HL Deb 10 July 1913 vol 14 cc852-7

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Granard).

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Home-trade cargo ships with certain exceptions to have duly certificated officers.

1.—(1) Every British home-trade cargo ship when going to sea from any place in the United Kingdom, and every foreign ship carrying cargo between places in the United Kingdom, shall be provided with a duly certificated master and a duly certificated mate, and also, if the ship is a steamship, a duly certificated engineer.

For the purposes of this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,—

  1. (a) the expression "home-trade cargo ship" means any home-trade ship other than a home-trade passenger ship;
  2. {b) the expression "ship" does not include steamships of less than one hundred or sailing ships of less than two hundred tons register tonnage, or any lighter, dumb barge, or other similar vessel; and
  3. (c) the expression "steamship" does not include a steamship of less than sixty-six nominal horse-power.

(2) If any person—

  1. (a) having been engaged as one of the above-mentioned officers for a ship which is a ship within the meaning of this Act goes to sea in the ship us such officer without being duly certificated; or
  2. (b) employs a person as an officer of such a ship in contravention of this section, without ascertaining that the person so serving is duly certificated;
that person shall be liable for each offence to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.

(3) An officer shall not be deemed to be duly certificated, within the meaning of this section, unless he is the holder for the time being of a valid certificate of competency under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 (in this Act referred to as the principal Act), as amended by this Act, or of a valid certificate of service under this Act, or, in the case of a foreign ship, of a foreign certificate of an approved class, of a grade appropriate to his station in the ship or of a higher grade.

In this provision the expression "foreign certificate of an approved class" means any certificate of competency or service granted by the Government of any foreign country being a certificate of a class declared by the Board of Trade to be an approved class of foreign certificates for the purposes of this Act.

LORD ELLENBOROUGH moved to amend subsection (1) (b) by omitting the word "register" and inserting the word "gross." The noble Lord said: The second schedule of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 contains the rules for calculating tonnage. They appear to be rather complicated, but are not so in reality. They are based on the idea that the cubical space of a ship in feet divided by 100 will give the tonnage, of a ship. It is a very good rule for ascertaining the comparative size of ships. Register tonnage is obtained by deducting from the gross tonnage the spaces occupied by the crew and by the engines, together with some other spaces connected with the working of the ship. These latter calculations occasionally give somewhat strange results, and in consequence register tonnage is no criterion of the approximate size of a ship. In my remarks on the Second Reading I gave the House particulars of the gross tonnage and the register tonnage of a number of vessels. In addition to those I will now give the names of a few ships of over 100 tons gross but of less than 100 tons register. The "Greenisland," of Belfast—gross 282, register 69; "Argyll," of Glasgow—gross 259, register 72; "Ardbeg," of Glasgow—gross 251, register 41; "Alfred," of Liverpool—gross 148, register 5; "Granville," of Seaham—gross 160, register 4. All these vessels ought to come under this Bill, but they do not. A collision with a large ship is much more dangerous than a collision with a small one. A large ship carries a larger crew. The question whether or not certificated officers are to be carried should depend on the real size of a ship and the number of her crew, and not on such artificial considerations as register tonnage. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 18, leave out ("register") and insert ("gross").— (Lord Ellenborough.)


I would point out to the noble Lord that this Bill deals purely with certificated officers and the ships which are to carry those certificated officers. In all previous legislation dealing with merchant shipping the words "tons burden" have been used, and the Board of Trade have always translated that term as meaning the net or register tonnage, and that contention has been upheld and confirmed by a decision of a Court of Law. Your Lordships will therefore readily understand that it would be a great anomaly to place the term "gross tonnage" in a Bill like this, while in every other Act dealing with this subject the words "tons burden," which mean net tonnage, are used. Another effect of the Amendment would be to very largely widen the scope of the Bill. We have carefully consulted the various interests, and have come to the conclusion that the tonnage limit inserted in the Bill fairly meets all cases. The noble Lord can very well show anomalies in the case of certain ships, but generally speaking I think justice has been done. I should be very sorry to sec placed in this Bill a provision dissimilar in every way to the regulations enacted in other Statutes dealing with this subject.


The noble Earl opposite has answered my noble friend by an appeal to precedent. He says that in previous Merchant Shipping Acts the term has always been "net tonnage" and "register tonnage," but not "gross tonnage." I think my noble friend Lord Ellenborough and your Lordships would have been better satisfied if the noble Earl had done us the honour to grapple with the argument—a very simple one—which my noble friend put forward in moving the Amendment. This Bill is intended, of course, for the better security of life at sea, and in order to achieve that object it apparently provides that ships of a certain size should carry officers having certain certificates. If it can be shown, as my noble friend Lord Ellenborough shows, that this apparent intention is not carried out and that ships of the same size as it is intended to protect may navigate the seas without these certificated officers, then a prima facie case is established for an Amendment. The noble Earl does not meet it with any argument at all, but merely says that in previous Merchant Shipping Acts the term used has always been register tonnage. May I remind the noble Earl what in one respect is the difference between register tonnage and gross tonnage. The crew space is not counted for register tonnage, but is counted for gross tonnage. Therefore a ship which carries a very large crew and has very large accommodation counts for register tonnage as a much smaller vessel than it would do if it carried a smaller crew and had smaller crew accommodation. The object of the Bill is to save life at sea. The noble Earl will see that this is the position to which he is reduced, that a ship of apparently the same size but carrying more human lives is not protected while another ship of apparently the same size but carrying less lives is protected under the Bill. I think a situation like that deserves an answer. I do not say that there may not be an answer, but the noble Earl did not give it. He merely appealed to precedent. That is what we often do, and quite rightly; but noble Lords opposite do not believe in precedent, and I really do not think they are entitled very much to call it in aid. In my opinion my noble friend Lord Ellenborough has made out a prima facie case; but I cannot honestly say, if the noble Earl in charge of the Bill declares that his Department, for whom I have a great regard, view the Amendment as inadvisable, it would be well for the noble Lord to press it.


If the noble Lord's Amendment were inserted the effect would be to differentiate the calculation as to tonnage between home-trade cargo ships and similar ships employed in the passenger service, the tonnage in the one case being net and in the other gross. Then I would recall to the noble Marquess that in 1906, when we were discussing the Merchant Shipping Bill of that year, he urged more than any one else that as much deduction as possible should be given in respect of crew spaces, because after all our desire was, he said, to make the conditions of life as happy for the crew as possible. Therefore he thought it was only right that this advantage should be given.


It is not an advantage that they should be drowned.


I did not say it was. But from the point of view of precedent I think the House would be very unwise to accept this Amendment.


My reason for bringing the Amendment forward was that a ship of over 100 tons is big enough to sink a large mail steamer if she runs into such a steamer through bad navigation. My desire is to see these ships navigated in a safer manner so that there may be increased safety at sea. I had hoped that the Government would have accepted my Amendment. It would certainly have put the Bill on a more reasonable basis. As, however, the Bill as a whole is a good Bill I do not wish to imperil it, and with the permission of the House I withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


In the absence of my noble friend Lord Inverclyde I move the Amendment standing in his name, to omit "sixty-six" from paragraph (c) of subsection (1) and to insert "one hundred." The effect of the Amendment is to provide that the expression "steam-ship" shall not include a steamship of less than 100 nominal horse-power, instead of sixty-six as the Bill now proposes. It is considered rather a hardship to bring very small vessels under the Bill. Representations have been made to His Majesty's Government on the subject, and I hope that the noble Lord who is acting for the Board of Trade will see his way to accept this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 21, leave out ("sixty-six") and insert ("one hundred").—(Lord Inchcape.)


I had the honour of seeing a deputation at the Board of Trade the other day with regard to this matter. They made it quite clear to me that there was a certain hardship as regards these particular engineers in making the horse-power so low as sixty-six. I therefore very gladly accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Production of certificates to superintendent and power to detain ship.

4.—(1) The master or owner of every home-trade cargo ship shall produce to some superintendent within twenty-one days after the thirtieth day of June and the thirty-first day of December in every year the certificates of competency or service which the master, mate, and engineer of the ship are by this Act required to hold.

(2) Upon the production of the certificates, the superintendent shall, if the certificates are such as the master, mate, and engineer of the ship ought to hold, give to the master a certificate that the proper certificates have been so produced.

(3) The master shall, before proceeding to sea, produce to the chief officer of customs and excise the certificate given by the superintendent, and the ship may be detained until the certificate is produced.


I move, after the word "excise" in subsection (3), to insert "if required by him." This is more or less a drafting Amendment. Several shipowners have pointed out that there is a considerable amount of vagueness in the subsection as it stands. We propose these words to provide that an officer should only produce the certificates when required by the chief officer of Customs and Excise to do so.

Amendment moved— Clause 4, page 3, line 37, after ("excise") insert ("if required by him").—(The Earl of Granard.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

The Report of Amendments to be received on Tuesday next, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 113.)