British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry



The following recommendations are made. They referred to foreign-going passenger and emigrant steamships.

Watertight Subdivision.

1. That the newly appointed Bulkhead Committee should enquire and report, among other matters, on the desirability and practicability of providing ships with (a.) a double skin carried up above the waterline; or, as an alternative, with (b.) a longitudinal, vertical, watertight bulkhead on each side of the ship, extending as far forward and as far aft as convenient; or (c.) with a combination of (a.) and (b.). Any one of the three (a.), (b.) and (c.) to be in addition to watertight transverse bulkheads.

2. That the Committee should also enquire and report as to the desirability and practicability of fitting ships with (a.) a deck or decks at a convenient distance or distances above the waterline which shall be watertight throughout a part or the whole of the ship's length; and should in this connection report upon (b.) the means by which the necessary openings in such deck or decks should be made watertight, whether by watertight doors or watertight trunks or by any other and what means.

3. That the Committee should consider and report generally on the practicability of increasing the protection given by subdivision; the object being to secure that the ship shall remain afloat with the greatest practicable proportion of her length in free communication with the sea.

4. That when the Committee has reported upon the matters before mentioned, the Board of Trade should take the report into their consideration and to the extent to which they approve of it should seek Statutory powers to enforce it in all newly built ships, but with a discretion to relax the requirements in special cases where it may seem right to them to do so.

5. That the Board of Trade should be empowered by the Legislature to require the production of the designs and specifications of all ships in their early stages of construction and to direct such amendments of the same as may be thought necessary and practicable for the safety of life at sea in ships. (This should apply to all passenger carrying ships.)

Lifeboats and Rafts.

6. That the provision of lifeboat and raft accommodation on board such ships should be based on the number of persons intended to be carried in the ship and not upon tonnage.

7. That the question of such accommodation should be treated independently of the question of the subdivision of the ship into watertight compartments. (This involves the abolition of Rule 12 of the Life-Saving Appliances Rules of 1902.)

8. That the accommodation should be sufficient for all persons on board, with, however, the qualification that in special cases where, in the opinion Board of Trade, such provision is impracticable, the requirements may be modified as the Board may think right. (In order to give effect to this recommendation changes may be necessary in the sizes and types of boats to be carried and in the method of stowing and floating them. It may also be necessary to set apart one or more of the boat decks exclusively for carrying boats and drilling the crew, and to consider the distribution of decks in relation to the passengers' quarters. These, however, are matters of detail to be settled with reference to the particular circumstance affecting the ship).

9. That all boats should be fitted with a protective, continuous fender, to lessen the risk of damage when being lowered in a seaway.

10. That the Board of Trade should be empowered to direct that one or more of the boats be fitted with some form of mechanical propulsion.

11. That there should be a Board of Trade regulation requiring all boat equipment (under sections 5 and 6, page 15 of the Rules, dated February, 1902, made by the Board of Trade under section 427, Merchant Shipping Act, 1894) to be in the boats as soon as the ship leaves harbour. The sections quoted above should be amended so as to provide also that all boats and rafts should carry lamps and pyrotechnic lights for purposes of signalling. All boats should be provided with compasses and provisions, and should be very distinctly marked in such a way as to indicate plainly the number of adult persons each boat can carry when being lowered.

12. That the Board of Trade inspection of boats and life-saving appliances should be of a more searching character than hitherto.

Manning the Boats and Boat Drills.

13. That in cases where the deck hands are not sufficient to man the boats enough other members of the crew should be men trained in boat work to make up the deficiency. These men should be required to pass a test in boat work.

14. That in view of the necessity of having on board men trained in boat work, steps should be taken to encourage the training of boys for the Merchant Service.

15. That the operation of Section 115 and Section 134 (a) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, should be examined, with a view to amending the same so as to secure greater continuity of service than hitherto.

16. That the men who are to man the boats should have more frequent drills than hitherto. That in all ships a boat drill, a fire drill and a watertight door drill should be held as soon as possible after leaving the original port of departure and at convenient intervals of not less than once a week during the voyage. Such drills to be recorded in the official log.

17. That the Board of Trade should be satisfied in each case before the ship leaves port that a scheme has been devised and communicated to each officer of the ship for securing an efficient working of the boats.


18. That every man taking a look-out in such ships should undergo a site test at reasonable intervals.

19. That in all such ships a police system should be organised so as to secure obedience to orders, and proper control and guidance of all on board in times of emergency.

20. That all such ships there should be an installation of wireless telegraphy, and that such installation should be worked with a sufficient number of trained operators to secure a continuous service by night and day. In this connection regard should be had to the resolutions of the International Conference on Wireless Telegraphy recently held under the presidency of Sir H. Babington Smith. That where practicable a silent chamber for "receiving" messages should form part of the installation.

21. That instruction should begin in all Steamship Companies' Regulations that when ice is reported in or near the track the ship should proceed in the dark hours at a moderate speed or alter her course so as to go well clear of the danger zone.

22. That the attention of Masters of vessels should be drawn by the Board of Trade to the effect that under the Maritime Conventions Act, 1911, it is a misdemeanour not to go to the relief of a vessel in distress when possible to do so.

23. That the same protection as to the safety of life in the event of casualties which is afforded to emigrant ships by means of supervision and inspection should be extended to all foreign-going passenger ships.

24. That (unless already done) steps should be taken to call an International Conference to consider and as far as possible to agree upon a common line of conduct in respect of (a) the subdivision of ships; (b) the provision and working of life-saving appliances; (c) the installation of wireless telegraphy and the method of working the same; (d) the reduction of speed or the alteration of course in the vicinity of ice; and (e) the use of searchlights.

Wreck Commissioner

We concur,
F. C. A. LYON,

30th July, 1912.