Owners of ‘Frances’ v Owners of ‘Highland Loch’: HL 29 Jan 1912

The s.s. ‘Highland Loch,’ of 4675 tons register, was built and about to be launched at a shipbuilding yard upon the river Mersey. The ketch ‘Frances,’ of 71 tons, was anchored in the river opposite and near the line of the intended launch. She had dragged anchor and got foul of some moorings in the river. All the usual notices of the intended launch were given by the shipbuilders, who also sent warnings to the master of the ‘Frances’ more than two hours before the launch. They requested him to move the ‘Frances’ from her position and offered to tow her to a safe position. They continued to give warning and make the offer until immediately before the launch, which was delayed for a quarter of an hour; the master of the ‘Frances,’ however, could not heave his anchor, and refused to slip his cable unless the shipbuilders would undertake liability for a new anchor. At the launching the ‘Highland Loch’ collided with the ‘Frances’ and caused injury, in respect of which the owners of the ‘Frances’ sued the shipbuilders. The building supports of the ‘Highland Loch’ had been in course of removal for hours before the launch, and it was proved to the satisfaction of the Court that further postponement of the launch would have involved considerable danger to the ship and to the workmen engaged in the building yard.
Held that the master of the ‘Frances’ acted unreasonably in refusing to slip his cable and move her; that the owners of the ‘Highland Loch’ were thereby placed in a position in which they had to take one of two risks; that in deciding to proceed with the launch they took the lesser risk and acted properly; and that the ‘Frances’ was accordingly alone to blame.


Lord Chancellor (Loreburn), the Earl of Halsbury, Lords Macnaghten and Atkinson, with Nautical Assessors


[1912] UKHL 691, 49 SLR 691




England and Wales


Updated: 25 April 2022; Ref: scu.619228