HC Deb 07 June 1888 vol 326 cc1395-6
MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the attention of the Board of Trade has been called to the collision between the steamship Moto and the ship Smyrna, which occurred in the English Channel on April 28 last, and which caused the immediate sinking of the Smyrna, and the drowning of 12 of her crew; whether it is the fact that although the weather was foggy the steamer was going at full speed with her sails set; whether, at the trial of an action instituted in the high Court of Justice in respect of the collision, the counsel for the Moto admitted that her captain (who was navigating the vessel at the time) was to blame, and the Judge decided that the Moto was alone to blame for the collision; whether the Board of Trade, after having intimated their intention to cause an inquiry to be held into the circumstances attending the collision by the Wreck Commissioner, have now stated that they do not propose to have such inquiry held; and, whether, considering the above facts, and that it is only in and by such an inquiry that the certificate of the captain of the Moto can be dealt with, it is desirable in the public interest that such an inquiry should be held?


My attention has been called to the case referred to by the hon. Member. The deposition made by the master states that the Moto was going at the speed of eight knots, but does not say whether the sails were set. The Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice, by which Court the case has been investigated, found the Moto alone to blame for the collision, and that Court is the Court of Appeal from the Wreck Inquiry Court. The Board of Trade had given notice that an official inquiry would be held; but that notice was given before they were aware that the case would be taken to the Admiralty Division by the owners of the Smyrna. As the case has been taken to the Admiralty Division and settled there, the order for inquiry has been countermanded in accordance with the usual practice in such cases. I am not aware that counsel for the owners admitted that the master was to blame; and the reports do not show that the Courts made any animadversions on his conduct. I am advised that this is not a case in which any further action can be usefully taken by instituting any inquiry before the Wreck Court; nor can the Board of Trade refer the case to a Local Marine Board for investigation, as they have no evidence which leads them to believe that the master has been guilty of incompetency or misconduct within the meaning of the Statute.