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GENERAL DIVISION 13.

The establishment of a permanent international maritime commission.

(a) The composition of the commission.

(6) Its powers and authority. Under this general division the Conference adopted the following:

“The delegates and secretaries of the Conference, were, at the commencement of our proceedings, invited to furnish the proposals, if any, prepared by governments of the several powers taking part in the Conference, or of any private societies or persons, bearing upon the subject in question.

“We have considered whether such a commission could be instituted with a practical result, and in such a manner as to lead to its adoption by the maritime powers.

" However desirable such a result would be, a majority of the Conference do not believe it to be possible to carry it into effect, and are of opinion that it can not be regarded as one of practical feasibility at the present time.

“We have also decided, by a majority of votes, that it is not possible to create an international tribunal to try questions of collisions between subjects of different nationalities.

" In coming to this conclusion we have been guided amongst others by the following considerations:

" An international commission could not be invested with any legis. lative power. It would be a consulting body only, constituted with the view of preparing universal legislation on maritime matters of international importance. Apart altogether from the difficulties connected with the formation of such a body, the questions as to its domicile, as to who are to be its members, and how and by whom the members are to be compensated for their labors—difficulties wbich by themselves seem to be entirely unsurmountable for the present-it seems to the Conference that such a consulting body of experts would not serve the purpose for which it is intended to be created, viz, that of facilitating the introduction of reforms in maritime legislation, because the advice given by such a commission would not in any way enable the goveruments of the maritime nations to dispense with the necessity of considering the subjects laid before them and laying the proposals made to them, it adopted, before the legislative bodies of the different States.

" The consequence of instituting a body like that in question on the contrary would, it appears, be this: that merely another investigation of any scheme proposed with a view to reformning international mari. time laws would have to be gone through before the opinions of the governments could be taken, and thus the course of procedure as it is now-by correspondence between the different governments-would be made more complicated instead of being simplified. For these reasons the Conference resolve:

" That for the present the establishment of a permanent international maritime commission is not considered expedient."

The United States delegates agree with the conclusion reached by the Conference.

Under this division the Conference also discussed the following resolution:

" Resolved, That the Conference recommend that the advisability of a bureau of maritime information should be considered by the governments of the maritime nations."

The functions proposed for this bureau were to consider and recommend to the various powers for experiment all apparatus and appliances for marine use, such as life-saving appliances, systems of running lights, sound-signals in thick weather, etc.; to collect information regarding maritime matters; to publish the same annually, and to prepare all requisite data for the use of

any future Conference that might be called together for the consideration of maritime affairs. This subject was debated at length, and after consideration during an entire day and one session of another day, it was decided not to recommend the establishment of such a bureau by a vote of 12 to 7, viz:

Yeas—Denmark, Hawaii, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Siam, and United States.

NaysAustria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Chili, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Great Britain, Honduras, Italy, Russia, and Sweden.

France and Spain did not vote, though present.

It will be seen from this vote that the establishment of such an international bureau is impracticable owing to the nonsupport of most of the great powers, they having already bureaus of this nature, somewhat similar to the Board of Trade of Great Britain.

In order to provide for the discharge of such functions in this country, and to accomplish other important objects hereinafter stated, the United States delegates recommend that immediate steps be taken for the establishment, with headquarters at Washington, D. C., of a board to have charge and general superintendence of matters relating to merchant vessels and seamen, and that said board be authorized to carry into execution the provisions of all laws relating to merchant vessels and seamen, and merchant shipping generally, that are now in operation or that may be hereafter enacted, other than such as relate to the revenue; said board to be under the Treasury Department, and composed of the Supervising Inspector-General of Steam-Vessels, the Commissioner of Navigation, the Surgeon-General of the Marine Hospital Service, the General Superintendent of the Life-Saving Service, two officers detailed from the line of the Navy, five experts in matters pertaining to the merchant marine, and an admiralty lawyer—the Secretary of the Treasury to be ex officio president of the board, and the chairman of the Committee on Commerce of the Senate and the chairman of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fishcries of the House of Representatives to be ex officio members.

The American delegates are constrained to make this recommendation for the following reasons:

1. The absence of proper laws requiring governmental supervision of the great maritime interests represented in the sailing fleet of the country. While the laws regarding the Goverment inspection of steam-vessels may be assumed to insure upon them the necessary security of life and property at sea so far as the strength of the vessels, proper equipment, etc., are concerned, no such provisions exist by law with regard to sailing vessels. A totally unseaworthy sailing vessel may put to sea at the risk of all lives and property on board; furthermore, she may be overladen and utterly deficient in the necessary equipment for the safety of her crew and passengers in case of accident, such as boats, life-rafts, life-preservers, pumps, etc., or fire-extinguishing apparatus.

There is, moreover, no legal requirement as to the qualifications of officers of sailing vessels, and no certificate of qualification is required by law of such officers. If the owners or insurers do not require some evidence of competency, any man may obtain command of a sailing vessel, however unfit he may be for the position.

This condition of things exists notwithstanding the fact that the number of sailing vessels belonging to the United States is nearly three times as great as the number of steamers, and the tomage of sailing craft exceeds that of steamers by more than 300,000 tons. The number of casualties occurring to sailing vessels during the year 1888—the last for which statistics of disasters have been reported—was twice as great as those oc

curring to steamers, and the number of lives lost on board sailing vessels was three times as many as those lost on board steamers, although the great majority of passengers are carried on board steamers.

2. The delegates are of the opinion that the methods now pursued for ascertaining the qualifications of officers of steamvessels can be improved, and a higher standard of competency thus secured.

3. Upon many of the important points submitted to the Conference for consideration no international agreement was reached, and this was in many instances due to the fact that the more important maritime nations were already provided with satisfactory laws and rules upon these points; and while there is considerable diversity in these rules among the different nations, no nation was willing to abandon a satisfactory system for the sole purpose of securing uniformity. Principal among these points were the questions of construction and equipment of vessels, qualifications of officers of vessels, and those relating to buoyage-matters in regard to which, except as to buoy. age, the United States are far behind other powers. It was the judgment of the Conference that the desired end in each case would be best attained by the independent action of each nation.

It is, therefore, the opinion of the United States delegates that the maritime interests of the country could be best subserved and life and property at sea best protected, by combining in one board as above recommended the several bureaus now charged with the execution of duties relating to the maritime affairs, to which should be added experts selected from the important commercial sections of the country. This would secure unity of action and efficient results in the most economical manner and without loss of energy resulting from separate effort by different bureaus upon the same matters, or the total neglect of other important ones, not now assigned to any special charge. The duties required of these several officers under existing laws could still be administered by them and their present corps of assistants, while the different sections of the country interested would be properly represented.

S. Ex. 53, pt. 3——32

The United States delegates would further respectfully suggest in submitting this report that the large and growing interests of our merchant marine render it desirable that they should be looked after by a separate department of the Government. The administration of the laws regarding the commerce of the nation, afloat and ashore, and the development of other legislation already demanded, together with that which the growing importance of our national commerce will soon render necessary, will require the best energies of a separate department, of which the board above recommended would constitute an important part.

It is also recommended that Congress appropriate $5,000, to be expended in making exhaustive experiments with fog-signal apparatus, side lights, and mast-head lights similar to those now manufactured and sold in this country, and used on board of the different classes of United States merchant vessels, for the purpose of ascertaining the distance at which such lights can be seen and still retain their distinctive colors under different conditions and circumstances at different angles of heel, and as seen from different parts of the sector of visibility, these experiments to be made by a board of five naval officers, with suitable assistants, and carried out over a measured range

with the lights level and heeled, and with the lamps burning for a period of ten hours, with observations taken and tabulated for each hour; and that the Secretary of the Navy be empowered to designate such a board, draw up instructions for their guidance, and have the experiments undertaken. The object is to ascertain just how far the mast-head and side-lights of steamers, and the side lights of ships, schooners, fishing-vessels, and other craft, actually in use in this country, can be seen under different conditions of the atmosphere, and when viewed from the different portions of the arcs over which the lights are required to show

Similar experiments should be made by the same board as to the distance fog-horns, whistles, and bells, used on the abovementioned craft, can be heard over clear space, with no ob

, structions intervening.

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