Page 86 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
P. 86
Well now, in a general way we are told, “Oh, when we considered this matter we always thought of suitability, we always thought of watertight compartments and watertight bulkheads.” I will say very little about that, but I must make this observation. We have it in evidence, and it is the fact, that the only statutory provision with reference to bulkheads is that contained in Rule 12 on page 16 of these Rules under the Life-Saving Appliances Act. To my mind a very material distinction exists between this statutory provision and Instructions to the Surveyors in reference to bulkheads, which, of course, is not statutory, and which is constantly being departed from, and which was departed from repeatedly in the case of the “Titanic.” Nothing is laid down hard-and- fast, and if the builders of a ship can satisfy the Superintending Officer that although what they are doing is not just exactly what the Instructions recommend, still it is as good, it is allowed to pass. But this is the one and only statutory provision with regard to watertight bulkheads. And what do we find in the case of the “Titanic” so far as this one statutory provision is concerned? We find that it was not complied with in the case of the “Titanic.” And if your Lordship will look at the Report and recommendation of the Principal Ship Surveyor, Mr. Archer, you will see he refers to this at page 17. The Commissioner: In how many ships is it complied with? Mr. Scanlan: The number is given here in Sir Walter Howell’s evidence. I think he said 150, or some big number, had applied, and the number which had complied with the requirements and had qualified for exemption was considerably smaller. The Commissioner: About four a year, I think. Mr. Scanlan: Five a year, it used to be, and now it comes down to four a year. The Commissioner: Sixty-nine, I am told. Mr. Scanlan: That is the figure I had in mind, my Lord. Here is what Mr. Archer says about this Rule in his Report at page 17 of that paper to which I referred, your Lordship: “Owing, no doubt, to the very small reduction of life-saving appliances at present sanctioned by this Rule, none of the large vessels recently constructed have complied with the recommendations of the Bulkhead Committee, although they are thought to be most reasonable in the case of vessels which have boat capacity for only a proportion of the persons carried.” He is the Principal Ship Surveyor. The Board of Trade have two standards of watertight bulkheads; one is a fixed standard, and the other is not. One is a higher standard, that is the one referred to in Rule 12, the other is a lower standard. The Commissioner: Where is that standard to be found? Mr. Scanlan: It is No. 16, on page 8 of the “Regulations and Suggestions as to the Survey.” Your Lordship has been frequently referred to this provision. It is the provision which deals with the four watertight compartments. There is no justification for having two standards of sufficiency of watertight bulkheads. To comply with the lower standard will give you a certificate of clearance, and will allow you to carry passengers and emigrants. But then there is a higher standard, and if you comply with it, it will allow you to take your ship away with a smaller number of lifeboats. The Commissioner: That is a question of policy. Mr. Scanlan: That is true. The Commissioner: Whether it is good policy or not I do not propose to say, but the policy is this: Make your ship a safer ship, more likely to float than it would otherwise be, and then we will not require you to provide such great lifeboat accommodation. It is apparently to encourage them to make their ships unsinkable. Mr. Scanlan: What kind of inducement is this to shipowners and shipbuilders to make the ships unsinkable? They get a certificate of clearance if they conform to the lower standard, which is no standard at all, but if they conform to the higher standard then what happens? Instead of carrying
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