 27th, the crew evaluated the ship which was listing 18°, and erected temporary shelters on the beach in which to sleep. During the next few days these first tents were rebuilt on more substantial lines, awnings, tarpaulins and spars being used, while some ready-made tents were received from the firms Kobe agents.
The Salvage Co. later lent their assistance, and a regular camp was established in which the crew, or such of them as remained behind, lived until November 2nd, when the vessel was upright. Of the original crew of one hundred and twenty three, seventy eight were repatriated to Hong Kong by September 30th, leaving the remainder to stand by the ship.
After an inspection of the vessel's condition, the Nippon Salvage Co.,undertook to salvage her on Lloyd's open form, the agreement being signed at Tokyo on 8th October 1959. Captain Nato was in charge of salvage operations which began on October 1st, when a salvage party arrived on the beach and set up a pair of sheer-legs on the fishing harbour wall with which to off-load their stores and equipment, brought by launch from their salvage vessel "Seiha Maru' which had arrived and was anchored half a mile off shore. They also built a storehouse, set up a diesel windlass and established a radio¬telephone.
Method Of Refloating
The original plan for refloating was to lower the ship down into her own floating 'dock' by a series of excavations first on one side of the ship and then on the other until the water in the 'dock' was deep enough to float her, and them to dredge a connecting channel between the 'dock' and the deeper water offshore down which the ship would be hauled by means of ground-tackles and so refloated. This method entailed listing the ship first to one side and then to the other, and had later to be modified when it became apparent that when the ship was at the 'point of balance', that is to say when so such sand had been dug away, under the bottom, from the high side that she was ready to change her angle of list, she was very vulnerable to the effects of a swell, and that consequently it would be dangerous for divers to work under her in those conditions. It was therefore decided by Captain Kato, to bring the vessel to an upright position and then to lower her down steadily, still in an upright position, until she was deep enough to float. This plan was followed, and the following dates mark the various stages or its progress :
- October 1st Salvage operations began.
- November 1st Vessel officially declared upright.
- December 3rd Large suction-dredger arrived.
- December 5th to 10th Dredging channel.
- December 11th Refloated.
Besides the sand that was to be excavated from underneath the bottom, a constantly accumulating sand hill had to be spread over the beach away from the ship's side, and for this purpose a bulldozer was needed. One arrived on October 7th and thereafter, except for occasional breakdowns, a bulldozer was in daily use. First of all it cleared a sand-hump away from the vessel's starboard side down to high water level, making a 'lane' about 40 feet wide between the ship and the higher sand, and was then engaged in distributing the sand which accumulated from the discharges of the sand-pumps as they excavated sand from under the bottom. As the excavations under the ship became larger and larger, more and more of the sand in the lane was removed, so that eventually it became water-filled, first of all at high water only but later at all stages of the tide. Tidal range in this area is five to six feet.
Unloading Of Cargo Stores
As the ship's refrigerating machinery was no longer operating, it was a matter of urgency to discharge the refrigerated cargo and the ship's refrigerated stores as soon as possible. This was done on September 30th and October 1st, the method used being a breeches-buoy arrangement on to the beach. The stores and cargo were then loaded into a motor schooner in the fishing harbour and taken round Yokkaichi harbour where they were loaded on to freezer trucks and dispatched to the cold-storage warehouses in Kobe. The discharging and the reloading were carried out by the Yokkaichi Stevedoring Co.
On October 29th discharge of the balance of the cargo -wool, hides, etc. began, this time into lighters on the seaward side, as the vessel was by now only 8 degrees to port and the ship's cargo gear could be used. Because of the shallow water the lighters could only work for three hours each side of high water, consequently the work was spread over five days, discharging being finally completed at 1900 hours on November 3rd. The work was carried out by the Yokkaichi Warehouse Co. It had not been possible to discharge this cargo earlier because of the ship's list, which made work in the engine room extremely dangerous from the point of view of falls and other accidents; the men could not keep their feet with the ship lying over at that angle. Consequently, it was not until the angle of heel was considerably reduced that it was possible to work in the engine room, and get the various services restored by ship's staff. As for discharging the general cargo by the same means as the refrigerated cargo, i.e. on to the beach by breeches-buoy and thence by lighter to Yokkaichi, in the first place the bales were too heavy but in any case, the holds in which the wool was stowed were fitted with heavy steel pontoon-hatches, which could not he removed until the derricks and winches were available.
One other feature of the refloating operations should be mentioned, and that is the use of righting-tackles. Two of these were set up, one from each mast, the heavy steel wire of each tackle being led right under the ship's bottom, thence up to a roller-shackle at the cross-trees and then down to a fivefold tackle on the beach, so that the only strain on the mast was a downward thrust. When these tackles came to be used to bring the ship upright, their action was not so much to heave the ship into an upright position as to assist, by means of a steady strain, the effects of the excavating and the final hosing away of the remaining sand-shores under the bottom.
A preliminary inspection (internal) made on September 29th, by Captain Torrible, Marine Superintendent, Mr.Muirie, Superintendent engineer, the Master and Mr. Knight, Chief Officer, showed that the following damage had been sustained:
- Shell plating set in in way of No.4 hold T.D. Deck bulwarks in this area set in; teak rail damaged. Plating set in in turn-of-the- bilge area No-4 L.H. Framing and brackets in this area damaged.
- Accommodation ladder, port side, total loss from its stowed position.
The inspection, however, was made under poor conditions as regards light and ability to move about freely, besides which there was some cargo in the holds and No.4 L.H. had some water in it. Subsequent examinations made under more favourable conditions when the ship was upright and there was more light revealed that the damage was more extensive.
There appeared to be no damage in the rudder area, and Nos, 1, 2, 3 holds showed, at that time, no signs of damage. The engine-room was also free of water. Shortly after Mr. Johnstone., Assistant Superintendent Engineer, arrived, sighting-marks were set up in the fore and aft line of the ship so as to check the amount of hog or sag as the operations proceeded. Mr. Johnstone, arrived on October 19th end remained until December 19th, co-ordinating the efforts of ship's crew with those of the salvors in order to effect as early a refloating as possible. There also arrived on October 27th, Mr. Blachford of the London Salvage Association to observe, and where possible assist in, the salvage operations. He lived either in the beach-camp or later, on board, for about the whole period.
The following extracts are taken from Mr. Johnstone's report to the Hong Kong office of the progress made up to November 14th:
On 21st October, the vessel was at 18 degrees to port with trenches dredged from the starboard side by sand pumps under (1) the forward end of no.2 Hold, (2) the bulkhead between Nos. 2 & 3 Holds, (3) the forward engine room bulkhead, (4) the aft engine room bulkhead and (5) Nos.1 and 2 Wing Tanks. The trenches extended athwartships to about mid "B" strake port, roughly under the centre of gravity ie. the turning point. The sand between trenches formed sand shores holding the ship and the only support starboard. Forward the vessel was resting on sand and sand bags placed to port of the bow had stopped scouring. Aft. the rudder and stern frame was sunk in about four feet of sand and some build-up occurred which was regularly dug away. During the next few days the trenches were gradually broadened at the expense of the sand shores and righting tackle was fitted. This tackle consisted of heavy wire cables made fast to the starboard back spring bollards forward and aft passing down under the ship, back up the portside, through roller shackles lashed to the crosstrees of the masts, and thence to multiple purchase blocks attached to buried anchors about a ship's length to starboard, The object of the roller shackles was to produce a resultant compressive thrust on the mast and prevent bending. There are no signs of damage to bollards, masts or mast supports as a result of using this gear, which has already been removed in part.
The ship gradually became more tender as the starboard support was reduced. This could be observed by movement and creaking and groaning of partitions internally amidships and aft as waves hit the ship side. The preliminary attempt to right the ship, or rather to test if the ship was ready to right, was made on 24th October when trenches were dug to starboard of the bow and stern and lance hoses were used on the sand shores. These, however, would not scour out as rapidly as expected, and for the next few days sand pumping was resumed.
About the same time, to assist righting moment, 35 tons of fuel were transferred from the port to the starboard bunker, Nos. 5 and feed tanks starboard were filled and 45 tons of water taken in Nos. I & 2 starboard wing tanks. An attempt was made to pump out No.4 Hold port, but this was abandoned as leakage was too great. Similarly No.6 port DB. was pumped, but this again failed at a sounding of 11-8" and the tanks was full again in twelve hours. Finally the two port midship lifeboats were dropped and moored in the harbour (these have since been hoisted aboard again). There has not been as yet any apparent sign of deformation or damage as a result of this loading.
It should be noted here that at the end of each day's operations the head diver makes a survey of the bottom support for the salvage captain who keeps us informed.
On the night of 27th October a heavy swell or surf developed, and the ship began to rock and settle, and by the next morning was at 10 1/2 degrees to port and lower down in the sand about six inches. Considerable sand had been washed into starboard at bow and stern. Two small splits had developed at the top of the tunnel casing sides in way of welding at the forward corner of Nos.1 P & S wing tanks about 9" long. These have not extended or opened to any appreciable extent since.
On 29th October the salvage captain informed us that he had decided to change the original program, i.e. phase (1) upright, phase (2) list to starboard, phase (3) to port and final phase, (4) upright ready for re- floating, as he suggested that from indications during the swell on the 27th night it would be dangerous for divers, the ship became difficult to control and tender when listed port and starboard, and there was to. danger of unpredictable scouring and build up. The new plan is well underway, will not cause any delay, and will drop the ship bodily vertically about seven feet down to the refloating condition, when only slightly listed to starboard.
From 28th to 31st October broadening of trenches was continued, and cargo discharge was commenced at high tide on 30th October.
On the night of let November a medium gale blew up and all personnel were requested to stay ashore. The ship was rocked by waves all night and finally next morning, when weather had eased, was 3 degrees to starboard and settled herself down a further foot into the sand and steady. All crew moved on board.
The gale put about 50% of the salvage equipment out of order, and delayed operations for 3/4 days.
When cargo discharge was completed on 3rd November, sailors commenced cleaning lower holds and bilges and stacking dunnage.
Now the new salvage programme is under way, with usually eleven divers dredging athwartship' s trenches approximately ten frame spaces side through from the starboard to the port. side, centred at frame Nos. 4, 37, 64, a, 111 and 134. After these have been completed, fore and aft trenches will be dredged under the keel in way of the flat of the bottom. From frame No.146 forward the bows are in about three feet of sand. The lines here are considered sufficiently fine to knife down into the sand bat at the same time giving support. On 3rd November the ship's carpenter erected sights on "C" deck starboard from the break of the poop to the break of the forecastle and since then the maximum hull sag has been l11/2 at low tide. At high tide sag is usually reduced by 1/2" to 3/4.
From this report it will be seen that the method of excavating the sand from under the ship's bottom was not quite the same for 'lowering' operation, as for the 'righting' one. In the latter trenches were dug only halfway under the ship, i.e. on the "high" side and then joined up at the outer or seaward extremities so as to leave a number of pillars, or shores of sand as the only support on the starboard side. These shores were then eroded and the vessel was able to come upright. In the 'lowering' operation the plan was to dig a number of trenches, six in all, right through from the starboard side to the port side under the ship's, bottom and at a suitable time to convert the resulting sand 'block.' (in dockyard parlance) or sand bars into 'shores' by digging a fore and aft trench down the centreline of the ship and so connecting all the thwartship trenches. These shores were then to be removed and the vessel would settle down into the sand dock.
The 50% damage to the Salvage equipment referred to in Johnston's report refers mainly to damage done to pumping equipment. In the early stages of the operation the sand pumps, two or three in number, operated from stages on the ship's side but later, after the 'lane' had been cleared they were sited on substantial wooden platforms on the beach, each one opposite the area in which it was to work, When the gale blew up on November 1st it was these pumps and these stages that were damaged. There were six of them in operation at this time, a number that was later increased to nine.
The weather throughout the operation was in the main good, and what wind there was usually came from between North and West, i.e. over the nearest land and so did not affect the work. It was when it came from between South and East and blew across the bay, sometimes bringing an ocean swell with it, that progress suffered, and if conditions became too bad the divers' work at least was suspended. This happened twice when the work was in full swing, once on October 27th when there was & moderate sea and swell from the SE. which caused the ship to 'roll' two or three degrees from side to side (she was at the time on the point of balance, and it required very little to move her); and again on November 1st when the weather was worse. It was after the experience of October 27th that the original plan of lowering the ship by listing her first to one side and then to the other was abandoned in favour of the safer one of lowering her down vertically. Earlier there had been periods of bad weather, notably on October 4th 5th -6th and 7th when typhoon 'Amy' which passed some distance to the South, caused, nevertheless, heavy rain and, on the 7th a pounding swell; and on October 18th and October 19th when typhoon 'Charlotte', again, a long way away also caused rain and some swell. As, however, the operation was in its early stages when these two bad spells occurred, it can hardly be said that either of them held up the work to any appreciable extent.
In the latter stages of the operation the weather was almost continuously good - calm seas, light Northerly or Westerly winds and fine, sunny days. This allowed the divers, working under the ship with their suction hoses, to get on at a good pace -.at one stage there were twelve of them working at the one time - and it also allowed the dredgers,which has begun to appear this stage, to work uninterruptedly. It is worthy of mention that despite the occasional periods of unsettled weather at no time were the divers recalled because of danger during the 'lowering' stage of the operation.
Mention has been made in Johnstone' a report (quoted above) of the dredger situation, and it is a question to which frequent reference was also made in the Master's regular reports. The absence, in the early stages, of a dredger, did not delay the refloating of "Changsha"; she had no need of a dredged channel until she was afloat in the sand-dock, and as it happened when that time came it coincided with the completion of the dredging of the required channel. Nevertheless, a great deal of dredging on a smaller scale had been done before the main dredger arrived on December 3rd, so that it is reasonable to say that these earlier dredgers contributed to the refloating. Altogether four dredgers were used, details of which are as follows:
- (1) A small-capacity grab-.dredger whose grab could hold .8g cu. metre of sand. Daily capacity depended on availability of hoppers, but it could be as much as 400 tons per day. This dredger worked from October 30th to November 20th, except for one or two days when weather conditions prevented it.
- (2) A larger-capacity grab dredger which replaced the small one on November 19th. Grab capacity 21 to 4 tons per grab. Daily capacity similarly limited by availability of hoppers but possibly two hundred tons an hour. This dredger worked until December 1st when it was paid off. It was vulnerable to bad weather,
- (3) Small Suction-dredger. capacity 70 cu. metres per hour. Arrived on November 22nd, paid off on December let. Thus from November 22nd to December lit there were two dredgers working, the work being interrupted by weather on November 24th when both were towed away to shelter, returning on the 25th, and November 28th, when neither of them could work, owing to the swell. Prior to its arrival on November 22nd a power-line (font) had been established on the beach. This 'was done by the Chuba Electric Power Co. This dredger had a floating pipeline 'which discharged on to the beach astern of Changsha. Most of the work done by these first three dredgers was in the 'turning basin' rather than in the channel,
- (4) Large self-contained (but not self-propelled suction Dredger Capacity said to be 650 cu.metres per hour. This arrived on the evening of December 3rd under tow of the Salvors' "Seiha Maru". The shore pipeline had been assembled on the beach on wooden trestles, ahead of Changsha on December 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, and on the 4th it was connected to the floating pipe-line which had been towed to the scene ready-assembled. This dredger carried a crew of twenty five or so, and could thus work round the clock, which in fact it did, save for a short hold-up of four hours, from 3pm. till 7pm on December 7th when the 'snout' fouled one of the ground-tackle wires and the cutting-head was damaged. Following repairs work was resumed and continued until 4pm on December 10th, when, having dredged the basin and the channel to the required depth it was towed away. Altogether it had been working for five days.
The figures relating to the amount of sand removed by these four dredgers are not available, but Salvors prepared detailed offshore dredging charts which called for a channel 50 metres wide, 150 metres long having a depth of 6 matron at LW. as well as a swinging basin which would allow the stern to awing off into the channel proper. The floating draft was F.l1'4", A,15'11", and sounding taken as the vessel was hauled down the channel on December 11th showed that there was more water under the bottom than had been expected.
Co-operation Between Ship And Shore
Throughout the operation there was excellent co-operation between the ship and the Salvors, and in the early days especially the Salvors were of great help in making living conditions on the beach more comfortable for the crew. They built a large wooden-frames living tent fitted with raised wooden sleeping-platforms and on two occasions they shifted this tent bodily to a new site on the beach. Later when the ship was brought upright and the crew went back on board to live, it was possible to accommodate a large number of salvage crew on board as well at one period there were fifty-six of the salvage crew on board, including officers. The officers occupied passenger cabins, while the crew lived in the steerage accommodation. They fed themselves, using the ship's galley which by this time were in working, order again. This move must have saved the Salvors a considerable amount of time and money, for until they came to live on board many, if not most of the party had been boarded out in Isozu village, as there was not room for them all on "Seiha Maru".
The salvors also made use of the ship's derricks and winches in getting their pumps and other heavy material on to the beach. At first these were taken round to the fishing harbour by launch, lifted on to the beach. by means of the sheerlegs and then across the beach to their required position, which was usually close to the ship. Once the ship's gear became available, they could bring the launch alongside the port side, and it was then an easy matter to lift material across the ship with the ship's gear, and on to the beach. The ship's derricks and winches were also used to get the heavy ground tackle gear on board. and, of course on the final day the winches and windlass were used to heave on the tackles.
Ground-tackles laying began as early as November 10th, two being laid out from the bows to seaward. The complete programme could not be carried out, of course, until the dredging had been completed as some of the tackles lay close to, if not actually in, the channel. The shore-ward tackles were all in position well before December 11th, two from the bow and one from the stern, as were also two seaward tackles from the bow (one of which the large suction dredger fouled on December 7th) and one from the starboard quarter. Between the time the large suction dredger left (4.0 a.m. December 10th), and noon on December 11th, three more tackles were laid from aft, and a towing wire taken to "Seiha Maru" which was stationed at the entrance to the dredger channel. All the ground tackle wires were 6".
At a conference between the ship and Salvors held on December 5th (i.e. after the arrival of the large suction dredger) the following programme was arranged:-
- Dec. 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th Dredge channel.
- Dec. 9th Dredger leaves.
- Dec. 10th Lay ground-tackles.
- Dec. 11th Refloat LW. 1600 hours.
- Dec. 12th -13th Examine "Changsha's" bottom and scrape barnacles from "Seiha Maria".
- Dec. 14th -15th Dismantle salvage gear and stow on "Seiha Maria.
- Dec. 16th Arrange towing wires and cables.
- Dec. 17th Begin tow.
- Dec. 20th Arrive Yokohama.
This programme was closely adhered to, being upset only by the outbreak of fire in "Changsha's" engine room on December 17th and which delayed departure for thirty three hours.
Fishermen's Foreshore Rights
In connection with the laying of the ground-shackles there occurred an incident which brought to the Salver's notice the local fishermen's off-shore fishing rights. Just what these consist of we are not in a position to say. In this instance one of the ground-tackle anchors had been paid close to a clump of two or three bamboo poles situated six hundred feet offshore, opposite "Changsha's" bow. They were all that was left, it is to be presumed, of a netted fish-trap which had been demolished by the typhoon, and until the ground-tackle was laid near them no effort had been made to re-establish the trap. The day after the anchor was laid, however, out came a fishing boat with a load of bamboo poles and nets with which the crew proceeded to rebuild the trap. As can be imagined it was not long before they complained to the Salvors that the ground tackle was in their way, and so that particular tackle was shifted. In this case, there seems to be no doubt that it was an old-established trap that was being rebuilt, for there were traces of other traps evenly spaced from each other stretching in the same straight line offshore and probably it was one that was used regularly before it was destroyed. We understand the Salvors received several claims of this nature, but they kept the details to themselves and gave the negotiations as little publicity as possible.
Engine Room Fire - 17th December 1959
Cause of the fire. The fireman on watch No. 2 fireman claimed there was a heavy flash back from the boiler, however, there is evidence of fierce fire under the plates in way the for'd end of the No.3 generator, which suggests an accumulation of oil there. The fire then appears to have shot upwards, igniting the insulation of the wiring running above the boiler travelling along the wires. The worst of the fire appears to have taken place in this region and damage to wiring and insulation is extensive.
During the 4-8 watch on the morning of 17th. Dec., difficulty had been experienced in getting the heavy oil fuel though to the burner. The fireman failed to call any of the engineers about this, but had rigged up a temporary line to run the boiler on diesel oil. To do this meant breaking the oil line from the heater to the boiler and removing the bottom length of pipe. He then connected up this temporary line, which consisted of two short lengths of rubber hose and a length of steel pipe, from the fuel supply line on the generator to the burner on the boiler. This arrangement was done without the knowledge of any of the engineers.
According to No 2 fireman, the boiler was lit and working on diesel oil. About 06.45 hrs. he went to open the steam valve to the heavy oil service tank when the flash occurred,. Being unable to get to the valve to shut off the fuel he went and called No.1 fireman. When they both returned to the scene it was impossible to enter the engine room, so they then called the engineers. By this time entry to the engine room was impossible due to the dense black smoke.
Immediate action was taken to to shut off all fuel run downs from the service tanks, stop all engine room ventilation fans, close skylights, ventilation flaps and watertight door. Canvas covers were placed over the for'd vents. The steam smothering was opened but it is doubtful if there sufficient, if any, steam to be effective. Attempts were made to to put the foam generator into operation but it was impossible to get any water through it. No.1 generator and the general service pump were still running, although the fuel supply was shut off at the service tank.
Attempts were made to enter the engine room with the aid of a smoke helmet which were unsuccessful due to bad visibility and the air pipe fouling. Up until this time there was no indication of where the fire was taking place. It was then decided to lift a few CO2 bottles into the E.R. on the port side middle platform entrance. While doing this the first actual sight of the fire was made, and it appeared to be fairly high up in the region of the boiler.
At this time Capt Kato of the Salvage Co. arrived with two of his crew with a hose fed from a portable pump in a sampan. The fire then was extinguished. As the atmosphere cleared, smouldering lagging and insulation on the boiler and engine exhaust, and electrical cables etc. were then dealt with.
The heavy fuel in use, ex Sydney, had a high pour point, (high wax content ex Bass Strait crude) and had solidified in the pipe to the boiler burner. When the fireman had the boiler firing on diesel fuel, the heat from the boiler shell melted the heavy fuel in the open ended fuel supply line allowing it to drip onto the burner casing where it formed a spray and ignited with a flash - not a blow back. The save all underneath had by this time had an accumulation of fuel which ignited and fed the fire along with further fuel from the open ended pipe.
The failure of the valve on the foam generator was serious but the vessel had been out of commission for some time. A similar failure had occurred on the "Taiyuan" 3 months previously, and it is expected that the valve design be improved.
It should be noted that the C/E and 2/E had only joined the "Changsha" about 14 days prior to the fire.
According to CNCo fleet folklore, as related to the writer by the late Barrie Gant, when the "Changsha" returned to Hong Kong, the crew refused to sign new Articles, saying that the ship was unlucky, and they would not sign on again until a feng shui expert had visited the ship and diagnosed her problem.
Attempts by CNCo Management to palm the crew off with a cheap feng shui expert were to no avail; the crew, through their appointed spokesmen (presumably the Bosun, the Number One Fireman and the Chief Steward) specified the most renowned (and consequently expensive) feng shui expert to be found in Hong Kong.
This gentleman was contacted; he agreed to come aboard and inspect the ship,which he did, accompanied by a "crocoodile" of crew representatives and CNCo management, the latter dreading what he might see fit to require (Hong Kongers will recall that the entrance to the Connaught Centre is not located where you might expect it to be, thanks to the demands of feng shui). There was a suggestion that the funnel might have to be re-located.
After a careful tour of inspection, the feng shui expert assembled the management team and the crew representatives, and announced, "I have found the problem!" (Sharp intake of breath from management..)
"In the First Class Smoking Room, there is a Buddha." (So there was, a very nice antique, in a niche.)
"This is the cause of the trouble. He is a Land Buddha, so he is always wanting to make the ship go to land!"
"I will replace him with a Sea Buddha, and you will have no more trouble!"
The antique Buddha disappeared into the feng shui expert's capacious bag, out of which he produced a vile piece of tourist tat, looking vaguely Buddha shaped, which he proceeded to place, reverently, in the niche vacated by the antique.
And indeed there was no more trouble...