Page 103 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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with the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, Section 92, and that is the standard which is laid down by the present law for the number of officers and engineers required for our ships. It is a most important point, because it is obviously - and Sir Walter Howell admitted it at once - an improper thing that a ship like the “Titanic” should be allowed to go to sea with a complement of two officers in addition to the Captain. That is all that is required by this Section. Of course, it is not the complement that is provided by responsible shipowners; but there is a minimum laid down by that Section, and if there is to be any scale at all, I submit that it must be a proper one. The Commissioner: What is the Section? Mr. Holmes: Section 92, Sub-section (1)(c). Sir Walter Howell admitted that at once, and with the same breath he said he would hesitate to say that it was wise to legislate, because he objects to lay down a minimum, finding that the minimum is generally adopted as the maximum. He seemed to forget that the minimum is already laid down by the Section, and what I am suggesting is that the minimum should be increased or that there shall be a number of minima, a scale, if I may say so, in a similar way to the scale for boat accommodation, rising with the tonnage and size of the ship. It is certainly of no use having any regulation upon the point at all unless the regulation is complete. I next want to deal quite shortly with the question of survey of the ships. The Board of Trade is in the habit of appointing an Engineer Surveyor to be an engineer and ship Surveyor; that is to say, he does the whole of the surveying of a ship both from the point of view of the engines, the hull and the equipments. In the case of the “Titanic” it was Mr. Carruthers who did that. I have not a word of complaint to make against Mr. Carruthers as an engineer. The complaint I am making is that the Board of Trade system is to put the wrong man to do the work, or to put a man to do work for which he is not really by his training qualified. The appointment is made by the Assistant Secretary, Sir Walter Howell, and he said that he relies, before making the appointment, on the fact that the applicant has satisfied the Principal Ship Surveyor, Mr. Archer, of his capabilities. Mr. Archer, when asked, admitted that he puts them through no test whatever as nautical men. They have an examination as engineers. They have six months’ training, for a probationary period, he said, as shipwrights, which would seem to me to be very insufficient. All he could tell us was that they accompanied a senior officer in his work. The Attorney-General: I am sorry to intervene, but I am very anxious to know what it is we have to deal with. I have found a little difficulty in following my friend’s argument on the last two points and its bearing on the Enquiry before you. Of course, if it was a general Enquiry into the administration by the Board of Trade under the Merchant Shipping Acts. I agree it would be relevant, and, as to what amending Statutes would be necessary, it would be relevant, but, so far as I have understood the evidence, it is not suggested that by reason of either of the two points, upon which my friend is now relying, there was any loss of life or that there was any increased risk to the vessel, and if your Lordship would bear in mind Question 26, it is limited to the Merchant Shipping Acts and the administration of the Acts and the Rules, so far as the consideration thereof is material to this casualty. The difficulty I find in dealing with it is that I thought that was the view your Lordship took at an earlier stage. My friend’s last two points are opening up very much wider considerations, which would necessitate, or at least certainly would have led to, some further evidence to explain what was done. I thought what we were doing here was merely enquiring into the administration of the Acts so far as they related to this casualty. I am anxious to know. I do not want to stop anything which your Lordship thinks ought properly to be enquired into or dealt with by you, but I am anxious to know how far we are to go with this, and whether we are to enquire, or whether your Lordship proposes to deal in answer to that question, with all the matters that are raised relative to the administration by the Board of Trade of these Acts. Mr. Holmes: My Lord, I do not suggest for one moment that there was any loss of life through
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