More lifeboats and greater protection for steerage passengers demanded; effect of disaster on shipping discussed
by Paul Lambeth, Special cable to The Call
London, April 20. – The Titanic disaster is still on every tongue.
At the instance of the Seaman’s and Fireman’s union, the labor representatives at Westminster intend to bring under the notice of the government at once two important points raised by the loss of the world’s biggest liner. One request concerns the number of boats to be carried by ocean going liners and the other refers to means for removing passengers from sinking ships.
It is asserted that it is the invariable rule to give precedence to first class passengers, so that in case of a wreck the steerage male passengers stand little or no chance of being rescued. To meet this claim the suggestion is made that the board of trade should frame regulations apportioning a definite number of boats to each class of passengers.
Effect of disaster
In shipping circles the question is asked, will the Titanic disaster have an effect similar to that of the failure of the Great Eastern. It was considered to have overstepped reasonable dimensions and 45 years elapsed after it was launched before anything like a notable departure from the 6,000 or 7,000 ton liner again was attempted.
Part of the great ship folly lies in the disproportionate increase of size and increase in cost. The Germanic and Brittanic, built for the White Star line in 1875, cost only $1,000,000 each. They were 15 knots and the estimated cost of a 20 knot liner was just double that sum. This cost was nearly doubled after another 10 years when the second Oceania was built.
Rates to increase
It is certain that the disaster to the Titanic will cause underwriters to consider the huge losses with which they are faced through the tendency to build larger and larger vessels, and in all probability some important changes will take place in practice at Lloyds dealing with the giant steamships.
When the details of material losses come to be summed up it probably will be found that about $15,000,000 is involved to the underwriters, and the effect of this is bound to be more serious, because it follows numerous ocean disasters like that of the Oceania. The underwriters of London are unquestionably hard hit, but they will stand together, and it is unlikely that there will be any failures.
Severe criticism of the practice of the trans-Atlantic liners taking the risk of steaming through the ice region and going rapidly through fogs is found in the correspondence columns of the London papers.
James Page, a retired member of the Bengal pilot service, writing on the recklessness with which liners race through fogs, quoted Admiral de Horsey as saying:
“I recall, many years ago, when giving evidence at the Society of Arts before a committee on the subject of speed in a fog, that certain captains of liners, on being assured that their names would be kept secret, stated that it was their practice to maintain a high speed in fog as being safer for their own ship, and also because compliance with the rate for modern speed would cause such delay of mails and passengers as to lead to their companies dispensing with their services and appointing less conscientious commanders.”
Alexander Welin, inventor of the latest type of davits in use on the Titanic, said today, just before sailing for New York on the Caronia:
“I am going out to get expert opinion on all subjects relating to life saving appliances. You ask me if every ocean going steamer can be provided with sufficient boat accommodation. My reply must be ‘no,’ in the case of ships already afloat. As regards new ships, however, there is no reason why, with three open decks, there should not be space for sufficient boats to carry all the passengers and crew. It is merely a question of construction.”