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ship on the port tack is to denote it by a double sound. So, also, in the new scheme, the steamer is to sound a single blast when directing her course to starboard, and a double blast when directing her course to port. Between the nature of the signals denoting the tack and the helm there is no confusion, provided we can steadily keep the tiller out of our minds. But if we give the order “port the helm," the established connection between the even number and the word “port” will tend to make us, on an emergency, and without clear reflection, make a double-blast signal when we should use a single blast.
If the use of the terms "right" and “left," or any other proposed terms, would rid us of all ideas connected with the tiller, or the “helm,” the above sources of error would disappear. But the question really is, whether any words will effect this object. Of the terms “right” and “left” as substitutes for "port” and “starboard," we may observe that they must become verbs and adjectives. We must be able to speak of an order " to left," as a substitute for an order “ to starboard,” and of an order “to right” as a substitute for an order " to port.” Here we observe we are forestalled, because “ to right” already has a special meaning, namely, to "put the helm amidships.” Again, we must be prepared to speak of a "right" rudder, or wheel, and a " left” rudder, or wheel, just as we now speak of a port or starboard helm, as we have already observed; and the question is, whether any terms are really available for our use under these circumstances.
Suppose, again, that we had adopted the word “right” to denote port helm, and “left” to denote starboard helm, we should lose a connection between the coloured lights and the terms now employed, which might in cases be undesirable. We can hardly hope to get rid of the connection between the words “right" and • starboard,” and “ left” and “port.” In approaches towards collision the orders “starboard—show him our green light,' or “port-show him our red light," are utterances of course. If the terms were altered as proposed, we should find ourselves saying “left-show him our green light,” and “right-show him our red light.” But as the commander's attention would be concentrated on his right side light when he said "left," and on
his left light when he said “right,” we can readily imagine the wrong word springing anbidden to his lips.
We have not attempted to steer a clear course through all these difficulties. Most of those who advocate a change are well worthy of being listened to, and if a change is necessary, and can be made satisfactorily, simple objection to change will but prevent it. We have ventured, however, to point out some of the difficulties which lie in the way of change, even when the change on the surface appears to be very insignificant. The fact is, that nothing connected with the motion of a ship's helm is insignificant. It can but move to the right or left, but in the one case we get safety, and in the other destruction. As destruction, therefore, is always impending upon a simple substitution of one word for another, we cannot be too close critics of any proposals based upon these two words.
INQUIRIES INTO WRECKS.
ENGLISH AND GERMAN.
B OEE have in a previous article referred to the new AVS German law establishing courts of inquiry into
wrecks and casualties ; and we are asked to refer to
the subject again, now that the British shipping interests are obtaining an insight into it through investigations which have been recently held under it into casualties to British ships. We cannot do better towards effecting an elucidation of the subject, than by comparing the English legislative enactments and supplementary rules with the German law, and in doing so pointing out as well as we are able in this early stage, the resemblances and differences between the two systems, and inquire how, if at all, the British shipowner and shipmaster are affected thereby.
We will begin with the English law. There are under the English law and in the United Kingdom two sorts of inquiry in the case of casualties to British merchant ships :(a.) The inquiry instituted by receivers of wreck, which we may
call the initial inquiry; (6.) The inquiry before a Wreck Court, consisting of the
Wreck Commissioner, or a stipendiary magistrate, or two justices of the peace, always with the assistance of asses
sors. This we call the official inquiry. The initial inquiry is instituted as a matter of course by the Receiver of Wreck, by virtue of his office, and without instruction, and it is held in the following cases. We are now only speaking of casualties to British ships :(a.) Whenever a ship is stranded or damaged anywhere, and
any witness is found in the United Kingdom ; (6.) Whenever a ship is lost or is supposed to have been lost
anywhere, and any evidence can be obtained in the United Kingdom as to the circumstances under which she proceeded
to sea or was last heard of. The Receiver's report is sent to the Board of Trade. The Board can, and, judging from the evidence given before the Royal Commission by Mr. Farrer and Mr. Gray, we believe do, order the second or official inquiry whenever they think the circumstances as disclosed in the report of the initial inquiry warrant or require it.
As regards inquiries elsewhere than in the United Kingdom (we are now again referring only to wrecks and casualties to British ships), very nearly the same process of initial inquiry is in force, and the same results as regards official inquiries are attained in the colonies and other parts of our empire abroad, and in foreign countries, by means of colonial officers, and consuls, and naval courts ; so that as regards British ships known to have met with loss or casualty anywhere, there is, or at all events can be, by means of the officers and courts established in the United Kingdom and all over the world by the English Legislature, ample inquiry to serve the requirements of all “British interests.”
As regards inquiries into wrecks and casualties to foreign ships, the following are the facts of the case. We must beg our readers, for the sake of clearness, to bear distinctly in mind that whereas in the former paragraphs we have referred to wrecks and casualties to British ships everywhere, we are now about to write only of wrecks and casualties to foreign ships on and near the coasts of the United Kingdom. Inquiries into foreign ships can be legally held (we use the word “ legally" to distinguish the right to hold the inquiry from the practice of only holding it in some cases) in the United Kingdom, as follows :(a.) The initial inquiry can be held here whenever a foreign
ship has been stranded or damaged on or near the coasts of the United Kingdom, and any witness is found at any
place in the United Kingdom.* (b.) The official inquiry can be held in the like cases.
Practically, and as far as we know, with two or at most three exceptions only (we know the cases of the Schiller and the Deutschland), an official inquiry into a casualty to a foreign ship on or near the coasts of the United Kingdom, has never been held by a British Court of Inquiry.
The above in general terms, and we think also in detail, is as mach as need be at present stated, as regards the inquiries in the United Kingdom.
We now turn to Germany. The law of Germany is found in the German Gazette, No. 33, and is dated 27th July, 1877, and the following is a free rendering of the substance of its leading provisions :-Courts, called Sea Courts, have been established at the ports, and at various places on the coasts of Germany, and these Courts are empowered to institute inquiry; not like the initial inquiry by a Receiver in the United Kingdom, but very like the official inquiry of the Wreck Commissioner. Inquiry may, under the Act, be instituted into (1.) Wrecks and casualties to German merchant ships, wherever
the wreck or casualty may happen; and
• [This is equally true of casualties to foreign ships within the waters of British possessions abroad.—Ed.]
(2.) Wrecks and casualties to British ships— (a.) In cases where the casualty happens on or near the
coasts of Germany; and also (6.) In any case in which the Chancellor of the Empire so
orders. Further, as regards the cases in which the Court may or may not use discretion as to whether it will or will not hold inquiry, the law expressly states that the Court shall have no option but shall hold inquiry— Whenever loss of life happens, and whenever a ship has been
lost or is abandoned, and whenever the Chancellor orders
inquiry. In other cases the Court may, as it pleases itself, hold or not hold an inquiry.
The British shipowner and shipmaster are open to the following course of inquiry if their ship happens to meet with a casualty in German waters, viz. :
1. To an initial inquiry held by the British Consul: * 2. To an official inquiry held by a naval court, summoned by
the British Consul.* 3. To an inquiry held by the German Sea Court.t 4. To an inquiry held on appeal to the Court of Appeal from
the Sea Court. The British shipmaster in Germany may not have the British Consul as a representative in the German Court; but may engage the services of a lawyer to defend him, and to examine witnesses and make statements on his behalf.
Besides all the above, in the case of a British ship meeting with a casualty in German waters, as well as in the case in which she
* [The inquiries, 1 and 2, may lead to the cancellation or suspension of the certificate of any certificated officer ; and the report of the Court may throw blame on the owners, shippers, builders, &c., or their agents.-Ed.]
+ [This Court cannot interfere with the certificates of any British officers, but may find the masters and crew guilty of civil or criminal offences, and may find the owners, &c., morally and civilly responsible, and in the case of collision may condemn the British ship as in fault.—ED.]