HC Deb 09 June 1931 vol 253 cc800-2
21. Rear-Admiral BEAMISH

asked the President of the Board of Trade at whose instance the question of lack of uniform practice in the use and application of helm orders was raised at the Convention of 1929; and if he is prepared to publish the minutes of evidence on this subject?


The proposal for a uniform international system of helm orders was discussed at the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea held in 1913–14, and the Conference recommended that "in view of the diversity of practice and opinion in the different countries, the question of the adoption of a uniform system of helm orders should be considered at the same time as the revision of the regulations for preventing collisions at sea." As proposals for the amendment of the Collision Regulations were to be considered at the 1929 Conference, it was inevitable that the subject of helm orders should be discussed; and definite notice to raise the matter was given before the Conference assembled by Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. As regards the second part of the question I am circulating a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

There are no Minutes of Evidence available for publication as regards the proceedings of the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea, 1929, on the subject of helm orders; but a brief statement may be made regarding the course of the discussions at the conference.

The reluctance of British seamen to change their traditional system, and the misgivings which some of them feel as to possible danger in the event of a change of their system, were fully stated by the British delegates. It appeared, however, that a number of the countries represented at the conference were already using the direct system of helm orders, while certain others proposed to adopt that system irrespective of any decision of the conference on the subject. Denmark and Belgium have, in fact, since taken action in the matter, the direct system having been introduced on Danish ships on the 1st January, 1930, while it has been stated in the Press that Belgium proposes to adopt the direct system as from the 1st July next.

The general opinion of the countries represented at the conference was in favour of the adoption of a uniform international system, particularly from the point of view of pilotage, and also having regard to the fact that seamen frequently serve on ships of different countries. It was also the general opinion that a uniform system would make for greater safety of life at sea. The discussions further showed that, where the change had been made, no serious difficulties had been encountered; and this fact has since been confirmed by the experience of Denmark during the recent change-over on the ships of that country.

In all the circumstances, as it was clear that there was no chance whatever of securing general agreement on the basis of the indirect system, as there was no reason to suppose that a change which had been successfully carried out by foreign countries could not be made equally satisfactory by British seamen, and as to have maintained opposition to the change would have endangered unanimity on other proposals to which this country attached importance, the delegates of Great Britain and those countries which were still using the indirect system agreed to co-operate with the others to establish a uniform international system.