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Monday, October 14, 2013

whiskey salvage from SS Politician... old wine fetches high value !!

Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain of barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and corn. Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, made generally of charred white oak. Some famous names in Indian market are : Ballantine’s; Imperial Blue; Jack Daniel’s; Original Choice; Old Tavern; Royal Stag; Bag Piper;  Mcdowell; Officer’s Choice;  Johnnie Walker ~ and many of you know it better.

In Nov 2012, Cyclone Nilam brought in its wake an oil tanker MT Pratibha Cauvery which went adrift and agrounded near Chennai Pattinapakkam area.  After great efforts, the vessel was salvaged, pulled to sea – had to remain in Chennai due to legal wrangles and eventually sold for scrapping….

The founding principle of insurance is to indemnify i.e., make good the losses suffered by the insured (the policy holder). In property insurance there could only be loss or damage – either total or partial in nature. When the property insured is not totally destroyed, there will be still some value – even otherwise, there is estimated value that an asset will realize upon its sale at the end of its useful life. This is commonly known as ‘salvage value’.  In any claim, the salvage value or the residual value of the damaged property is deducted from the claim assessment unless of course the property is surrendered to the Insurers.  

Marine insurance is deep and very interesting. Here we call losses as average – thus particular average is partial loss. There can also be Total loss. Again, the TL could be ATL (Actual Total Loss), CTL (Constructive Total Loss), Loss of Specie et al. The Marine Policy also pays expenses – sometimes over and above the sum insured also. Some of these are : Sue and Labour charges, Particular charges, Salvage charges.

In marine Insurance parlance , Salvage charges are remuneration payable to Third party who independently of any contract render services to any vessel carrying cargo at distress at sea, generally on ‘no cure no pay’ basis. At sea situation could be disastrous, and it would require more than a herculean effort to get a semblance of order. Thus, Marine salvage is the process of recovering a ship, its cargo, or other property after a shipwreck. Salvage encompasses towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship. Today the protection of the environment from cargoes such as oil or other contaminants is often considered a high priority. "Salvors" are seamen and engineers who carry out salvage to vessels that are not owned by themselves, and who are not members of the vessel's original crew.

It may sound simple, but requires extraordinary effort as the foremost problem that confronts the expert is in restoring buoyancy to the vessel that met with misfortune. To the salvor every wreck is a riddle. Tides and currents and other extraneous factors  make the riddle more complex.

We have heard of collisions and sinking of ships…. Gone to the sea bed forever and would never be salved… they may not even remain in the same place where they sank…. Underwater sea currents may take them to far off places…. sea is unfathomable !!!!

Here is something read in Daily Mail in May 2013 of a 1941 ship wreck, items salvaged and two rare bottles sold for a high value, though they are no longer useable !

The interesting report reads that - Two rare bottles of whisky salvaged from a shipwreck off Eriskay in 1941 which inspired a book and film Whisky Galore  were auctioned. A whisky collector  paid more than £12,000 [approx Rs.12 lakhs by present value]  for two bottles of now-undrinkable whisky salvaged from a shipwreck which inspired a book and a film. The collectors' items were sold as a pair by Britain's biggest internet-only auction site Scotch Whisky Auctions, based in Glasgow, after more than a week of bidding which closed on Sunday.

The bottles, which have documents of authentication, were part of the cargo on the 8,000-ton cargo ship the SS Politician, which sank off the shores of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in 1941 and inspired the book and film Whisky Galore. They were bought by an unidentified UK buyer who fought off rival bids from collectors around the world to win the auction with his or her bid of £12,050. Scotch Whisky Auctions director Bill Mackintosh said: 'I'm obviously very, very pleased for the people on whose behalf we sold it and I just think it's an incredible figure. 'It's not a whisky anybody's going to drink so they've bought it for its scarcity value and the fact that it's a fantastic part of Scotland's social history.' He added: 'Everybody loves the idea of the wily islanders diving to the bottom of the wreck and coming back up with bottles of whisky which they would then hide from the customs. 'But it is true that there are only eight which have have been authenticated recently and these are two of those which were sold at Christie's some time ago.'

The eight bottles surfaced in 1987 when local man Donald MacPhee from South Uist in the Outer Hebrides explored the wreck and found his liquid treasure. He sold them at auction with Christie's and got £4,000 for his loot. The present auction is for the 2 out of those, reportedly bought by a man in Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire. He has recently died and his widow decided to sell them along with the neck tags from Christie's and letters of authentication.

The 8,000-ton cargo ship the SS Politician foundered off of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in 1941. A total of 28,000 cases of malt whisky were on board at the time when the ship, sailing from Liverpool to the Jamaican capital of Kingston and New Orleans in the US, crashed. Islanders salvaged much of the cargo, including many bottles of whisky, but only the eight from 1987 have been authenticated.

The 1949 film Whisky Galore told the tale of the Scottish islanders who took advantage of their unexpected windfall… the sinking of the SS Politician with thousands of bottles of alcohol on board was a godsend for the islanders who hadn't had a drink for months.  The official documents from Christie's state: '2 bottles bottled by W & A Gilbey with original cork and wax sealed by Christie's in plain glass with shoulder embossing stating, 'Federal law forbids sale or re-use of this bottle'

0ld wine they say, increases in value …. Whether it is drinkable or not !!!

with regards – S. Sampathkumar

11th Oct 2013


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