HC Deb 12 March 1877 vol 232 cc1756-7

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the Department is informed of the case of the ship "Themasina M'Lellan," which, carrying passengers, sailed from London for New Zealand on the 3rd of June last, laden with 532 tons of coal and with 800 kegs of gunpowder, cases of matches and turpentine, all stowed in close proximity to the coal; and that when about six weeks out the coal ignited and the ship was only saved by throwing overboard all the gunpowder and by taking her into the harbour of Rio, where the remainder of the inflammable cargo was discharged, the cost of the jettisoned gunpowder having been charged to general average, so that the loss, instead of falling on those responsible, has to be borne by the owners of the cargo, or their underwriters; and, whether the Board of Trade does not consider itself authorized and bound to stop a vessel so improperly loaded?


Sir, I believe that the circumstances of the case are correctly stated in the Question. The ship, not being an emigrant ship, the case did not come under the Passengers Act, and therefore, she was not altogether prohibited from carrying explosives. The Explosive Substances Act of 1875 was certainly broken by the shippers in the mode of packing, and the improved bye-laws under that Act had not then been put in force by the Thames Conservancy when this ship went to sea in June 1876. The Merchant Shipping Act of last year makes it the duty of the Board of Trade to detain any ship going to sea improperly loaded; and with that provision, it being the interest of crews and shippers and underwriters to inform the Board of Trade Inspectors of any such improper loading, and the improved Conservancy bye-laws, which the Board of Trade sanctioned last November, it is scarcely possible that such a case as this could occur again in the port of London.