life at sea international and of a higher standard.
Before the calling together of this conference, substantial progress had been made along these lines by several of the principal maritime powers. It was not, however, until the terrible disaster of the Titanic, in April, 1912, that there was a general awakening of the nations to the necessity, in the interests of humanity, of examining with the greatest thoroughness the possibility of strengthening existing measures for the safety of life at sea.
It will be within the recollection of this House that immediately following the loss of the Titanic, inquiries into the cause of the disaster were . undertaken by the authorities of the United States and of Great Britain. The conduct of this investigation was entrusted by Great Britain to Lord Mersey, and so comprehensive was the inquiry and so complete was his report that it arrested the attention of the whole civilized world, and made it abundantly clear that the day had arrived for stocktaking on the part of the nations. The British Government, profoundly impressed by the report of Lord Mersey, hastened to take action, and accordingly issued invitations to the principal foreign maritime nations to come together for the purpose of devising, if possible, means for the greater safety, not only of those who travel by sea, but also of those whose calling is of the sea. The Imperial Government extended invitations to Canada, Australia and New Zealand to attend this conference. The following extract from the invitation will help hon. gentlemen better to understand the objects sought to be attained:
It would be the object ot me conference to endeavour to bring about agreement among the participating states with reference to the conditions necessary for safety to be laid down in the case of passenger steamships, and with reference to other measures in the interests of the safety of maritime passenger traffic. In the event of such agreement being arrived at and embodied in a convention, each signatory state would be responsible for giving legislative and administrative effect to the provisions of that convention and issuing the necessary certificates to its national ships which comply with those provisions. The conference would further deal with the conditions under which certificates so issued should be accepted as valid by the other signatory states.
The invitation of Great Britain immediately received the consideration of the Government, and, having regard to the great importance of the question, to the widespread interest in it and to my desire to help to the greatest possible extent, I
recommended its acceptance to my colleagues. This recommendation met the cordial approval of the Government and the necessary steps were taken to have Canada represented at the conference, which met in London on November 12, last.
The conference was attended by plenipotentiaries representing the British Empire, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Germany, France, the United States1, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Bussia and Japan. Having regard to the circumstances that led up to the calling of the conference, it will, I am sure, surprise no one that Lord Mersey, the principal British delegate, should have been unanimously chosen as its chairman.
The first work to engage the attention of the conference was the consideration of a suggestion by the British Government to classify the different subjects that were to be dealt with, as follows:
Life Saving Appliances; Safety of Construction; Safety of Navigation; Wireless Telegraphy; International Certificates.
The suggestion was acted upon, and and committees were appointed to consider and report upon the respective subjects. Every state participating in the work of the conference was represented on each of these committees. After their work was finished, Lord Mersey, speaking of these committees, said:
They were composed of men of great knowledge and experience in regard to matters with which they were to deal, and I venture to think that it would have been impossible to have found anywhere men better fitted for the tasks they undertook.
It may be interesting to recall here the names of the gentlemen who served as chairmen of these committees. They were:
Life Saving Appliances: Sir John Biles, Professor of Naval Architecture, Glasgow University.
Safety of Construction: Admiral Washington L. Capps, Chief Naval Constuctor for the United States.
Safety of Navigation: Sir Norman Hill,
President of the Marine Advisory Board.
Wireless Telegraphy: Mr. E. G. Moggridge, Assistant Secretary, Marine Department, Board of Trade,
International Certificates: His Excellency, Dr. Van Kerner of the German Foreign Office at Berlin.
The manner in which these gentlemen have done their work, is aptly expressed by Lord Mersey, who said: ' The admirable
work they have severally done is the best proof of their ability.'FEBRUARY 16, 1914
It will probably be considered by many that the most important article of the Convention is the one laying down the principle that there must be accommodation in life boats or their equivalents for all persons on board of any steamship. For the carrying into effect of this principle^ the convention lays down detailed regulations regarding the construction of the different types of boats, their equipment, stowage, strength of davits, number and construction of life buoys and life jackets. It is further provided that as large a number as possible of the boats and rafts may be launched on either side of the ship, so that as few as possible need be launched on the weather side. It is further provided that there must be a minimum number of members of the crew competent to handle the boats. Men will not be considered competent for this purpose who do not hold a certificate of competency issued under the authority of the government of some one of the signatory states. There is, in addition, a provision to the effect that all ships to which the convention applies, must be efficiently and sufficiently manned from the point of view of safety of life at sea.
The carriage of dangerous goods is forbidden, and the signatory states will from time to time issue official warnings as to what goods are dangerous, either singly or in combination, and will prescribe regulations in that connection. The convention in this respect is but approving internationally the policy already adopted and carried out by my department.
The House will remember that quite recently there have occurred several disasters at sea resulting from fire. This question received the most careful consideration, and the convention provides for an organized system of patrol for detecting fires, and regulations are provided requiring adequate means for rapidly extinguishing fire and the organization of the crew for emergencies and for boat and fire drill. It also provided that all ships shall have an adequate system of lighting, to enable passenger? in an emergency readily to find their way to the exits from the interior of the ship In new ships there must be an independent source of lighting fitted in as high a position as practicable, so that in the event of disaster to the main machinery of the ship by flooding, fire or otherwise, passengers and crew may not find themselves exposed to the additional danger that darkness precipitates.
I think it will be admitted by most of those who have had experience in rough weather at sea that escape under such
conditions, from a ship overtaken by disaster, with the aid of the very best lifesaving appliances that human ingenuity can devise, is both difficult and dangerous. The recent case of the Voltarno goes far to support this view, for it will be remembered that tlie great loss of life on that occasion occurred among those who managed to escape into the boats while those who did not venture into the boats but preferred to take chances on the ship were eventually saved. I refer to this in order to emphasize the view that in my judgment, a great, if not the greater factor in the safety of life at sea must 'be found in the construction of the ship. And I have no monopoly of this view, for I find that it is shared very largely by those who have given serious thought to the question and are best qualified to judge. The provisions of the convention respecting the construction of ships in the future are therefore of the utmost interest and importance. These provisions are necessarily technical and complicated and I abstain from any attempt to explain them. They are fully set out in the convention and I doubt not that the judgment of time will be that more than anything else they have contributed to the safety of life at sea. These provisions are to apply to all vessels, the keels of which shall be laid after the date prescribed by the convention. The subdivision of a ship into an adequate number of main water-tight compartments to enable her to remain afloat in the event of damage destroying the integrity of one or more of these compartments is the main purpose of that part of the convention dealing with construction and in this connection I regard it a matter for congratulation that Canadian interests have already taken a forward step in this direction and have to some considerable extent anticipated the findings of the conference. I have reference to the two new Empresses recently placed on the Pacific ocean between British Columbia and the Orient, by the Canadian Pacific railway; to two new steamships about ready for launching for the same company to be placed on the route between Vancouver and Seattle and to the new Alsatian, of the Allan line, whose maiden voyage was made from Liverpool to Halifax only a few days ago. All of these ships are, I am advised, in the matter of construction and water-tight compartments, superior to anything that [DOT]has yet been accomplished in any country.
Before passing from this phase of the-convention, I think it well to direct the: