HC Deb 16 November 1926 vol 199 cc1658-9

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the British steamship "Eastway," owners Messrs. Williams Brothers, Cardiff, turned turtle at sea on 22nd October, and sank with the loss of 23 lives owing to having been overloaded at Norfolk, Virginia, to the extent of 200 tons of coal over her required cargo, sending her five inches below her Plimsoll mark; what supervisory powers are possessed by the Board of Trade over the loading of British ships in foreign ports; and, if they are not adequate to prevent the loss of lives of British seamen, has he any intention of seeking to increase his powers?


I am aware that the "Eastway" sank on 22nd October with the loss of 23 lives, and that allegations have been made that the vessel was overloaded. A Board of Trade Inquiry will be held at which all the circumstances of the casualty will be investigated. The checks on overloading at foreign ports are that the load line is marked on the ship's side, and the load line certificate is posted up on board; particulars of the load line are entered in the agreement with the crew and in the official log; the draft of water and the freeboard have to be entered in the official log every time a ship leaves port; and a Naval Court can be summoned by a consular officer if a complaint is made by any member of a ship's crew which appears to require immediate investigation. It is not considered that these provisions can usefully be extended.


When the Inquiry takes place, will the right hon. Gentleman have some special reference made to inquire whether the ship was trimmed at all, even for the cargo which she had?


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any complaint was made by the crew before the ship sailed?


In regard to the first supplementary, I would point out that the duty of a Court of Inquiry is to take all relevant circumstances into account. I have no knowledge in regard to the second supplementary question.

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