Page 194 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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The Attorney-General: I will not trouble you to go through it, but merely give an indication of the kind of provisions that would have to be made, necessarily for the different classes of vessels. In this case, and applying the test to this disaster; what happened on the “Titanic,” the fact must always remain in the end that there was the strongest disinclination on the part of the majority of persons on board the “Titanic” to leave that great big ship for the very small boat into which they were asked to enter. Whether it is reasonable or not it is useless to enquire. It seems natural, and it is what happened in this case, and in all probability it is what would happen if, Heaven forbid, such a disaster happened again; people would be disinclined to leave the big vessel for the small boat in the water on a dark night. The only further observation I want to make about it is that naturally, when you get to this stage of knowledge, when we know all that has happened, and more particularly when we know of the disaster which took place on this 15th of April, with the great loss of life that there was there, it sets the Board of Trade, like every other person, examining into the conditions with regard to vessels going to sea. And quite rightly. It showed what may happen, notwithstanding all the precautions you might take, notwithstanding that your vessel might be constructed according to the best knowledge and experience, and by one of the best builders in the world, and notwithstanding that no expense was spared. The vessel was built; as your Lordship will remember, at cost price, plus a commission; and so far as I followed the evidence there was no attempt on the part of the owners to save money, certainly no attempt by them to save money in the building of the ship which would involve in the slightest degree any omission to make a vessel either sufficiently strong, or to equip her properly for carrying passengers. And one understands why, apart from any other reason; in the competition that there is between these great liners, a vessel must be equipped according to the best results of modem science, and really taking advantage of everything that knowledge can give us at the present day, otherwise she cannot compete with the other liners. That is, no doubt, in one sense a great safety and security. What does strike one in this matter, and what I am suggesting for your Lordship’s consideration, if you think it right to put it forward as a recommendation, or as a subject which is well worthy of consideration, is that the Board of Trade might have greater powers with regard to inspection of bulkheads and requirements as to the watertight compartments and spacing and construction, and so forth. One thing is apparent from the investigation which we have made that they have practically no control. It is quite true that they have some with reference to the loadline. Your Lordship will remember what that is. It is comparatively slight, it seems to me. Although it is quite true that shipowners as a Rule, agree to conform to requirements that may be made, the Board of Trade has little power to interfere. Mr. Laing: It can refuse a passenger certificate. The Attorney-General: What it has to do is to consider whether or not in the one case the vessel is satisfactory, that is to say, whether she is constructed satisfactorily, and they may take it into account, no doubt, the construction and division of watertight compartments. But what I mean is that it is quite possible, as it occurs to me, that greater powers might be given by Act of Parliament - they would have to be given by Act of Parliament - to the Board of Trade if, as a result of the Enquiry which is now about to take place, and which is taking place by the Committee which has been appointed since this disaster, the definite recommendations are made as to what is the best means, what is the safest means to be adopted for effective provision of watertight compartments; it occurs to me that they might have some power of enforcing them. But that depends very much upon the result of the Committee’s report. All I am suggesting is that it is well worth considering - I should have to leave it there - I suggest it is well worthy of consideration whether they should not have greater powers in that respect. Suppose, for example, you got as the result of Enquiry and investigation a definite decision that a watertight deck at a certain level from the bottom would be of the greatest value; suppose you had such a finding
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