The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Feb. 2, 1863

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p.2 Business on Lake Superior - The annual report of the Superintendent of the Sault St. Mary Canal to the Governor of Michigan says that during the last year there passed through the ship canal $12,000,000 worth of copper and iron, and general merchandise to the value of $10,000,000. The number of vessels, sail and steam, that passed through the canal was 838, and the aggregate tonnage was 349,612 tons. In 1861 the number of vessels was 527 and the tonnage 276,637 tons. The tolls collected on the canal are 6 cents per ton, making an income of $21,676.62. The trade last year may be divided as follows:- Iron, pig, and ore, 150,000 tons; copper 9,200; general merchandise, 80,000 tons.


An adjourned meeting of ship-owners and others interested in the trade, was held in Kingston on the 29th day of January, 1863, for the purpose of receiving the report of the committee on marine interests. In the absence of O.S. Gildersleeve, Esq., Captain Robert Gaskin was called to the chair. The following report was read, adopted, ordered to be signed by the chairman and secretary, and printed:

The Committee appointed in reference to matters pertaining to the marine interests of the Province, would respectively report: - That, having had the subject under consideration, they find the following among the prominent evils that require prompt and efficient remedies -

1st - In the case of a collision with a foreign vessel, as the law now stands, there is no redress for the Canadian owner or master obtainable in the courts of the Province above tide-water.

2nd - In cases of salvage, there is no Court having Admiralty powers to determine the amount the salvors should receive; and the consequence is, that the same efforts are not used to save property which would be if the liberal policy of Admiral Courts was enforced.

3rd - In cases of repairs upon and supplies furnished to foreign vessels, there is no law giving a lien upon nor allowing processes to be issued against them.

4th - That in cases of demurrage the owners and masters of vessels are without any remedy.

5th - That in the trial of marine cases the matters are submitted to a jury unacquainted with the meaning of nautical terms, and in a great measure are ignorant of the purport of the evidence detailed by sea-faring men.

6th - That masters of Canadian vessels are subject to having their men leave them upon reaching a foreign port, for the reason that there is no law compelling seamen to sign shipping articles.

As a remedy for the above, your Committee would suggest the enactment of a law giving power to the Governor General to appoint three persons to be styled "Marine Commissioners," one to be stationed at Montreal, one at Kingston, and the other at St. Catherines, with jurisdiction extending from Three Rivers to and including Coteau du Lac, to be called the Eastern Division - from Coteau du Lac to and including Toronto, to be called the Centre Division - and from Toronto westward, to be called the Western Division.

The Marine Commissioners to be men of at least fifteen years' experience as seamen, five of which they shall have been masters, and also experienced in the sailing of vessels on our inland waters; and no person to be eligible to the office who has any interest directly or indirectly in any vessel sailing on Canadian waters, nor shall he be so interested during his continuance in office.

The salary of each Marine Commissioner to be twelve hundred dollars per annum.

Each Marine Commissioner to have jurisdiction to hear and determine any claim or demand arising in his district, not exceeding four hundred dollars, growing out of the matters hereinbefore specified, whose decisions shall be final.

Provided, however, that upon written consent of the parties the Marine Commissioners shall have power to try and determine any claim without reference to the amount involved.

Fees to be taxed, collected and paid to said Marine Commissioners, who shall pay over the same, together with all other fees that may come into their hands, to the Receiver General of the Province, who shall credit the same to account of Marine Commissioners, and any surplus which shall remain after paying the salaries of said Marine Commissioners, shall be set apart as a fund for the purpose of establishing a Marine Hospital.

No claim or demand other than the wages of the officers and crew, which shall extend for six months after their discharge, shall be held as a lien upon any vessel except for foreign vessels, which said foreign vessels shall be held liable for all debts contracted in the Province.

In all cases where process is allowed against a vessel, it shall be the duty of the Marine Commissioner, upon affidavit being made and filed, setting forth the cause of action, to grant an attachment against the vessel, which attachment may be discharged upon the master or his agent giving bond in double the amount of the claim, to be approved by said Marine Commissioner, and conditioned to pay whatever judgement may be recovered against the vessel upon the trial of the cause.

Said Marine Commissioners shall have power to hear and determine all complaints made by masters against seamen for wilful absence from their vessel for a period of twenty-four hours without leave, in writing, from the proper officer in charge. Upon conviction, each seamen shall be liable to forfeit two days' pay for each day absent, and to a further punishment of imprisonment in the county gaol for one calendar month, in the discretion of the Marine Commissioners.

That where cases arise in places where there is no resident Marine Commissioner, any Justice of the Peace shall have concurrent jurisdiction to hear and determine the same, and also to issue writs of attachment, accept bond in discharge of the same, as provided in the case of Marine Commissioners. Provided, however, that either party may appeal from the decision of the Justice of the Peace to the Marine Commissioner of the district, who upon said appeal shall try the case de novo, and whose judgement shall be final.

It shall also be the duty of each Marine Commissioner in his respective district to examine the hulls, boats and rigging of all Canadian sailing vessels, and if approved, shall give a certificate to that effect.

For each examination they shall demand and receive a fee of ten dollars; and no vessel shall be allowed a clearance unless the certificate aforesaid shall be produced before and examined by the custom-house officer from whom the clearance is required.

That whenever a vessel is detained twenty-four hours after her arrival at the place of discharging, and is prevented from discharging her cargo through the fault of her consignees, the owner or master shall be entitled to demurrage not to exceed one hundred dollars per diem on large class vessels and on others in proportion, upon written notice being daily left with the consignee or the person in charge of his office or business, and which demurrage shall be a charge upon the cargo as freight.

That in all cases where the demand shall exceed four hundred dollars (except where the parties agree in writing that the same shall be tried and determined by a Marine Commissioner) the same shall be tried by some of our present courts, to whom admiralty powers shall be given.

The Marine Commissioner of the district in which the court is held shall be associated with the judge in the trial of all maritime cases, and none but seamen shall be jurors in the trial of the same.

They would further recommend that a general law be enacted, requiring all masters of Canadian vessels to have their crews sign shipping articles, and that each seaman be required to pay twenty cents upon signing the same, and that the master also be required to pay an additional twenty cents for each seaman shipped, to be a charge against the vessel, which amounts shall be paid by the master to the custom-house officer of the port where such seamen or crew shall be shipped, who shall perform the duties of shipping masters, receipt upon the shipping articles for the amounts so received, and transmit the same, with his quarterly accounts, to the Receiver General, who shall place the same to the credit of the account of Marine Commissioners.

No clearance shall be allowed any vessel unless the shipping articles, with the receipt of the custom-house officer, be produced before and examined by the officer from whom the clearance is required; and it shall be the duty of the officer granting such clearance to take the oath of the master that the seamen named in the shipping articles, and none other, comprise his present crew. Any master sailing without complying with the provisions of this article shall be subject to a fine of twenty dollars.

R. Gaskin, Chairman

Robert Patterson, Secretary

Note - Part of the committee were of opinion that it would be sufficient for captains of vessels to have shipping articles signed in presence of the mate, and pay the fees to the Marine Commissioner, who shall have a right at all times to examine the shipping articles, or to the custom-house officer where there is no resident Commissioner, and not be compelled to produce them at the custom-house before getting a clearance.

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Feb. 2, 1863
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Daily News (Kingston, ON), Feb. 2, 1863