ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the incidents connected with the recent shipwreck of the pilgrim vessel "Chebine," in the Red Sea on 8th March, with 300 deck passengers (pilgrims) on board, besides cabin passengers and mails, booked for Jiddah, as disclosed before the Naval Court of Inquiry held at Suez; whether he is aware that the vessel in question, belonging to the new English Khedival Company and flying the English flag, was allowed to leave port, notwithstanding 122 the statement by the court that she was not properly found nor in good seaworthy condition, that no survey had been held nor certificate of seaworthiness given after being repaired in dock, that she had not been swung nor had her compass been adjusted, that no deviation table had been supplied to her captain, that there were no proper means of taking a bearing, that no patent log nor hand log nor time glass was supplied, that the lead line was not properly marked, and the chart was on too small a scale, and the chronometer worked irregularly; whether he is aware that the said vessel was nevertheless well insured and went to sea in this condition with some 400 lives on board; whether there exists any power to compel the owners to comply with Board of Trade regulations applicable to passenger vessels in this country; and whether any steps can be taken to prevent a recurrence of such irregularities in future.
§ MR. RITCHIE
My right hon. friend has asked me to reply to this question. My attention has been called to the Report of the Naval Court recently held in Egypt to investigate the case to which my hon. and gallant friend refers, the whole of the circumstances of which are receiving the careful consideration of the Board of Trade. I am not yet in a position to make any detailed statement with regard to the case, but I may say that British steamers trading (as the "Chebine" was) between ports abroad are not required by the Merchant Shipping Act to hold Board of Trade passenger certificates or to comply with all the regulations applicable to passenger vessels in this country.
I am aware there is no jurisdiction, but cannot the Foreign Office make representations?
§ MR. RITCHIE
We are carefully considering the Report we have received, and if it be possible to make any representation I have no doubt it will be done.