British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
Testimony of Sir Walter J. Howell, cont.
Well, My Lord -
You first of all say that they ought not to have any Advisory committees at all, and secondly, you complain that they do not act upon the advice of the advisory committees.
With respect, My Lord, I have said that the Board of Trade, as a Board - I do not know what it is -
There is an old joke about that, but you must not trot it out!
It is not that, My Lord, but I think if the Regulations are in question it is important that we should know something of the personality of the Board of Trade.
You have given me enough information now. Now let me hear your questions.
There is another point that I should like to mention to your Lordship, if I may. I do not know whether your Lordship will allow questions to be put on it, but it is right that I should mention it - it was touched on by the learned attorney - and that is in reference to the alteration of the loadline.
I did not hear him touch upon it with Sir Walter Howell.
I mentioned it, and I said that I did not think, as far as I could see, that it affected this case, and therefore I was not going into it.
Nor has he touched on the question with Sir Walter Howell about the Rules and Regulations as to the manning.
Yes, My Lord.
There is no reason why you should not.
Certainly, My Lord.
Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.
22538. Without going into the history of the Board of Trade Regulations, May I take it from you that the "Titanic" had a supply of lifeboats and other life-saving appliances considerably in excess of the requirements of the Board of Trade?
- She certainly had more boats than were required by the Board of Trade.
22539. Now, I want to put to you another question with regard to the provision of bulkheads, and watertight compartments. Is it the case that in order to qualify a ship for exemption from some part of the requirements of lifeboats, all that the Board of Trade require in a ship like the "Titanic" would be four watertight bulkheads?
- Before she has any relaxation from the Rules she has to prove to the Board of Trade that she is an efficiently subdivided ship to their satisfaction.
22540. (The Commissioner.) You must bear in mind that I suffer from the infirmity of deafness. You do not speak so that I can hear you. Do not whisper into the ear of Mr. Scanlan. Let me know what you are saying - Yes, My Lord, I am very sorry.
22541. (Mr. Scanlan.) In order to qualify for exemption, I submit to you that what the Board of Trade instruct their superintending Officers to require in a ship like the "Titanic" would be four watertight compartments. Is that so?
- No, certainly not.
Where did you get that from, Mr. Scanlan?
I have just got information from one of those instructing me that that is so.
It must be in some printed document. I have not heard of it so far.
Mr. Scanlan - To the Witness:
Do your Instructions for the Regulation of surveys of ships apply to this point?
Apply to what point?
The point of the division of ships efficiently into bulkheads and watertight compartments.
"Efficiently" is one thing, and "Into four separate compartments" may be quite another thing.
It is No 16 of those Rules.
Do not you be misled by bad examples and found your questions upon mere hearsay information.
This is a point I was instructed to put, My Lord, on the responsibility of those who are advising me.
Where is the gentleman who is advising you?
Here, My Lord. (Pointing.)
Sit down for a moment or two and ask him what he means and then get up again.
If your Lordship pleases I will pass from that point and go to another.
But you have not elucidated it. You have left me in a fog.
I think the witness is able to take you out of the fog, My Lord.
Then get him to do it.
22542. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) Can you explain, Sir Walter, what is the provision in your regulations in regard to watertight compartments?
- With reference to emigrant ships like the "Titanic"?
- It is that in order to get any exemption from the requirements as to boats, they must comply with the requirements laid down in the Reports of the bulkheads Committee, which have been adopted by the Board of Trade as the standard for bulkheads.
Now ask him what that is?
Do you mean the requirements of the bulkheads Committee as applied to a ship like the "Titanic"?
- That I must leave to be explained by the technical Officers.
22544. (The Commissioner.) Oh, dear, dear me. I get into confusion when you push off the answer to somebody else who is not in the witness-box?
- It is simply because I am afraid of misleading you, My Lord.
Never mind about that. Answer the question. Go on.
May I take it, Sir Walter, that you are not in a position to give this information?
Oh, don't you help him in that way. I want you to make him give me the information.
22545. (Mr. Scanlan.) Sir Walter, if you are not able to give this information, why are you not able to give it?
- Because I cannot carry in my head all the recommendations of the bulkheads Committee.
22546. But you are the head of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, and this is an important concern of your Marine Department. I suppose you will take care that you will get this information from somebody else in your department?
22547. Now with regard to the manning scale, is there any suggestion to your inspecting Officers as to what would be a sufficient crew for a ship like the "Titanic"?
- The "Titanic" was an emigrant ship.
- There are certain Regulations laid down to guide the emigrant Officer in declaring that he is satisfied with the manning. He has to clear the ship and be satisfied with her manning before she goes to sea.
22549. Is there any standard of sufficiency by which he may satisfy himself? Has he any directions as to what would be a sufficient crew?
- Yes, he has.
22550. What, according to his directions, would be a sufficient crew?
- "In steamships" - shall I read it or give a general idea of it?
Will you put your question again, I did not hear it?
22551. (Mr. Scanlan.) What would be the requirements of the Board of Trade, the instructions given to your clearing Officers, as to a sufficient number of crew?
- I have in my hand the scale. It goes up to 9,700 cubic feet - the "total capacity of boats and rafts required under the life-saving appliances Rules" - and here are the different scales - the total capacity of boats and rafts that should be carried. I will take the 8,900 to 9,300, which is nearly at the end of the scale - 46.
Where can I find it?
It is the "Instructions Relating to Emigrant Ships."
Page 10 of the book, "Instructions Relating to Emigrant Ships."
22552. (Mr. Scanlan.) You will find the table and scale on that page, My Lord.
- That is the table they have to guide them.
22553. This deals exclusively with deckhands?
22554. Do you give any directions to your clearing Officers as to the number of Officers a ship should carry - a ship, say, like the "Titanic"?
- There are certain statutory requirements with regard to that.
22555. Can you say, according to those requirements, how many Officers would be required?
- I think a Master - I am speaking from memory, I have not the paper before me - two mates.
22556. A carpenter?
- A Master and two mates. Are you asking me to define deckhands?
22557. No, I am not asking you yet to define deckhands, but to tell my Lord how many of a crew a ship like the "Titanic" would be expected to carry?
- I have given you an indication from the table.
22558. I know you have given me an indication that applies exclusively to deckhands. Do you give any directions to your Marine superintendents as to the number in the stokehold, in the engine room, and in other departments of the ships?
22559. Or the number of Officers?
- The number of Officers I can tell you in a moment. You mean the number of masters and so on.
22560. Masters, and so on?
- One master, two mates, two certificated engineers.
22561. One master, two mates, two Officers of the rating of mate, and two certificated engineers?
22562. Is that all?
- Yes, I think that is all the statutory requirement.
22563. Of course, it would be manifestly an improper thing to let a ship depart on a voyage with such an incomplete crew as that - a ship like the "Titanic." Am I right in thinking that unless you call the requirements which you have indicated to my Lord a manning scale there is no such thing in existence as a manning scale for modern ships?
- Yes, that is so.
22564. (The Commissioner.) I heard your question, but I did not hear the answer. Please speak out a little?
- I am so sorry, My Lord. The answer is that there is no definite manning scale for merchant ships.
22565. Do not use an adjective of that kind. I do not know what you mean when you say "definite." Is there any?
Then you can leave out "definite."
22566. (Mr. Scanlan.) Has the attention of the Board of Trade been frequently called to the importance of stipulating for a minimum scale of manning?
- Yes, the Board of Trade has frequently had its attention called to that point.
22567. (The Commissioner.) Have they considered the matter?
- Oh, yes, it has been considered, My Lord.
22568. What has happened upon the consideration?
- That no manning scale hard-and-fast has been laid down.
22569. You have used another qualification. I do not know what "hard-and-fast" means. Has any manning scale been laid down at all?
- Well, instructions have been issued to the Officers as to the number of deckhands that must be carried as a minimum, or else the vessel is regarded as not being fit to go to sea and seaworthy.
Where are those instructions?
Do you mean with regard to emigrant ships?
In order to answer Mr. Scanlan's question, I should really have to read you these requirements in the Circular.
22570. (The Commissioner.) In what circular?
- In the "Instructions relating to Emigrant Ships" that your Lordship has before you.
22571. What page do you want to read?
- I want to give an instance of the engine room staff.
22572. What page?
- Page 11, paragraph 23. There are instructions to our surveyors there that: "The following scale has been prepared for the guidance of the Emigration Officers with regard to the manning of the engine room and stokehold." Then there is a Table on page 11 of these "Instructions relating to emigrant ships."
What was the horse power of the engines of the "Titanic"?
Indicated, or nominal, My Lord?
I have not got the nominal figures here, My Lord. The total indicated horse power plus the shaft horse power was about 60,000. The nominal horse power appears in the certificate, and I have not got the figures.
22573. (The Commissioner.) I am told the nominal horse -power was 6,906. (To the witness.) What in this scale would indicate the number of engineers to be carried in a vessel the nominal horse -power of which is 6,906?
- I am very sorry not to be able to answer your Lordship, but I am unable to answer that question.
Am I right in saying that there is nothing in the scale to indicate it?
Six thousand nine hundred and six I take to be the nominal horse -power, My Lord.
That is right. Now, I am asking him what there is in this scale which indicates the number of engineers to be carried in a vessel with engines of that capacity or power, and as I understand - I do not know whether I have understood him rightly - there is nothing in this scale.
There is something, I should think.
Sir Robert Finlay:
I think the last line seems to indicate it.
22574. (The Commissioner.) I do not know whether sir Walter will say that?
- No. I should like to ask one of my technical Officers to answer that question.
22575. The only thing I see is "600 and over" - seven engineers?
- There is nothing else so far as I can see at present.
How many engineers did the "Titanic" carry, in fact?
I think the total in the engine room department was 327.
The engineers numbered about 32. It depends upon whether you count electricians, but they numbered about that.
I was including the engineering department and the boiler department, My Lord, and, from an abstract I have, it appears to be 327.
What is 327?
The total crew carried by the "Titanic" in the engine room and the stokehold.
22576. (The Commissioner.) You said just now that in order to answer Mr. Scanlan's question you must refer to page 11 of the book under the head of "Engine room Staff." Now, is there anything else under that heading which will help us?
- There is a series of paragraphs after the scale which give the emigrant Officer guidance in dealing with this matter.
Let us see what they are.
It is said to be a guide, and not a hard-and-fast Rule.
22577. (The Commissioner.) "The following scale has been prepared for the guidance of the Emigration Officers with regard to the manning of the engine room and stokehold." Taking the only figure that can by any means be considered as applying to the present case for engines of the nominal horse power of 600 and over, seven engineers are required, one donkeyman, three greasers, two store -keepers, and one fireman for every 18 square feet of fire -grate surface in the boilers." Is that right?
- Yes, that is as I read it.
22578. That applies to a boat with engines of 600 nominal horse power and over?
- Yes, My Lord.
22579. Do you suggest that that constitutes any guide to your emigration Officers as to the requirements in respect of manning the engine room that should be made when the engines are ten times as great and powerful as those as are specified here?
- As far as they go, My Lord.
22580. What do you mean by "as far as they go"?
- They go to 600 and over.
22581. I know. But do you mean to say "600 and over" means anything. I do not know how far it means. Do you mean to say that it would have been sufficient in the "Titanic" to have had seven engineers, one donkeyman, three greasers, two storekeepers and one fireman for every 18 square feet of fire -grate surface in the boilers?
- Oh, no.
22582. Where is the man who has this book put into his hand to find what he ought to require in the case of a ship with engines like the "Titanic"?
- I am afraid I cannot satisfactorily answer your Lordship's question.
22583. Do you think an answer is to be found at all?
- I think the answer will be found when you examine the technical Officer who deals with this matter.
22584. It may be so?
- Yes, My Lord, that is it.
22585. (Mr. Scanlan.) May I direct your attention, Sir Walter, to the agreement and account of the crew prepared by the Registrar-General. I see some particulars given here as to the number the crew shall consist of. Are you acquainted with this document?
22586. Will you please read this and tell me if this printed matter at the top has reference to the manning? (The document was handed to the witness.) - Yes, it is such minute print that I can hardly read it. That is the agreement between the men and the master of the ship.
22587. That is the agreement which the Board of Trade revise and assent to?
- It has to be entered into in the presence of the superintendent.
22588. Have the details given there any relation to what the Board of Trade considers sufficient?
- I can only put it to you in this broad way. The Emigration Officer before he clears the vessel has to be satisfied that she is properly and efficiently manned, and the instructions that he is given are only as a sort of guide to him in what his requirements should be.
22589. Those are the only instructions?
- I think those are the only instructions.
May I take it from you that there are no instructions issued acting on which an Officer of your Board would be in a position to demand that there should be for a ship like the "Titanic" a crew of anything like the proportions of the crew carried.
I do not understand that question.
I mean your requirements, I submit, are not at all up to what the owners evidently consider a proper crew for the "Titanic."
I do not know what you mean. You talk about "your requirements," addressing Sir Walter.
I mean the Board of Trade.
I know, but I do not know what their requirements are.
22590. (Mr. Scanlan.) Quite, My Lord. (To the witness.) You have, I take it, a general power - I think it is under the act of 1906 - to regard a ship which is insufficiently manned as unseaworthy?
22591. But you have not yet drawn up a manning scale expressing the view of the board as to what is a sufficient and a deficient crew?
- That is so.
22592. I was asking you a moment ago if this question had been brought under the notice of the board, and you stated that it had. I want to ask you this further question. Was it brought under the notice of the Board of Trade, both on behalf of the seamen and on behalf of owners?
- I do not quite follow your question.
22593. (The Commissioner.) It is a plain enough question.
- I do not know what he means by "on behalf of owners."
What he means to say is this: Did the owners bring the matter to your notice, and did the Unions bring the matter to your notice? That is what he means by the seamen - the Unions.
22594. (Mr. Scanlan.) Mr. Havelock Wilson, in particular?
- The Unions certainly have often desired a manning scale.
22595. Have the shipowners themselves desired a manning scale?
- I do not recollect that they have.
I take it that it has been brought forward by the men?
Do not deal with this too long. You must remember that this is a little bit away from our enquiry, because it has not been suggested that there were not enough men in the engine room.
On the contrary, My Lord. I say I have no fault whatever to find with the number of men in the engine room, but that in the conduct of their department which your Lordship is asked to go into in this Question 26, it is relevant to consider what Rules they had made for the manning in the engine room.
I do not say it is irrelevant, but inasmuch as there is no complaint against the manning of the engine room in the "Titanic," I point out to you that it is not, in this Enquiry, of very great importance. Generally, you may ask him whether they have power to draw up a manning scale, and whether they have drawn it up, and whether they have been asked to do so.
22596. (Mr. Scanlan.) You have said, Sir Walter, that you have been asked to draw up a manning scale. I will put this further question to you: No manning scale has been drawn up?
- No manning scale extending to all vessels has been drawn up.
I want to ask you now if you consider it would be desirable to draw up a manning scale.
I am not sure that you should ask him that. The Union think so, obviously.
22597. (Mr. Scanlan.) With regard to the rating -?
- Will you allow me, before passing from this, to call your attention to Section 305 of the merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which deals with the crew of an emigrant ship.
22598. (The Commissioner.) What is it?
- It shows the way my Lord, in which the Emigration Officer, who is the responsible Officer, deals with the clearance of an emigrant ship - the legal requirements.
22599. Read it to me.
- "Every emigrant ship shall be manned with an efficient crew for her intended voyage to the satisfaction of the emigration Officer, from whom a certificate for clearance for such ship is demanded. After the crew have been passed by the Emigration Officer, the strength of the crew shall not be diminished nor any of the men changed without the consent in writing either of that Emigration Officer or of the superintendent at the port of clearance. (2.) Where the consent of a superintendent has been obtained, it shall within 24 hours thereafter be lodged with the said Emigration Officer. (3.) If the Emigration Officer considers the crew inefficient, the owner or charterer of a ship may appeal in writing to the Board of Trade, and the board shall, at the expense of the appellant, appoint two other emigration Officers or two competent persons to examine into the matter, and the unanimous opinion of the persons so appointed, expressed under their hands, shall be conclusive on the point."
As I understand it, Mr. Scanlan, that seems to answer you?
22600. (Mr. Scanlan.) That is in the act of Parliament?
- That is so.
It is left by law to the discretion of the Emigration Officer.
What I suggest, My Lord, is that if it is left to the discretion of the individual Emigration Officer, you may have a difference in practice between one port and another.
Certainly you may.
And it is for that reason, My Lord, that I respectfully suggest, as a matter for this Inquiry, that it is desirable to recommend a manning scale which would be universally observed.
That would appear to me to involve - it may be right, you know - an alteration of the law, not to leave the matter in the discretion of different minds at different places, but to make one hard-and-fast Rule.
That is so, My Lord.
That does not throw any discredit in any way upon the Board of Trade itself. You cannot yet - I do not know what you may be able to do later on - blame them for obeying the law.
I will read, My Lord, one short sentence from the report of a conference between the representatives of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand on the subject of Merchant Shipping legislation.
What date is that?
It is in 1907. The then President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Lloyd George, was talking with reference to manning, and he is asked, "Which section?" and he said, "There is only one section. We have simply extended the definition of unseaworthiness to undermanning. We can issue any instructions we like to our surveyors; we can impose a scale."
22601. (The Commissioner.) Who said that is extending the definition of unseaworthiness to undermanning, because I always understood undermanning did constitute unseaworthiness?
- A special Act was passed. Doubt had been expressed whether unseaworthiness included undermanning. I never thought it did, but an Act was passed to make it quite clear that unseaworthiness included undermanning.
22602. Did you suppose it did not?
- I never supposed it did not, but some people raised doubts, and an Act was passed to remove those doubts.
That is the act of 1907.
You may drop this now, and go on to the next point.
22603. (Mr. Scanlan.) You know it was stated in this paragraph that I have referred to that you could issue instructions. May I, My Lord, with your permission, carry it this one step further? You have not issued any such instructions, or imposed such a scale as the President said you might then impose?
- I think this is rather difficult matter, and I hope I may be allowed to explain it to you for a moment. It rather involves me construing what Mr. Lloyd George said, but I think I must do it. Mr. Lloyd George said that the Board of Trade can detain any ships which they or their Officers regard as being unfit to proceed to sea without serious danger to human life, and they can also issue to their surveyors instructions to guide them in coming to a conclusion as to when a ship was or was not unseaworthy and that among the reasons for which a ship could be detained were defective equipments, Machinery, over and improper loading, and undermanning, so that in a sense it would be possible for the Board of Trade to lay down a scale with regard to the vessels - to say you should detain a vessel if she did not come up to a certain standard. That, I think, explains that matter.
22604. It explains everything except the reason why you have not imposed such a scale or issued such instructions?
- But we have.
22605. Can you explain that?
- We have issued the instructions.
22606. (The Commissioner.) Apparently, there are Emigration Officers, or whatever they are called, to survey these ships, and that gentleman apparently has the power of saying a ship is not sufficiently manned, and if he says so, then the ship does not get a certificate, and cannot go to sea. Is not that the position?
- With regard to emigrant ships, certainly, but Mr. Scanlan was asking me about all sorts of other ships - a manning scale.
22607. (Mr. Scanlan.) There is not, so far as the "Titanic" is concerned; but it is considered desirable by those whom I represent to bring before your Lordship as a point at this Inquiry the desirability of having a fixed scale. (To the witness.) Do you think it would be desirable with regard to the rating to fix a standard of efficiency for the stokehold, in accordance with the recommendation I read to you?
- When was that recommendation made?
22608. It is in the report of the manning Committee of 1894.
- That is a great many years ago. That report, or rather those reports, for there are several of them, Made very numerous recommendations to the Board of Trade, and the several reports do not agree with each other. What the Board of Trade attempted to do on receipt of that report was to see what the majority of the Committee agreed upon, and if possible to act upon it. It is many years ago now. I do not remember whether that particular recommendation was in the majority Report or not.
22609. I think this is the majority Report signed by almost all of the members?
- Very well.
22610. The recommendation here is very distinct, as you will hear - "That a candidate for the rating of fireman should be 18 years of age or over and have had six months' service as a trimmer in a steamer"?
- I am quite sure the Board of Trade have laid down no Rule which adopted that recommendation.
22611. Have you any recommendation contrary to this from any other committee on this point?
- I do not think so.
22612. May I submit that it would be desirable to make some Rule on this point?
- The Board of Trade that day were evidently advised not to do it.
22613. I am speaking of now?
- You are not asking me for an opinion, are you?
22614. I am told not to ask you for an opinion, and I will bow to his Lordship's ruling. With regard to the Rules for the provision of lifeboats and life-saving appliances, the only alteration made since 1890 is the one alteration from 9,000 tons and upwards to 10,000 tons?
- 10,000 tons, and upwards.
22615. And the only additional accommodation stipulated for there is 250 cubic feet - that is on page 17?
- That is right.
22616. Two hundred and fifty cubic feet according to your scale means lifeboat accommodation for 25 additional people?
- And it also carries with it the additional requirements for additional boats, you know. Every time you raise the proportion of boats in davits you proportionally increase the other, the additional boats.
22617. That is 25 here, and 18, I am informed, with a possible diminution in respect of bulkheads?
- I have no reason to think that is wrong.
22618. That is for about 40 people additional?
22619. You were asked some questions with regard to America, and your statement to my friend Sir rufus Isaacs was that at present, roughly speaking, we are in the same position as America for lifeboat accommodation?
- Each has accepted the passenger certificate of the other. I am not prepared to say that in every detail they assimilate, because that is not so.
Are you aware that a recommendation, or a Rule, is now in force, since April of this year for ocean going steamers, which provides that "each and every steamer navigating the ocean must be provided with sufficient lifeboat capacity to accommodate every person on board, including passengers and crew, excepting infants in arms."
That is some American book, is it?
It is the general Rules and Regulations provided by the supervising inspectors as amended in January, 1912, and the date is April 27th of this year.
That is after the "Titanic."
I was asking you: Is it an American book?
Yes, I think so.
That is a sort of - if I may respectfully say so, I do not wish to criticise what they do in America - legislation after the event.
22620. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes, My Lord. We have heard people like Mr. Sanderson say here to you, My Lord, that he and the shipowners were waiting anxiously for the recommendation of your Lordship, and under this Question 26 your Lordship is invited to advise as to what alterations should be made in the recommendations; and in that view I think this alteration in America of very special importance to bring under your Lordship's notice.
There has been a great deal done here since the "Titanic" disaster.
22621. Are you aware of this regulation?
- I was not aware of it until you told me.
I have at present serious doubts whether it would be a wise thing to direct lifeboat accommodation for every soul on board - I have serious doubts about it. It never has been done. It is quite true that the loss of the "Titanic" appears to point to the probability of it being wise to increase the lifeboat accommodation.
From other information which I am able to place at your Lordship's disposal, the whole of the shipowners of this country have come to the Board of Trade and have expressed their willingness to put on lifeboat accommodation for every person carried.