rose to call attention to the loss of the "Eulomene," proceeding across the North Sea in ballast, and to the accident to ,the "County of Anglesea," which, on a passage from Rouen to Liverpool in ballast, was towed into Portland Roads on her beam ends; to ask whether it is intended to hold formal investigations in the cases of the two vessels named; and, further, to ask whether the Board of Trade are now intending to take the necessary steps towards enforcing the recommendations of the Light Load-line Committee. He said:—My Lords, we have to deplore the loss of another British ship sailing in ballast, together with the whole of her crew; and we cannot but feel sincere pity for the misery and sorrow which have been caused to the bereaved relatives and friends. Your Lordships know that I have taken some interest in this subject of the proper ballasting of merchant ships.
I do not wish to prejudice the case of the "Eulomene" in the slightest, or to say one single word which would reflect on her owners. It is due as much to them as to the public that a thorough investigation should be held. What it is requisite we should know of fully is, what amount of ballast she carried, and whether, if loose ballast, it was protected by shifting 966 boards, which the Light Load-line Committee of your Lordships' House recommended should be enforced by the Board of Trade. Also, it would seem that this vessel's manning would need enquiry, more particularly as, besides the captain, she appeared to have one certificated officer only; whilst, so far as can be judged from their names, the fourteen men in the forecastle were all foreigners. I gather that no question is raised as to the accuracy of these latter points.
The case of the other vessel, the "County of Anglesea," was fortunately not so serious as that of the "Eulomene," but it is serious enough, in view of the recommendations of the Light Load-line Committee, to require a thorough investigation. This vessel was proceeding in ballast from the Continent to Liverpool. She was sighted four miles South West of Portland Bill on February 26th last, on her beam ends, a position which, as your Lordships know, is one of imminent peril. The vessel was flying signals of distress, and three of her crew were in the rigging. According to the reports, a steamer went to her assistance, but apparently could do nothing on account of the heavy seas, and finally she left her and returned to harbour. H.M.S. "Scylla" then proceeded to the vessel and found her with her ensign reversed, which is, of course, a signal of distress. The "Scylla" thereupon despatched a life-boat to her. Ultimately, two tugs proceeded to the rescue and succeded in getting her in tow, when she was towed into Portland. The report which came from there was that the ballast shifted and she was thrown on her beam ends by heavy seas six miles South West of Portland Bill. I hope for your Lordships' careful notice of this disaster, which might easily have resulted in the loss of both ship and crew, in view of the fact that the Select Committee of your Lordships' House on the Light Load-line recommended that regulations as to securing loose ballast should be drawn up and enforced, and at the same time they deprecated strongly the practice of throwing ballast overboard before a vessel arrived at her destination.
In July of last year, I had the honour to bring forward a Motion that, in the opinion of this House, His Majesty's 967 Government should at once take the necessary steps in enforcing the recommendations of the Committee. The noble Earl who was Chairman of the Committee, Lord Spencer, in speaking on my Resolution, concluded by saying that, with a hope that the Board of Trade would act more vigorously in support of the recommendations of the Committee, he did not think the Resolution should be pressed to a division. Further, the noble Marquess the Leader of this House, Lord Lansdowne, concluded his remarks by stating that by my having called attention to the subject and eliciting from the Board of Trade a distinct statement that the matter was one of which they were not losing sight, he hoped I would be content with the discussion and not press the Motion to a division. In deference to the views of the two noble Lords I withdrew my Motion. When, however, I see recurring disasters to vessels in ballast, due to its shifting and otherwise, I trust you will think it is perfectly justifiable on my part to bring the cases before your Lordships' House. As it appears that the ballast shifted on board the "County of Anglesea," what is necessary is a strict investigation as to the cause of this shifting and as to whether any precautions have been adopted against it in the manner recommended by the Light Load-line Committee. There are already regulations laid down to prevent the shifting of cargoes of grain. It is not necessary for me to dwell upon the serious dangers of either cargo or ballast shifting. If we require grain cargoes to be properly secured from shifting it is only logical to say that similar requirements should be enforced in the case of vessels sailing with loose ballast. I hope to hear that the Board of Trade will now give their earnest attention to the disasters I have named, and to the necessity of acting upon the recommendations of the Light Load-line Committee, which are, it seems to me, imperative.
My Lords, before answering my noble friend's Questions, which are three in number, I have to express regret at the absence of my noble friend Lord Salisbury, who is unavoidably prevented from being in his place to-day to reply to the Questions on the Paper. 968 With regard to the first two Questions, I have great pleasure in informing my noble friend that the President of the Board of Trade has ordered an inquiry into both cases, which are, therefore, sub judice. In view of that fact I am sure your Lordships will not expect me to enter into them. They will be thrashed out by a competent tribunal, and the Report of that tribunal, when it is received will be published and will be accessible to my noble friend. In the latter part of his notice my noble friend again refers to the recommendations of the Light Load-line Committee. The concluding clause of the Committee's Report was as follows—The Committee, therefore, confidently rely upon the Board of Trade to use the powers already conferred upon them by Parliament to prevent the improper or insufficient ballasting of ships. It will be the duty of the Board to apply at once to Parliament if at any future date they consider any extension of their power necessary in the public interest.That recommendation was immediately taken up by the Board of Trade, who issued a warning setting out the recommendation, and proceeding,—In view of these recommendations the Board of Trade desire to call the particular attention of principal and detaining officers and surveyors to the instuctions already issued respecting the improper ballasting of ships, and (in the absence of any statutory authority to draw up and enforce precise regulations on the subject of ballasting) the Department wish to strongly emphasise the necessity for the survey staff exercising an active supervision not only over vessels on the point of sailing in ballast, but also over vessels taking in ballast of such a nature as may require exceptionally careful stowage and may be liable to the danger of shifting when the vessels are at sea.Nothing has occurred since then to alter the opinion of the Board of Trade that under the existing provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act they are able to carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee. If the time should come when they require statutory powers they will immediately appeal to this House, and to the other House of Parliament, to obtain them. I am instructed to say that at the present moment the Board of Trade are quite satisfied with the law as it stands, and do not propose to apply for any further powers.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, it is satisfactory to learn, at all events, that 969 inquiries are to be made in the two cases which my noble friend has brought before the House, and a great deal will depend, I think, on the outcomes of those inquiries. My noble friend who has just spoken was a member of the Light Load-line Committee, and fully agreed, I believe, with all our recommendations.
§ EARL SPENCER
And the noble Lord will, I have no doubt, take care that the Board of Trade are kept alive to the necessity of seeing that the recommendations of the Committee are carried out, and that Board of Trade regulations are made with regard to the ballasting of ships at sea. It is a very important matter, and the noble Lord opposite does quite right in bringing cases of this sort forward if there is the slightest fear that the accidents to these ships are in any way due to the neglect of the precautions which the Committee thought necessary and pressed on the Board of Trade to adopt. When the Report is issued we shall be able to judge whether any further pressure should be brought on the Board of Trade, either to carry out the existing regulations more strictly or to ask for a strengthening of the law.