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meets with a casualty elsewhere and the Chancellor orders inquiry, the British shipowner may be subject to a suit in the German law courts for any infringement of German law or regulation, to criminal liability under the German law if the Court of Appeal from the Sea Court find that life is lost in the British ship or caused by the British ship, through the fault of the master, officers, or crew, or of anybody on board the ship while within German jurisdiction; and last, but not least, a trial in the Wreck Commissioner's Court „ at home may be in waiting, and will be held in cases in which the German Sea Court and the German Appeal Court have tried the case, for those Courts cannot interfere in any way to cancel or suspend the certificate of any British master or officer, and they must be tried for their certificates somewhere.
The master of a British ship trading to a German port ought hereafter to be well selected and well paid, for the owners will find that any parsimony which may lead them to employ an ill-paid or incompetent master or officer, will land them in expenditure, in the shape of lawyers' and agents' fees and liabilities, and detention monies, and loss of time ; in comparison with which a very handsome salary to the master and officers will be an insignificant flea-bite. This note of warning may at first sight appear unnecessary, but it is not, nor is it uncalled for. As our readers are well aware, the German Sea Courts, standing on their law, and asserting in no hesitating or doubtful way their rights of interference with British ships whenever they are once within German jurisdiction, have already proceeded to inquire into casualties to British merchant ships. We cannot but admire the German method, notwithstanding that it will be very hard on British interests. But it is so thorough, and so unflinching. and says to us so plainly and without sentiment or weakness, “ if yon Britishers or other foreigners choose to send your ships into German waters you will have to do as we Germans do and be treated as we are, so make up your minds for it and come with your eyes open.” It is as the spirit of a great people asserting itself in a grand, because plain and clear, way; but would be wretchedly inconvenient to any maritime power whose policy may be at one time not to interfere, and another time to interfere in a half sort of way with its own subjects and with foreigners, and never to
treat both alike; and to claim with one breath the rights of their own law and their own Consular authority wherever their own ships may be, and with the very next breath to ask for the aid of foreign police and foreign prisons to look after merchant seamen.
Now let us see what is the case as regards inquiry with the German merchant ship meeting with a casualty in this country or arriving here after casualty. If the casualty is on the coast within British territorial
jurisdiction, the initial inquiry is held by the Receiver, and
nothing more. If the wreck or casualty is outside British territorial juris
diction, even the initial inquiry is not held by the English
Receiver. In either or both of the above cases an inquiry is however now to be held in this country by the German consular officer, who forms a Sea Court competent to deal with the certificates of the masters and officers.
The case of British shipmasters in Germany is that they are to be fully dealt with by German law irrespective of the provisions of the Imperial English Acts. Indeed the only difference in the treatment of a German and an English case in Germany is that the certificates of English officers cannot be touched.
The case of German shipmasters in England is that beyond the mere initial inquiry of the Receiver, which is nothing more in form or substance than the writing of a protest, nothing is done by way of inquiry. The British law does not interfere with the foreign ship, though the casualty happen on our coasts, beyond the initial inquiry.
In the case of inquiry by the German Sea Court and Court of Appeal, no one attends on behalf of British interests. Whereas, in the case of a formal inquiry in England, the German Government are first courteously consulted, and permitted to send an officer to watch the case. The printed paper in the case of the Deutschland inquiry fully shows this; and by the “rules " the Consul, or any one else, can become a party to the proceedings, and have full rights here.
The German Act institating Sea Courts is as closely as possible ounded on the English Act, the notable differences however being that the number of Assessors is greater in Germany, that the English Government and its representatives can have no locus standi, and that a full and very perfect Court of Appeal is instituted.
OUR MERCANTILE FLEET.
Va n the 13th of the last month the First Lord of the ID Admiralty was asked by Sir E. Watkin whether Jy efficient measures are in preparation whereby the
» Mercantile Marine of the country may be made available at short notice for the protection of our commerce. From the reply of the First Lord it may be gathered that not only are the Government disposed to utilize our mercantile steam fleet as an armed auxiliary should an emergency arise, but that measures have already been taken for giving effect to this policy—that should the necessity present itself the Government would not hesitate to ask Parliament for the necessary powers—but he did not apprehend that legislation would be necessary. The subject of adopting merchant steamships for war purposes, is not referred to in our colamns for the first time. Our number for June last contained an article from the pen of Mr. John Burns, in which the writer brought his extensive knowledge of the management of steamships to bear on the subject. Up to the time at which Mr. Burns entered upon the discussion respecting the arming of merchant steamships the Admiralty had only gone the length of directing surveys of several merchant steamers under the direction of the Department of Naval Construction—the result being that certain steamers were found which, at inconsiderable expense, could be altered and fitted so as to make them eligible to be placed on the Admiralty List. Having found the ships, the next thing the Government had to do was to formulate a plan for arrangement with the owners. That plan does not appear to have been yet matured. Mr. Burns pointed
oat that shipowners cannot afford, and it would be unreasonable to ask them, to alter their ships and involve themselves in an outlay of greater or less amount anless there was bona fide employ. ment offered. “The Admiralty seheme,” said Mr. Barns, in itself appears nebuloas, lacking boldness of conception, and a full consideration of the elements necessary for the accomplishment of so great a measure. A satisfactory system could only be matured and carried into effect by suitable arrangements being made with companies owning large fleets of well equipped vessels. These possess facilities bearing upon store accommodation, official discipline among crews, and other important appointments which have been called into existence and established by the necessities attaching to the successful working of extensive business, and to the incidence of its daily governing, all of which facilities and advantages would obviously be invaluable to the nation were they called into requisition by Government in the event of war or other emergency." We do not know whether the “steps" which the First Lord refers to as having been taken " go beyond the scheme which formed, six months since, the subject of Mr. Burns's just criticism, but it must be apparent to every rational mind that if at any time any portion of our mercantile steam fleet is to be taken up and adapted to the purposes of the national defence, it must be on terms by which the owners will not be actual losers. We can quite understand that, if an emergency of a sudden and imperative nature should arise, threatening the safety of the State, that shipowners, like every other class in the community, might be called upon to make extraordinary sacrifices—and we have no doubt whatever what that response would be. Bat in the organization of a system of maritime defence, whether for our commerce or our shores, against a possible or approaching state of hostilities, there certainly is no reason why any one branch of the national industry should be selected to bear the burden of such preparations to the exclusion of others equally interested. If the State should require the aid of first-class steamers, convertible to war purposes, that aid we may be sure will not be withheld, but the Government should be prepared with an equivalent that will not leave the owners losers. Mr. Burns's project was briefly that the Commissioners of the Admiralty should, in the event of war, have the power of purchasing at a valuation all or any of the vessels of the steamship companies adapted to their purpose, or of chartering them for Her Majesty's Government at an agreed rate of hire, with liberty to equip such vessels with suitable armament; the companies to maintain a certain proportion of men, who would be trained to the use of arms, and exercised in gunnery practice in accordance with the regulations of the Royal Naval Reserve. Such a plan as this would have the advantage that in effecting the object aimed at, namely, the organization of an auxiliary maritime force, neither hardship nor injustice would be inflicted. There can be no doubt that there are the materials in the registered steam tonnage of this country for a supplemental organization of this natare, such as no other State can furnish forth. The heavier class of ironclads can never be employed by this or by any other country as sea-going vessels; the protection of colonies and of commerce will be committed to armour-plated frigates, with heavy armaments, and to gunboats ; to such a fleet a number of armed steamers would be of the utmost importance and assistance, and would well repay any expense which the State might incur in their hiring and equipment. The students of our maritime history will be at no loss to light on instances where the merchant ships of England have done good service against the enemy. Times have changed, no doubt, and a great revolution has been wrought in the British Mercantile Marine since two of our East Indiamen, engaged in the Indian Ocean, gave a good account of them. But the spirit which prompted that deed of gallantry survives in our seamen and their commanders in both the Royal and the Merchant Services, and whenever the opportunity arrives it will once more be displayed.