The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 21 Dec 1908

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p.4 Incidents of the Day - With the arrival of the steamer Kinmount, light from Prescott, navigation with the M.T. Co. was closed for the season.

Dec. 22, 1908



Vessel Owners Lose Money By Present System.

[Toronto Globe]

Patience and perseverance are prime essentials in the make up of the men who operate steamships on the great lakes; in fact they have to possess more than the ordinary endowment of these characteristics. That they have exhibited more than ordinary patience in trying to find a solution for the grain shortage problem, one of the greatest problems that confront them, has been demonstrated within recent years.

For almost fifty years the ship owners of Canada have been endeavoring to devise means by which they might protect themselves against expenditures incurred through grain shortages in the carrying of grain from the head of the lakes to various points on Lake Ontario. It is estimated that the amount lost by the Canadian steamship companies engaged in the grain trade averages from $25,000 to $40,000 during the seven months of sailing each year. Some companies, it is said, during the past year paid out between $8,000 and $10,000 for shortages. This is a big item, it helps to cut down the dividends.

For some time past the Dominion Marine Association has been collecting information with a view to having the dominion government, which has shown a willingness to remedy matters, to reach an equitable solution of the trouble.

Under the existing Manitoba act, the enactment of which was brought about by the activity of the North-West Farmers' Association, several years ago, the vessel owner is held responsible for every ounce of grain weighed out of the elevators into his ship at the port of loading. This is done under the supervision of a government officer who issues a certified bill of lading when the vessel is ready to sail. Prior to this innovation the shortages of cargoes were so numerous that the shipper experienced some difficulty in securing tonnage to carry grain, except under stringent conditions. This opened a channel for investigation, hence the appointment of inspectors. Since that time, however, the shipowner has been on the alert. He has tried to give the present system of loading a thorough test, in order that the government might ascertain where the leakages, if any, existed.

Clearing House System Suggested.

In the opinion of some of the leading shipowners of Canada, the introduction of a clearing house system at the head of the lakes for the loading of vessels is the only practical solution. The idea has been approved by vesselmen generally, and the government has despatched a capable official to look over the situation at Fort William and Port Arthur. A few weeks hence, the Dominion Marine Association will hold a special meeting in Toronto to discuss the matter, at which there will be present marine men from all parts of Canada.

To show that the present system has not reached the root of the trouble, a prominent vessel-owner forwarded to the Globe a copy of a statement of a freight settlement on a cargo of grain shipped from Fort William to a lower lake port, showing one of the difficulties vessel-owners have to contend with, and adding: We would like very much to know how we could arrive at an equitable rate to charge on grain, when we are now practically assured on every trip of a shortage ranging from this amount to fifty bushels, the average shortage being in the neighborhood, the average shortage being in the neighborhood of 500 bushels per trip."

According to the book of lading the company was obliged to settle for a shortage in a cargo of 120,000 bushels of wheat, the out-turn of which was 118,550 bushels, and fifty pounds at the discharging elevator, a shortage of 1,495 bushels and ten pounds. The lake freight charges were $2,371.01, but after the shortage and expense incurred for discharging, the owners of the vessel received $406.43, which was not sufficient to cover the ordinary running expenses of the trip.

A representative of the Globe, looking into the question, interviewed several steamship men in Toronto, who control some of the large vessels that make a specialty of carrying grain. "This is the greatest problem that we have before us in the shipping industry," said F. Plummer, general manager of the Canadian Lake line. "It is a perplexing task, and one that has cost the company with which I am connected a great deal of money. Up till the end of October last, the several steamers controlled by the Canadian line were assessed for shortages to the extent of 5,000 bushels and thirty-six pounds. The average for these vessels totalled 910 bushels and fifty-two pounds. They carried about 4,585,438 bushels of grain, which cost anyway from $1 to $1.10 per bushel.

"The six steamers of the Canadian Transportation company, operated in conjunction with the Canadian line," said Mr. Plummer, "carried 2,239,134 bushels of grain. Their averages amounted to 385 bushels and six pounds, while they were short 2,754 bushels and fifty-four pounds, leaving an actual net shortage of 2,369 bushels and forty-eight pounds."

Shortages Are Costly.

"Mistakes cost money," continued Mr. Plummer, "but under existing conditions we have to assume the responsibility and settle if we fail to produce the amount of grain specified on the bill of lading when we reach the discharging point. For instance, on Oct. 27th last, the steamer Sottish Hero loaded a cargo of No. 1 northern wheat at Fort William for Goderich. The captain was handed a certified bill of lading, but after the vessel had cleared it was discovered that in a bin beneath the scales there were 1,072 bushels and 40 pounds of wheat, which should have been in the hold of the vessel. When the mistake was discovered the receiving elevator at Goderich was notified and the bill of lading amended.

This shows the absolute unreliability of the present weighing arrangements under which the vessel owner has no means of checking the grain as it is weighed. It is utterly impossible to protect ourselves. The clearing house system appeals to me, as the most feasible remedy for the whole trouble, or else the amending of the present clause and the placing of the onus upon the shipper. I think the government is trying to do all in its power to assist us in placing this matter on an equitable basis."

"It is a very great hardship to ship-owners," said J.T. Mathews, of the Mathews Steamship company, "to have to bear the brunt of these shortages in grain cargoes. We have had our share of trouble in this respect, but our shortages during the past year have not been quite so heavy as in former years. Under existing conditions I do not think we should have to accept the weight given at the loading elevator as final. The shippers have no reason to reflect upon the honesty of the inspectors or those controlling the elevators, but it does seem unreasonable to ask us to carry cargoes under the present terms. I feel that it is rather arbitrary on the part of the government to insist upon us accepting these conditions. Of course, I suppose that the government had the idea that the present system would afford adequate protection both for the vessel-owner and the shipper. The system has been tried and found wanting. In my opinion the difficulty can only be overcome by establishing a clearing house system at the loading elevators, which would not only serve to protect the shipowers, but materially assist in giving the shipper better despatch in the loading of grain.

One Company's Heavy Loss.

"Grain shortages cost us about $5,000 last year," said A.A. Wright, of the St. Lawrence & Chicago Navigation company, and it is just possible it will be about the same this year. I feel that this trouble will continue to prevail until we get a clearing house at Fort William and Port Arthur. The question has been taken up by the Winnipeg Board of Trade, which has appointed a special committee to look into the matter. The method of doing business at the upper lake ports must be changed. By instituting a clearing house, the orders for the loading of grain would go through one office, which would ensure proper protection for the vessel-owner against shortage and practically result in a vessel receiving its cargo at one elevator, or two or three in extreme cases. Under existing conditions some of the vessels go to at least ten or eleven elevators before they get their full cargo. When the cargo is discharged at its destination if a shortage exists the vesselmen are unable to account for it, or even discover at which elevator the grain was not properly weighed before being put into the vessel. By having a clearing house this trouble would be dispensed with. It would enable the vessels to secure their loads with despatch, and at the same time afford the government inspector every opportunity of detecting the small weight before the vessel clears.

"A few years ago," concluded Mr. Wright, "when merchandise cargoes were scarce, we could fix the rates so as to cover any loss through shortages on grain cargoes, but with the constant increasing of Canadian tonnage the competition was so keen that we had to dispense with that practice."

Dec. 23, 1908

p.3 Closing the Inquiry - enquiry into marine department just about over at Ottawa.

p.7 A Faster Steamer - Is Handling Business on the Island Route - yacht Fleeta, larger and faster, has taken place of the Kittie, running twice a day between Thousand Island Park and Clayton.

Dec. 24, 1908



Sixteen Vessels Passed Out Of Existence.

Detroit, Dec. 24th - During the past season sixteen vessels, ten steamers and six schooners, passed out of existence in the lakes. The boats were total losses and were valued at $631,000. They had a carrying capacity of 26,250 tons a trip. Eight of the vessels stranded and were pounded to pieces, five schooners burnt, two were lost in collisions and one steamer foundered. Only two were of steel. The greatest loss of the season was the steel steamer D.M. Clemson, which foundered in Lake Superior. Twenty-four lives were lost on her. She was valued at $300,000 and, with her coal cargo, worth $42,000 ($12,000 ?), was insured. The package freight steamer Northern Queen, on Lake Huron, was insured for $120,000. She had a valuable cargo which was also insured.

Dec. 26, 1908


Dec. 28, 1908


Dec. 29, 1908

p.4 Likely To Build - Cape Vincent Yacht Club hope to build club house.

p.5 Pith of the News - Capt. Sinclair, a veteran vesselman, dropped dead at Port Huron, Mich., while out for a walk. He was born in 1834 and had sailed the great lakes since childhood.

Dec. 30, 1908

p.8 Day's Episodes - The steamer Rosemount discharged the balance of her cargo of wheat at Richardsons' elevator yesterday, and was laid up in the M.T. Co.'s slip.

Dec. 31, 1908

p.6 Events in Kingston For Year - March 21st - death of Capt. John Gaskin.

April 7th - steamer Charles Lyons, Toronto to Prescott, first steamer to enter Kingston harbor this spring.

Oct. 12th - Capt. J.H. Scott accidentally drowned in Swift & Co.'s slip.

p.8 Argyle Owners Lose Case - Justice Teetzel, at Toronto, awarded Selby & Youlden, Kingston, $250 damages against the Lake Ontario Navigation company for damages caused by the steamer Argyle to plaintiff's marine railway.

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21 Dec 1908
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 21 Dec 1908