HC Deb 26 July 1866 vol 184 cc1529-30

said, he wished to ask the President of the Board of Trade, in reference to the collision of the Amazon and Osprey, How it is to be explained that the whole of the crew of the Osprey has been saved, while the passengers committed to their charge, principally women, have been lost; and if it should appear that this has resulted from an absence of all discipline on the part of the crew at the time of the accident, if he will consider the propriety of framing some legislative enactment with the view to avoid the scandal such occurrences justly caused?


said, that in the absence of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, he would endeavour to reply to the Question of the hon. Member. The unfortunate collision took place at midnight, and not more than from three to five minutes elapsed before the Osprey went down. When the master found the danger was so imminent, he rushed into the cabin and roused the passengers, brought them on deck, and placed them in the life boat, into which he went himself with his wife and children. Unhappily the gear of the davits was out of order, and before it could be cleared the Osprey went down, taking with her the life boat and all on board. The master and his wife rose to the surface, and were picked up by the boats of the Amazon; but the rest, including two of the master's own children and six women, were never seen again. At the moment the ship was sinking, the crew saved themselves by climbing up the bow of the Amazon, which was then over the quarter of the Osprey. By the 232nd section of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, it was enacted that any master or seaman was guilty of a misdemeanor who, by wilful neglect of his duty, omitted to do any lawful act for the preservation of his ship and those on board. Beyond this it was impossible to go. For a person to neglect his own safety in order to provide for that of others, and he was happy to say that this was no uncommon thing either in the Royal Navy or the merchant service, was a matter which could not be enforced by legal penalties. It was what was technically called a duty of imperfect obligation. The Government, however, did all they could to encourage the performance of acts of this kind by granting rewards, the highest of which was the Albert medal, recently instituted by Her Majesty. It appeared to the Board of Trade that this was not a case for either reward or punishment.