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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

Load Line Committee

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Load Line Committee.

M 14284. My Lord Duke,

In pursuance of the request of the late President of the Board of Trade (the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, M.P.), we have given our most careful consideration to the following questions respecting the determination of the load lines of merchant ships, and have the honour to report thereon as follows:

The questions put to us were,—
"1.Whether it is now practicable to frame any general rules concerning freeboard which will prevent dangerous overloading without unduly interfering with trade.
"2.If so, whether any, and which of the existing tables, with any, and what alterations, or any other, and what tables should be adopted.
"3.How far any such tables can be adopted as fixed rules, and what amount of discretion must be left to the Officers who have to see that they are complied with."

Before replying to these questions we deemed it desirable (not-withstanding the close and technical acquaintance with merchant, ships and with the conditions of safe loading which members of the Committee from their avocations necessarily possess) that we should together visit the principal mercantile ports, and there make joint observations of the load lines at present marked upon ships, and of the nature and extent of the actual loading practised. We also thought it well to avail ourselves of the opportunities thus afforded for conferring freely with shipowners, managers, masters, seamen, and others connected with the Mercantile Marine, and of receiving from them such evidence as they were willing to offer. We have likewise taken in London a considerable body of evidence. In order that your Grace may readily observe how page 4 numerous and how experienced have been the witnesses who have thus voluntarily contributed to the fulness of our information we append to this Report a list of their names.

Mr. Thomas Gray, C.B., and Sir Digby Murray, Bart., and likewise Mr. Benjamin Martell, and Mr. T. B. Hoyden have furnished all such information upon the subject as the large resources of the Board of Trade and of Lloyd's Register Office and of the Liverpool Registry respectively have enabled them to supply.

As the result of our prolonged consultations and labours we have unanimously arrived at the following replies to the questions before recited, viz.:

1.We are of opinion that it is now practicable to frame general rules concerning freeboard which will prevent dangerous over-loading without unduly interfering with trade.
2.We have the pleasure to submit herewith tables which we consider should be adopted.
3.We are of opinion that these tables can be adopted, at least for all existing types of cargo vessels, and for some years to come, without the exercise of any other discretion on the part of the officers who have to see that they are complied with, than that which concerns the quality and condition of the ship. The freeboards assigned by the tables herewith are suitable for vessels of the highest class in Lloyd's Register or of strength equivalent thereto, and should be increased for ships of inferior strength.

To the responsible authorities a large discretion must be allowed, viz.: that of applying the tables themselves with reasonable modi-fications to any very exceptional vessels which may now exist or may hereafter be constructed.

For careful as we have been to give full consideration to all actual types and sizes of vessels, we cannot but admit that undue interference with trade might occasionally arise were the tables to be applied henceforth to all ships, present and future, without any exception whatever. We are well aware that the discretion which we thus regard as necessary is such as should be exercised with very great skill, care, and judgment, but we see no reason why those charged with the responsible duty of preventing the overloading of merchant ships should not have at their command all needful assistance.

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The tables submitted herewith arc of the same general form as those hitherto adopted by Lloyd's Register Office, and like them involve the reservation above water of a regulated minimum per-centile of the total buoyancy. At the same time these tables secure that a sufficient height of deck above water to which the Board of Trade advisers have justly attached much importance. The views of the Board of Trade advisers concerning the value of forecastles, poops, and like deck erections, and the necessity for a liberal amount of freeboard in flush-deck vessels which are deprived of such erections, have likewise received our careful attention, and have had their due influence upon the tables submitted herewith. The same may be said with reference to the freeboards assigned to vessels of extreme proportions and to vessels of very fine forms. The Board of Trade distinction between winter and summer freeboards has likewise, after the fullest consideration, been adopted.

The tables as now submitted involve only such limited modifi-cations of the freeboards assigned by the latest tables of Lloyd's Register Office as Mr. Benjamin Martell is able to freely accept and cordially concur with. The same may be said of the extension of the tabular forms by the addition thereto of corrections for changes of length and for voyages in summer and in the North Atlantic in winter.

In the tables submitted the definitions of length, breadth, depth, sheer, round of beam, and freeboard have undergone revision.

The changes introduced have been made for the purpose of simplifying the assignment and marking of freeboards, and although they modify in one or two points the directions of the fourth section of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1873, and may therefore render legislation necessary, the measure required would be of so brief, simple, and non-contentious a character as to render its passage easy.

It will be observed by the tables that they refer exclusively to cargo-carrying vessels. We have not considered it necessary to carry our investigations into the differences which may be made in the loading of passenger vessels. But it must be understood that under any circumstances those tables contain the maximum loading that should be permitted to any class of vessel.

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In view of the unanimity with which we have arrived at our results it is deemed unnecessary to trouble your Grace with the evidence which has been taken, or with the information prepared and contributed by the various members of the Committee for its guidance from time to time.

In closing our labours which were commenced in January 1884, and have since proceeded continuously, we cannot but express our great satisfaction at the attainment of the unanimity just referred to. The subject placed before us by your Grace's predecessor was one of extreme complexity, and also one which had come to be regarded with much diversity of view (as was natural where the profit and loss of the largest commercial operations ever carried on upon the sea are involved), and therefore it would not have been surprising if we had failed to arrive at conclusions which we could all accept. But by thoroughly considering every important point as it has arisen, and by making reasonable concessions to each other on matters of opinion, we have succeeded in arriving unanimously at our results. As the Board of Trade, Lloyd's Register Office, and the Liverpool Registry arc all represented upon this Committee the importance of this concurrence will be manifest. We have the honour to be, my Lord Duke, your Grace's obedient Servants, (Signed) E. J. Reed, Chairman, W. Denny, Robt. Duncan, James Dunn, Frans. Elgar, Thomas Gray, William Gray, James Laing, B. Martell, Digby Murray, T. B. Royden, The. Sutherland.


Reginald Bingham,