HC Deb 01 April 1895 vol 32 cc587-8

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the account of the proceedings at the Board of Trade inquiry into the stranding of the steamship Waldridge, as appearing in the Shipping Gazette of the 8th inst., when two lives were lost, and the vessel became a total wreck, and particularly to the evidence of the captain that he did everything he could to show distress signals; to the evidence of Samuel Bradshaw, the chief boatman at the Staithes Coastguard Station, that he saw the signals, and thought the Waldridge was signalling for a pilot, and that his opinion was shared by other members of his crew; and the evidence of Charles Horn, boatswain of the Staithes lifeboat, that he took the lights from the steamer as being signals for a pilot; whether he has seen the account in the Kentish Express of 11th August last, and the Shipping Gazette of 7th September and 26th November last, of the useless launching of lifeboats at Littlestone, Broadstairs, Kingsdown, Dungeness, and many other places along the coast, in response to signals intended to be for a pilot, but which were mistaken on shore for signals of distress; and whether, in view of these frequent occurrences and misunderstandings, leading sometimes to loss of life, he will take steps to enable the Committee on the Rule of the Road at Sea to take evidence upon the matter, with a view to International action; or if not, what action he proposes to take in the matter?


My attention has been called to the circumstances referred to in the question put on the 15th of March; but, as I have already stated to the House in reply to a question, I am advised that the Regulations provide sufficiently distinctive signals to be used respectively when a pilot is required and when a vessel is in distress. If, as in the case of the Waldridge, the wrong signals are used, mistakes naturally arise, but I do not think that it is the fault of the Regulations. The present Pilot and Distress Signals are International. They have been in force for many years and have worked well, and I see no occasion for referring them to a Select Committee. The Committee, which the House on Monday last determined to appoint, is to deal with a totally different matter.