HC Deb 28 April 1876 vol 228 cc1879-85

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 18 (Marking of load-line).


said, with reference to an Amendment standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll), that the Bill was not generally expected to be proceeded with that evening, and he was quite sure the absence of the hon. Member was purely unintentional. As, however, there were other points to be considered on the Report, the question in which the hon. Member was interested might be discussed then.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19 (Penalty for offences in relation to marks on ships).

MR. GRIEVE moved, as an Amendment, in page 11, line 6, after "ship," to insert "wilfully."


opposed the Amendment, believing it to be necessary that there should be some penalty attached to neglect, even though it might not be deliberate and wilful.

Amendment negatived.

MR. E. JENKINS (for Mr. PLIMSOLL) moved, as an Amendment, in page 11, line 8, after "marked," to insert "or who allows the ship to be so loaded as to submerge the centre of the disc."


opposed the Amendment. He was inclined at first to treat the submerging of the disc as a criminal proceeding; but he thought it would be better to leave the clause as it stood. The clause was of the nature of a contract by which the shipowner, who himself fixed the disc, undertook that his maximum loading should not exceed its centre, and, if it did, he would be liable to a civil action, or a prosecution for misdemeanour, besides vitiating his insurance.


asked if a ship's crew were drowned, in consequence of that breach of contract, who was to bring the action? If not drowned but wrecked, they would have to remain on shore, and lose time and money in prosecuting their claims, so that even if they succeeded they would but gain a loss. The Amendment was absolutely necessary to give effect to what the Government declared to be their one object, and they would neither act honestly nor fairly if they did not accept it. The fact was, that the right hon. Gentleman did not know his own mind upon the question of load line, and hence all these difficulties in dealing with the question.


supported the Amendment. It was not possible, except in the calmest water, to tell within several inches how a vessel was actually laden.


opposed it. The clause was much more stringent and severe than Clause 18, and imposed a penalty of £100 for breach of contract. The Board of Trade would have no difficulty in enforcing that penalty.


did not see any necessity for the introduction of the words. At the same time, he did not understand how an action could be brought for breach of contract, because in Clause 18 there was no absolute contract between the shipowner and the seamen.


pointed out this section in Clause 18—"The master of the ship shall also enter a copy of this statement in the agreement with his crew." That, he suspected, would make it part of the contract. Criminal proceedings could also be taken for sending a ship to sea in a dangerous state, and the owner stated that the mark showed the maximum point to which the ship would be laden; therefore, if the mark was submerged, the ship would be acknowledged over-loaded.


observed, that it was impossible to obtain damages for anticipated danger. A load line was asked for to prevent a ship being sunk too deeply in the water; but he contended that if a penalty were not inflicted for putting the load line under water there would be very little use in having a load line at all, and that the shipowner would escape punishment unless the ship were lost. If the Amendment were not accepted it would be better to expunge the clause altogether.


thought the hon. and learned Member for Taunton did not quite appreciate the force of the clause as it stood without a penalty. He (the Attorney General) maintained that even without a penalty the clause would be effective. Under the 18th clause the shipowner was required to put a load line on his ship at the maximum point to which he intended to load his ship. If he loaded the ship beyond that point he would break the contract into which he had entered with the sailors. If no damage thereby ensued to a seaman he could not recover more than nominal damages, but he would have a perfect right to refuse to proceed to sea, and the owner would be unable to compel him. Even if the vessel went to sea, and an accident occurred in consequence of her being overloaded, the mere fact of the load line having been submerged would be most cogent evidence of negligence on the part of the owner. There would be one great advantage which they would have, and which it was intended they should have. If a seaman was drowned his family might sue the owner for compensation for loss of his life, and if the submerging of the load line made the ship unseaworthy, the owner would further expose himself to a charge of manslaughter.


apprehended that the shipowners would not in the least object to the insertion of the Amendment. The hon. and learned Attorney General had well pointed out the consequences to the owner of submerging his load line; and besides that, in the event of loss, he (Mr. Rathbone) wondered what sort of a chance he would stand of recovering his insurance from the underwriters.


said, that if hon. Members generally in the shipping interest were in favour of the Amendment, he would not further contend against it.


thought there was every reason for the Amendment. If the Government wanted the load line to be respected at all it would be necessary to inflict some definite punishment upon any man who submerged his ship below his own voluntary load line, whether it was attended with any loss of life or not.


as a lawyer, objected to the Amendment as it would render it impossible for the Judges to interpret the Act. It was quite a mistake to suppose that if an owner loaded his ship to a deeper line than he had marked on his ship he either vitiated his assurance or violated any contract, or committed a misdemeanour. The 18th clause defined what were to be the offences under the Act, and this clause defined the penalties with which they were to be visited. A change of intention was not an offence under the 18th, and therefore it did not come within the scope of the 19th clause, which merely dealt with penalties.


admired the legal subtleties of the hon. and learned Member for the Denbigh Boroughs; but thought the Committee should be guided not so much by law as by common sense. They had, after much debating, come to the point that a load line should be marked on the side by the shipowner, and it would be the height of absurdity not to inflict a penalty if that load line were submerged. The hon. and learned Attorney General said that a sailor on going on board, if he saw the load line submerged, could refuse to sail; but gentlemen connected with shipping knew that generally when sailors went aboard they were incapable of knowing whether the ship was overloaded or not—to use a nautical phrase they could not see a hole in a grate. If they wanted to protect the seaman, there must be a penalty for submerging the load line, otherwise the load line was altogether a delusion.


considered that under the Amendment a shipowner would be liable to a penalty if the load-line were submerged in fresh water.


considered a shipowner would have a perfect right to overload in fresh water, inasmuch as when the vessel got into salt water she would rise three or four inches, which would be so much an addition to the freeboard.


said, that the discussion was, in his opinion, a waste of time. The Government had accepted the Amendment, and they had, in his opinion, acted rightly in so doing. It would be an absurdity to establish a load line if it were not made a line for ensuring safety.

Amendment amended by inserting after the word "submerge," the words "in sea water," and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Investigations into Shipping Casualties.

Clause 20 (Appointment, duties, and powers of wreck commissioners for investigating shipping casualties), amended, and agreed to.

Clause 21 (Assessors and rules of procedure on formal investigations into shipping casualties).

MR. RATHBONE moved, as an Amendment, the insertion of the words— Where an investigation may involve the cancellation or suspension of the certificate of the master or mate, one of the assessors shall, if practicable, be a person having experience in the merchant service.

Amendment agreed to; words inserted.

MR. WILSON moved, as an Amendment, in page 12, line 16, at end, add— And in the absence of any such charge no master or officer shall be required to give up his certificate.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "and in the absence of any such charge no master or officer shall be required to give up his certificate."—(Mr. Wilson.)


thought the Amendment very undesirable, as a master or officer might have shown himself thoroughly incompetent, and yet he would be able, under the Amendment, to take his services elsewhere.


said, that no master or officer was required at present to give up his certificate in the absence of such a charge against him.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 66; Noes 147: Majority 81.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 (Power for wreck commissioner to institute examination with respect to ships in distress under 17 & 18 Vict. c. 104. s. 448), agreed to.

Clause 23 (Power to hold inquiries or formal investigations as to stranded and missing ships).

MR. MURPHY moved, as an Amendment, in page 12, line 25, to leave out "stranded or," and insert "materially."


objected to the Amendment of the inquiry being to ascertain how the master ran the ship aground, and not whether she was "materially" damaged or not. It was equally important to ascertain how a ship was mismanaged and stranded, whether she was lucky enough to get afloat again, only slightly injured not.

Amendment negatived.


proposed as an Amendment, in page 12, line 25, to insert the word "seriously" after "stranded or."

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Training Ships.

Clause 24 (Contribution from Mercantile Marine Fund to training ships).


said, he would move that the Chairman should report Progress. They had now made considerable progress, and it was almost half-past 12 o'clock.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Chairman report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Watkin Williams.)


appealed to the hon. and learned Member not to press his Motion.


was of opinion that the Chairman ought to report Progress. The Bill was a most important one, and the clause now proposed required serious consideration, and there were many hon. Members who were desirous to express their opinions upon it.

Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.