HC Deb 16 March 1955 vol 538 cc1284-5
45. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what inquiry has been made into the comparative strength of ships that are welded as against those that are riveted; to what extent the comparatively new method has proved satisfactory; and, in view of maintaining complete confidence in our shipping and the need for the utmost safety at sea, the question will be examined.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the answer is very long I will, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that, owing to the number of incidents involving ships at sea following the introduction of this system, modifications are being considered? Will he see that in whatever changes take place no unnecessary risks are taken by our seamen?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that the hon. Member will be reassured when he sees the written answer in Hansard. It discloses that a great deal of research and investigation has taken place and is taking place on this important and difficult subject.

Mr. Hobson

Can the Minister say whether any reference is made in his reply to X-ray below the waterline?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I ask the hon. Member to read the reply. There is no specific reference to that point, because the form of the reply deals with investigations that have been and are being made as matters of organisation and not as matters of detail.

Following is the answer:

The application of welding as a substitute for riveting in ship construction has been carefully watched over the last 40 years. The method of almost complete welding which began during the last war has developed rapidly since then in association with methods of prefabrication.

As the result of structural failures in a proportion of merchant ships built in America during the war, the Admiralty Ship Welding Committee, on which my Department and Lloyd's Register of Shipping were represented, was set up in 1943. This Committee occupied several years in compiling and analysing a mass of data obtained from elaborate experiments on two ocean-going dry cargo merchant ships at sea, one mainly riveted and the other mainly welded, which followed on comparative experiments in still water on two tankers, one welded and one riveted. The Committee published six Reports through H.M. Stationery Office in addition to other material. The final Report, published last month, summarises its findings and conclusions.

During these years, the authorities and interests responsible for research into shipbuilding construction have conducted searching investigations into the many problems which the new techniques have posed. The surveyors of my Department, and those of the classification societies, have investigated, and will continue to investigate, casualties and damage in welded merchant ships in order to promote additional safety measures which any structural failure may indicate to be desirable. As a result of increased understanding of the problems changes have been made on several occasions since 1947 in the requirements for structural strength in ships, both for statutory and for classification purposes.

In general, it can be said that, although there are still some problems to be solved in the construction of large welded ships, welding is proving a satisfactory method of ship construction.

The work of research continues actively in close association with research in the United States. Theposition is kept under close and continuous review by my Department and the Admiralty, as well as, among other interests, the shipbuilding industry and the classification societies.