HC Deb 27 May 1880 vol 252 cc529-30

asked the President of the Board of Trade, If his attention has been called to the circumstances connected with the loss of the S.S. "Marlborough," of Hull, whilst on a voyage from Cardiff to Genoa with a cargo of coals; if it is a fact that the Court, consisting of Mr. Rothery, Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Captain Ronaldson, Captain Ward, and Mr. Merrifield, assessors, after a careful investigation, decided as follows:—that the load-line was not in a proper position on the ship's side; that when the ship left on her last voyage she was over-laden; that she was not properly or sufficiently manned; that she was overladen with the knowledge and sanction of the managing owner; that she was undermanned with the knowledge and sanction of the managing owner; whether it is true that the commissioner and assessors declared that the conduct of the managing owner had been So reckless in sending the vessel to sea in so unseaworthy a condition that he ought to he condemned in costs, and if they accordingly condemned him in a sum of £250; and, whether, if these circumstances are accurately reported, any steps can be taken to obtain compensation for the families and relatives of the captain and crew of the ship?


Sir, my attention has been called to the subject, and the facts are, I am sorry to say, such as are stated in the Question. I am not prepared to express any further opinion on the matter now, because the whole subject is under consideration with a view to see whether ulterior and criminal proceedings may not be necessary. With regard to civil liability, I have to state that the Legislature has by Section 5 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1876, created an express statutory obligation between the shipowner and his crow, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, that all reasonable means shall be used, not only by himself, but by the master and every agent charged with the loading, or preparing, or sending the vessel to sea, to make and keep her seaworthy throughout the voyage. The only means by which a shipowner can discharge himself of liability is by proving that he did so, or that, owing to special circumstances, the sending her to sea in an unseaworthy state was reasonable and justifiable. A remedy does now, therefore, exist whereby the family of a shipwrecked master and crew may, in certain cases, recover compensation from the shipowner. It would not be proper to express an opinion whether, applying the law to the particular case mentioned in the Question, the liability of the shipowner can be established.