HC Deb 28 May 1891 vol 353 cc1182-3
MR. FURNESS (Hartlepool)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that English ships, classed at Lloyd's, are being sold to foreign owners, and that under such new ownership they are loading in United Kingdom ports and elsewhere deeper than they were allowed when owned by British subjects, and that notwithstanding their classification in Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping still continues; seeing the Board of Trade have constituted Lloyd's Committee the principal authority in this country to assign freeboards on their behalf, will he use his influence with the Committee with a view to inducing them to refuse their classification to all ships which do not agree to have a freeboard assigned; and will he instruct the Board of Trade detaining officers at ports in the United Kingdom to treat British and foreign vessels perfectly alike as to overloading, in accordance with the provisions of "The Merchant Shipping Act, 1876?"


I am not aware to what extent English ships classed at Lloyd's are being sold to foreign owners, but the Board of Trade are quite alive to the importance of preventing evasion of the law by means of such transfers, and so far back as 1888 I issued instructions to the detaining officers as follows:— When a British ship is transferred to a foreign flag and loads more deeply in a port in the United Kingdom while under the foreign flag than she had previously been allowed when under the British Flag, it will he the duty of the principal officer to detain her on receiving a Report from the surveyor, and it will be the duty of the surveyor to report all such cases as come under his notice. The Board of Trade are only authorised to interfere with the loading of foreign ships in ports of the United Kingdom when such ships are unsafe by reason of overloading or improper loading. The Board of Trade are directed by the "Merchant Shipping Act, 1890," to appoint Lloyd's Registry as an authority to approve the position of load line discs, but the Board are not authorised to interfere with the conditions under which that Registry undertake the classification of foreign ships. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1890 (which is the latest enactment on the subject) does not contemplate British and foreign vessels being treated perfectly alike with regard to load line, inasmuch as the evidence necessary to authorise the detention of a vessel for overloading cannot, in the case of a foreign ship, be so easily obtained as in the case of a British vessel, which has a load line disc marked on her side; but it is my intention, as far as possible, to apply the provisions of the Act of 1876 with regard to over and improper loading in ports of the United Kingdom to foreign as well as to British ships, subject to the provisions of Section 4 of the Act of 1890.