The Carlgarth [1927] P 93

Shipping law – Obstruction


A stern tugboat, the Carlgarth, grounded on the bank of the entrance channel to Manchester Ship Canal. This was constructed and maintained by the Canal Company, under the powers of the Manchester Ship Canal Acts. The boat’s propeller picked up a chain and sustained damage in doing so as the chain was fastened to a ‘Deadman’ lying on the bank. It was claimed that the approach to the lock was a public waterway and that the chain was an obstruction to a ship’s navigation. On this basis, it was claimed that the Canal Co. were liable to the owners of the Carlgarth for the damage caused to the ship in the course of events.


The issue, in this case, regarded whether the Carlgarth had the right to ground itself on the banking at the entrance of the ship canal where it had sustained the damage and if it did have a licence to this effect, it was important for the court to assess whether the damage could be attributed to the Canal Company.


Assuming that the entrance could be considered a public navigable highway, the fact that the tug collected the chain did not constitute a nuisance, obstruction or a trap, especially as the Carlgarth had grounded itself on the bank and operated its propeller in the mud on the bank, which would have effectively damaged the boat as well. Importantly, the court also highlighted that the right to navigate through a channel such as this one does not include the right to ground on the banking.