HC Deb 19 February 1877 vol 232 cc577-8

asked the President of the Board of Trade, If his attention has been called to the dangerous manner in which gunpowder and other combustibles are conveyed in cargo and passenger ships; if he is aware that large quantities of gunpowder are shipped in loose kegs with no other preventive against explosion save a few deals and sails in lieu of properly-constructed magazines; and, what measures he intends adopting in order to put a stop to a custom alike dangerous to life and property?


Sir, passenger ships under the Act of 1855 cannot take as cargo gunpowder, vitriol, lucifer matches, &c., or any articles deemed by the emigration officer dangerous to the health or safety of passengers. But as to ships carrying less than 50 adult emigrants, or steamers carrying any number of cabin passengers, the Merchant Shipping Act of 1873 provides rules for marking and packing any dangerous goods in any vessel, British or foreign, with power to refuse such cargo, or throw it overbeard, or with forfeiture. The Explosive Substances Act, 1875, requires certain kinds of packing cases to be used for explosives, and gives harbeur authorities the duty of making bye-laws about storage and loading within their jurisdiction, and the Board of Trade Inspectors may inquire into the observance of the Act; and by Orders in Council explosives are defined and classified. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1876, gives the Board of Trade power to detain ships for improper loading; and under this a statement of the law on the subject and general instructions have been drawn up for circulation, which I will lay on the Table. We cannot inspect the loading of every ship, but we act in all cases of improper loading which are brought to our notice. There is, therefore, ample power to check improper loading of gunpowder and other combustibles, and I am not aware that "large quantities are shipped in loose kegs with no precautions," as stated by the hon. Member.