British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 17

Testimony of Harold A. Sanderson, cont.

The Solicitor-General:
I think I can show your Lordship the way through this point.

The Witness:
I think the Board of Trade requirement is 9,605 cubic feet.

The Solicitor-General:
I am coming to that. Would your Lordship just follow me for a moment. It needs a little following, and it will be found to work out all right. Would your Lordship first turn to page 6 of your print which, if it is like my copy, is headed "Division (A.), Class 1. Rules for steamships carrying emigrant passengers subject to all the provisions of the merchant Shipping Act." That was this class of ship, so it was A1 then. "(A.) Ships of Division (A.), Class 1, shall carry boats placed under davits, fit and ready for use and having proper appliances for getting them into the water, in number and capacity as prescribed by the table in the appendix to these Rules such boats shall be equipped in the manner required by and shall be of the description defined in the general Rules appended hereto." Then if you now turn to page 17 you will find the appendix to these Rules. The top line of page 17 shows that a ship with a gross tonnage of 10,000 tons and upwards, the minimum number of boats under davits is to be 16, and the minimum cubical contents is to be 5,500. Now will your Lordship turn back to page 6, (C.) (I need not bother about (B.)) "Not less than half the number of boats placed on the davits having at least half the cubic capacity required by the tables shall be boats of Section (A.), or section (B.)" That refers to a particular make of boat, regard being had to the extent of its buoyancy, and that has reference to page 13. I do not think your Lordship need turn to it now. "The remaining boats may also be of such description, or may, in the option of the shipowner, conform to Section (C.), or section (D.), provided that not more than two boats shall be of Section (D.)" Now, it is those two boats of Section (D.) which are calculated at the rate of 8 cubic feet per person instead of 10 cubic feet.

The Commissioner:
The emergency boats.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, My Lord. Then, My Lord, "(d.) If the boats placed under davits in accordance with the table" (that is the 16 boats.) "do not furnish sufficient accommodation for all persons on board" (that is this case your Lordship sees.) "then additional wood, Metal, collapsible, or other boats" (in this case it is collapsible.) "of approved description (whether placed under davits or otherwise.) or approved life rafts shall be carried." That is where the four collapsible boats come in, your Lordship sees. Then the important Rule is the Rule which is in the next paragraph, not (e.) I mean, but the next printed paragraph: "Subject to the provisions contained in paragraph (f.) of these Rules" - that is to say subject to the Rule that they need not carry more boats than are sufficient for everybody on board - subject to that - "such additional boats or rafts shall be of at least such carrying capacity that they and the boats required to be placed under davits by the table provide together in the aggregate in vessels of 5,000 tons gross and upwards, three-fourths, and in vessels of less than 5,000 tons gross, one-half, More than the minimum cubic contents required by column 3 of that table." My Lord, that is all that it is necessary to observe. Now if I may apply that: since the 16 boats are not sufficient to carry everybody on board, there has to be an addition to the cubic capacity in accordance with this paragraph; that addition must be to the extent of three-fourths addition on the cubic contents which the table requires. The table requires, on page 16, 5,500 cubic feet; three-fourths of 5,500 cubic feet gives you 4,125, and if you add the 4,125 to the 5,500 that gives you 9,625, which is the number of cubic feet which the Rules require for the "Titanic."

The Commissioner:
Will you give me the last figure again?

The Solicitor-General:
5,500 is the figure from the Rule in the appendix.

The Commissioner:
Therefore, that means 9,725.

The Solicitor-General:
I think it is 9,625, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I beg your pardon. You are right - 9,625.

19127. (The Solicitor-General.) So that if one applied the Board of Trade Rule 9,625 would be the number of cubic feet capacity which would have to be provided. (To the witness.) I believe you agree with my calculation, that what you had on board the "Titanic" was 11,325?
- Yes, that is right.

The Solicitor-General:
Now there is one other thing about it, and I will ask your Lordship just to look at the Rule at the bottom of page 16, the page that just faces the table. It is headed, your Lordship sees, "Watertight Compartments," at the bottom. "When ships of any class are divided into efficient watertight compartments to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade, they shall only be required to carry additional boats, rafts, and buoyant apparatus of one-half of the capacity required by these Rules, but the exemption shall not extend to lifejackets or similar approved articles of equal buoyancy suitable to be worn on the person."

The Commissioner:
Is that "one-half" in substitution of the "three-fourths"?

The Solicitor-General:

The Commissioner:
Then what does that make it?

19128. (The Solicitor-General.) It would mean that instead of adding to the 5,500, 4,125, you would only add 2,062. It is half the 4,125; and the result of that would be a figure of 7,563. (To the witness.) Now, as a matter of fact, did your Company make any application to the Board of Trade for the reduction which that Rule - "Watertight Compartments" - appears to contemplate?
- No, we did not.

The Solicitor-General:
Of course, your Lordship sees it turns upon whether the Board of Trade is satisfied, and that is not a matter which I can ask this gentleman about.

The Commissioner:
At any rate, it did not become necessary to have recourse to this Rule?

The Solicitor-General:
No, My Lord, no recourse was had to it at all.

The Commissioner:
Therefore, as I understand, More than the extreme requirements of the Board of Trade in the matter of lifeboats was complied with?

19129. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, that is quite right, My Lord. There is just this question I can put shortly to get rid of the point. There are a number of other regulations in these Rules as to how these boats are to be built. (To the witness.) Did your boats comply with those regulations?
- I have no doubt whatever that they did, but as to speaking from my own knowledge, I cannot.

The Solicitor-General:
Then we will call our Board of Trade witnesses about that; they do, there is no doubt.

The Commissioner:
Can you tell me whether the two emergency boats were fitted up as lifeboats?

The Attorney-General:
They were not, My Lord. Your Lordship will remember that there were 14 lifeboats and two wooden cutters, which are called the emergency boats, and four collapsibles.

The Commissioner:
The emergency boats are only wanted in what may be called emergencies.

The Attorney-General:
In one sense, I suppose, they are more often required than in any other.

The Commissioner:
Yes. For instance, when somebody falls overboard.

The Attorney-General:
Yes; or if a boat has to be let down to do something.

The Witness:
I think the Engelhardt boats are lifeboats in a sense, in so far as they have tanks.

The Commissioner:
I am not speaking about those. I am speaking about the wooden cutters - the emergency boats.

The Solicitor-General:
Page 14 of these Rules is the page which contains the classification of boats according to different Sections. It begins at the bottom of page 13 really. Section (A.) boats are described, your Lordship sees, as "A boat of this Section shall be a lifeboat, of whale -boat form, properly constructed of wood or metal, having for every 10 cubic feet of her capacity, computed as in Rule (2.), at least 1 cubic foot of strong and serviceable inclosed air-tight compartments." Now, that is a lifeboat, but these two emergency boats were under section (D.), and Section (D.) says nothing about lifeboats and nothing about internal buoyancy. I mean artificial buoyancy.

The Commissioner:
"A boat of this Section shall be a properly constructed boat of wood or metal."

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, My Lord, that is all. No doubt they were. I think I did refer your Lordship to it really in calling attention to page 6. The Attorney-General points out that it clinches the point. When I first asked your Lordship to look at page 6, I called attention, I think, to the paragraph which is labelled (c.): "Not less than half the number of boats placed under davits" (that is half of the 16.) "having at least half the cubic capacity required by the tables shall be boats of Section (A.), or section (B.)" (That is lifeboats or boats with internal buoyancy.) "The remaining boats may also be of such description" (of course, in this case they were the remaining boats all except two.), "or may, in the option of the shipowner, conform to Section (C.), or section (D.), provided that not more than two boats shall be of Section (D.)" That is the way it fits in, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Have you finished that point now?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, My Lord, I think so.

(After a short adjournment.)

19130. (The Solicitor-General.) We had just been comparing the provision of boats in the "Titanic" with the maximum regulations of the Board of Trade. I want to ask you now the view of your Company as to the expediency of providing more boats than were on this ship?
- I think, to answer that question, I should have to divide the subject into two. I should have to tell you what was in our minds before the "Titanic" accident happened, and then modify it by the result of experience.

19131. If you please?
- I do not think it had ever been in our minds, nor do I think it had been in the minds of any of the experts who had been responsible for framing the existing regulations, that the whole ship's company of a ship like the "Titanic" could under any conceivable circumstances be required to be put afloat in boats; nor do I think, if provision were made for that, that in fact we ever would, 19 times out of 20, or even perhaps 99 times out of a hundred, succeed in utilising those boats by filling them and launching them. The weather conditions in the Atlantic are such that I should look upon it as a very remote contingency, and one to be avoided at all costs. Therefore, in my judgment, I would rather devote myself to accomplishing in fact what we thought we had done with the "Titanic"; in other words, to make her so safe that we would not have to consider the possibility of putting all these people afloat, and, having regard to the extraordinary nature of the accident which happened to the "Titanic," I still do not feel that it would be a wise or a necessary provision to make; that is to say, to provide boats for everybody on board the ship. I do think, however, that we might advantageously increase the boat accommodation somewhat. But I am looking forward to the recommendation that will be made by this Court for our guidance, and I am quite certain that the public will accept it gratefully and we shall do so likewise. In the meanwhile, in order to satisfy the public, on whom we are dependent for our living, we are putting on the ships more boats than I think it is wise to do.

19132. I should just like to follow one thing about that. You speak of the wisdom of the course of adding to the number of boats. Of course I can quite understand it involves more expense, and I can quite understand that it would occupy more space, but why is it an unwise thing to add substantially to the number of boats?
- It is all a question of degree. I think if we were to carry boats on the boat deck of all our ships which would be equal in capacity to the total number of people on board we should, in fact, have those boat decks so crowded with boats that it would materially interfere with the efficiency of a great many of them, that is to say, the men would not have proper room to work to get them over the side.

19133-4. Just let me look at the model for a moment. One sees there the boat deck, and I see there are four lifeboats in the afterpart on this side, and there are three lifeboats and an emergency boat on the forward part, and there is a space between the two lots. Do you see?
- Yes.

19135. Give us your view and help us about it; from the point of view of wisdom or unwisdom what is in your view the argument for or against putting further boats amidships?
- I am rather in favour of doing that.

19136. (The Commissioner.) That does not answer the question quite. You have said that in your opinion it would be unwise to increase, as I understand, the number of boats that were in fact on the "Titanic." It is pointed out to you that there is apparently looking at the model, room for more. Why would it be unwise to put them there where there is room?
- I think, My Lord, I did not make myself clear. What I intended to convey was that in my judgment it would be unwise to boat the ships for the total capacity of people whom they may have on board. I believe to do that you would have to crowd the boat decks to such an extent that you would materially interfere with the possibility of getting them all into the water properly. If you take 3,500 people as the full capacity say of the "Titanic" or the "Celtic" that would roughly mean something in the nature of between 50 and 60 boats. Now, any additional boats which we could put in the space which you refer to there, doubling it on the two sides of the ship, would go a very small way towards providing the difference between the 20 boats and the 50 or 60 which would be required to carry the whole ship's company.

19137. That is an answer to the suggestion that you should provide enough boats for everyone on board, but it is not an answer to Sir John Simon's question. Why could you not increase wisely the number that you have?
- I think we can increase them wisely.

19138. Wisely?
- Wisely - increase them somewhat, but we are looking for guidance as to the extent to which we should increase them.

19139. (The Solicitor-General.) Amongst other things we want your evidence. I think the tribunal will want to use it too - in order to help us. Just return to my question. Look again at the boat deck if you will. You spoke of the danger of too great a number of boats interfering with the proper working of the launching and so on, did you not?
- Yes.

19140. That is what you had in mind?
- Yes.

19141. Now, take any one of those boats shown there on the model. In order to launch it what you want is sufficient and efficient help opposite the boat?
- Quite.

19142. You do not want when you are lowering one of those boats shown there any people to work amidships?
- No.

19143. Then what would be the difficulty in increasing the boats so that they lay along either side of the boat deck from one end of it to the other?
- I do not think, so far as your question goes, that there is any real difficulty in increasing the number of boats under davits. The difficulty I have in my mind applies to the boats which you cannot put under davits, and which will have to be spread across the ship amidships.

19144. I quite see that is a different question. Let us first of all take boats under davits. We want your guidance about it. Taking your experience, what do you say as to the possible suggestion that davits might be provided and boats might be slung along the length of the side of the boat deck?
- Speaking generally, I think they might, but before you take that as definite I should like to pass a word with our Nautical Advisers as to whether there is any part of the ship opposite which it is not wise to have a boat lowered. I do not know of any myself.

19145. I feel certain you must have been considering it, you and your fellow directors and managers, have you not?
- We have.

19146. Who is the gentleman whom you would regard in your Company as the person who would express the best opinion about it?
- The marine superintendent.

19147. Who is that?
- Our senior marine superintendent is Captain Bartlett.

19148. Have you formed any estimate, or have you arrived at any conclusion as to how many additional boats could be put on the boat deck under davits if you used the intermediate space?
- No, I do not think I could give you a figure. At the present moment, as I say, we have put a lot of extra boats on, and we are just maintaining that position until the finding of this Court is heard.

19149. You speak of the extra boats which you have put on in the meantime, and I understand it, but are those extra boats which you have put on under davits?
- No.

19150. As I understand, they are collapsible boats of some kind or another?
- Yes; not in all cases. We have also put a number of wooden boats on the ships' decks.

19151. I should like to put it to you - I pass now from filling up the sides of the boat deck - what is your view as to the expediency, or the possibility if you like, of providing additional boat accommodation over and above that?
- Generally speaking, I think we can prudently increase the accommodation over what the "Titanic" had.

19152. Where would you put the extra ones?
- I should put them in the first place in the spaces you have referred to, and I think we might have a certain number placed inside or under the boats that were on the davits. The boat under would have to be a collapsible boat; the boat inside might be a wooden boat.

19153. You mean inboard?
- Yes, I mean inboard, a double row.

The Commissioner:
Have you considered the desirability of using double davits?
- I have never heard of a double davit, My Lord, and I do not know what it is.

19154. By a double davit I mean davits which would carry two boats abreast?
- I am afraid I do not follow what that means. I could understand a davit being sufficiently high so that there might be two boats one above the other.

19155. Not abreast, but one above another?
- I think I would like to be advised on that matter by an expert.

19156. Have you ever seen that done?
- I have never seen that done.

19157. Have you ever heard of it?
- Never. I have heard of a collapsible boat being put under a wooden boat, but of course that does not involve the davit being very high.

19158. Just look at this plan and tell me whether the additional boats suggested there in pencil could be, in your opinion, conveniently placed on a ship like the "Titanic." It is an addition of 14 boats, seven on each side (Handing a paper to the witness.)?
- I should say I think they might be.

19159. Now how many more would those 14 boats accommodate?
- If they were lifeboats they would accommodate -

19160. 65 each?
- Yes, that would be 830.

19161. (The Solicitor-General.) 14 more boats?
- Yes.

The Attorney-General:
910 is the number.

19162. (The Solicitor-General.) It would exactly double the lifeboats?
- Yes.

19163. You have already told me 14 lifeboats carried 910 people?
- Yes.

19164. (The Commissioner.) Now what proportion of the total number, assuming the ship was full, of passengers and crew would those boats accommodate?
- That would make a total of 2,088 capacity and her full complement would be in the neighbourhood of 3,500 people.

19165. So that that would accommodate about four-sevenths of the whole of the people on board?
- That is about right.

The Attorney-General:
If they carried the full complement.

19166. (The Commissioner.) I am saying if she carried the full complement of passengers and crew. The lifeboats, even if they were supplied as put down on that sketch, would merely provide accommodation for a little more than half of the total number on the ship?
- That is correct. I would like to add further that one must not lose sight of the fact that in the Atlantic, particularly, there is always a weather and a lee-side.

19167. Except on this occasion?
- When I say always, I should modify it to this extent - I think you might say 19 times out of 20.

19168. I bow to your much better knowledge, but I should have said in 999 cases out of 1,000?
- I would like to have taken that figure, but I was afraid they might think I was exaggerating. For all practical purposes the lee-side of the ship and the boats that can be moved over to the lee-side are the only boats that would be put out.

The Commissioner:
I am told that is probably so.

19169. (The Solicitor-General.) I was going to accept that, My Lord. (To the witness.) Bearing that fact in mind, that as a Rule you can only use the boats on one side of the ship, in your view is that an argument for increasing the number of your boats or not?
- It is an argument for increasing the number.

19170. Then I daresay you have noticed that though these boats which you had were qualified to carry 1,178 people, the number of people who, in fact, were saved, even if we include those that were picked up in the sea, was only 703?
- I have noticed those figures.

19171. I suppose one may take it that, however good the discipline may be, one may expect not to fill every boat to its absolute full capacity in a moment of crisis?
- I am sure the full capacity of the boat - that is to say, 65, speaking of lifeboats is a figure which in practice would never be reached, because even though you might get conditions such as the "Titanic" was lost in, you would not get the people into the boats, in the first place, and if those conditions did not exist it would not be safe to put them in if you could do it. They would not float with them in; they would be swamped.

19172. Are you referring to the fact that in certain conditions of the weather you cannot launch a boat at all, or are you referring to the fact that in some conditions of weather you can only launch it and carry fewer people?
- I am referring to the latter. I am assuming a condition which would be normal fine weather in the Atlantic, that is to say, in an ordinary sea such as you find in the Atlantic. I do not think, in my judgment - I may be quite wrong - that any of those lifeboats would be seaworthy with 65 people in them.

19173. Have you formed any judgment how many people they would carry in normal fine weather in the Atlantic?
- I am not an expert.

19174. But surely your Board has been considering it?
- I should think a matter of 40 people would be quite enough to put into them.

19175. (The Commissioner.) I do not know whether any one has ever considered the possibility of moving lifeboats from one side of the ship to the other?
- It has often been considered, My Lord, and there are various suggestions made recently more particularly, but I have not myself seen any which I think are practicable. If a vessel is rolling about, as you must expect it to be in the Atlantic, to handle a boat which weighs anywhere from a ton to a ton-and-a-half, and move her about under those conditions, and bring her into a position where she can be reached by the tackles and the davits on the lee-side, would be a most difficult if not a dangerous operation.

19176. (The Solicitor-General.) Have you or your colleagues considered at all whether it would be practicable to have any form of life-saving craft, not a boat - one has heard suggestions, for instance, that a portion of the deck, or a portion of the structure, Might be detachable in some way. Has that been before you?
- The only practical thing that has been suggested to us, and that has in fact been adopted, is to have certain seats made which are of the nature of life rafts. Over and above that we are putting life rafts pure and simple on the ships which will give flotation in the event of a vessel foundering.

19177. What do you mean by a life raft; what is it?
- I mean a raft in the ordinary sense of the word, a flat raft built upon tanks with life lines round it.

19178. And you say you are at this time providing some of those?
- We are putting some of those on.

19179. Now where do you carry them?
- Well, we are putting them on the boat deck.

19180. On the boat deck?
- Yes. I cannot say whether that has been done, but we have told certain ships where the accommodation on the boat deck is restricted, that they can carry them in nests on the hatches.

19181. One above the other?
- Yes, the idea being that if we should have the misfortune to lose a ship these things would float away, and they would be there for the purposes of flotation.

19182. With regard to these life rafts which you speak of had you made any use of them or provided them before the "Titanic" disaster, or is it in consequence of it?
- Only to a very limited extent; we had some, but very few.

19183. Of course, in order to launch more lifeboats you would require more men to man them and launch them than if you had a smaller number, obviously. Have you considered the matter from that point of view, having regard to your existing crews?
- I think we have plenty of people on board the ship, given a reasonable amount of boat experience. You do not need to put extra hands on. When you consider the crew we had on the "Titanic," one-half of them were never near the boats at all for the purpose of launching them.

19184. Will you repeat that?
- When you consider the number of crew we had on board her, I should think probably a very large proportion of them took no part in the launching of the boats; they were not needed.

19185. You had a crew of 800 or 900?
- 894, I believe.

19186. Yes, just on 900. You think that crew would be sufficient in number, assuming that it had practice, to deal with a larger number of boats?
- More than sufficient. All they want is a moderate knowledge of what is required.

19187. I am coming to their practice in a moment. Now there is one other thing about it you might tell me. Can you help us at all as to this suggestion that at one time they had contemplated to double the boats on the davits?
- I can only help you by telling you what I learned after I saw this story in the newspapers.

19188. Well, I think you may tell us?
- When I saw that I expressed great surprise. I enquired of the builders what it meant. I told them that, to the best of my recollection, I had been present at practically all the discussions which had taken place with them with regard to the building of the "Olympic" and the "Titanic," and that I never heard, to the best of my knowledge, of any such suggestion as was referred to in that paper. I was told that the builders, when they heard that the Board of Trade was reconsidering the matter of boating for ships communicated with Mr. Welin, who was the designer of the particular davit which was on the "Titanic," and is on the "Olympic," and they asked him to what extent he could increase the arrangements for putting boats under davits on these ships; and I believe that Mr. Welin did submit a sketch or a plan showing how these additional boats could be arranged for. Whether the builders have still got that sketch I do not know, but I am quite clear, in my own mind, that the managers of the White Star Line never saw it and never heard of it until after the "Titanic" accident. I have not the faintest recollection of ever hearing a word about it.

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