HC Deb 16 April 1896 vol 39 cc1032-3

On behalf of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. HAVELOCK WILSON), I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the accident which happened on board the steamship Westbury, in the North Sea, on the 5th March last, whereby the second engineer of the vessel lost his life; whether he is aware that the accident was caused in consequence of the vessel having a deck load of bale goods, which at the time of the accident was covered with tarpaulins, thus making it very dangerous for the crew getting from one end of the vessel to the other; and that after the second engineer fell overboard considerable delay took place in getting out the boat, in consequence of the bales of goods being stowed around and about the tackle of the boat; whether any Inquiry has been held into the cause of the loss of life of the engineer in question; and what powers, if any, have Board of Trade officers to prevent officers taking vessels to sea loaded with deck cargoes, and thus rendering it dangerous to the lives of those on board?


My attention has been called to the case of the Westbury, and a formal investigation has been held into the circumstances referred to in the Question. The Court of Inquiry found the master in default for not having fixed life lines or taken other precautions for the safety of his crew. He was severely censured, but, owing to what were regarded as extenuating circumstances, his certificate was not dealt with. The Court also found that the slight delay that occurred in getting the boat into the water did not contribute to the loss of the life of the second engineer. The Board of Trade have power, under Section 459, to order the detention of a ship unfit to proceed to sea without serious danger to human life by reason of overloading or improper loading.