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ships go in heavily for it, and are chartered this year at about 35s. for loading in February and up to April. In fact arrangements are made here before the crops are in the ground.
The grain business from the Black Sea, Danube, and other parts of that coast has heretofore been supplied by moderate-sized sailing ships and steamers carrying from 3,000 quarters up to 6,000 or 7,000 quarters. The freights are so low in Russia that steamers, even with the assistance of a cargo out from this country to a port direct on the way, barely show a profit on the voyage. Many vessels have now joined in the competition carrying 12,000 and 14,000 quarters, although more suitable for America, India, or any other trade by reason of their small registered tonnage, as compared with their carrying capacity. Yet America with her export of grain and cotton at present attracts much tonnage, and sailing vessels of all nations, as well as steamers, are flocking there chiefly in ballast, for the harvest is good and Europe needs the grain. The freights are fair but not at all out of the way, even for summer trips.
The Baltic trade has been a poor one, and the Montreal and Canada season has shown no briskness this year. Steam to Australia has began a new era and must answer, but at the expense of the sailing ships. Sailing ships to New Zealand at present hold their ground during the season, which is limited, but the trade is a complete monopoly. New Zealand will however benefit by the steam to Australia, by having a line of its own to meet the steamers, and thus take away from the sailing ships much of the passenger trade and light goods. In the opinion of most men sailing ships can only live in certain trades, such as the San Francisco wheat trade, guano, Adelaide grain, and other trades where steamers cannot compete on account of the rates of freight and uncertainties of the trade ; for it must be remembered that when losses occur cash has still to be paid for wages, port charges, and insurance, and at best reimbursement only comes at the end of the voyage, when the freight is received, so that owners ought to have a reserved capital to meet this independently of all other liabilities.
It may be well asked, after these remarks, what can put shipping into a better position than at present, particularly when little
has been said about foreign shipowning ? Germany, Italy Norway, and America have their steamers and sailing ships, Ital and Norway having gone ahead very largely by the returns mad of last year's building. Norway is suffering very heavily, an those who know how much she has invested in shipping must fe that English capital or advances are invested in it. Italy sails he vessels mostly on credit, by mortgaging the freights before earned large financial establishments being in existence for that purpos advancing on bottomry the freights to this or other countrie collecting the freights on arrival of the ships, through their co respondents, to whom they remit their bottomry bonds to me their bills drawn on credits given by them on this side, and b means of which the advances are made in the first instance, there fore English capital really assists to promote competition in shij ping. The increase of steamers and ships in Denmark is ver remarkable.
The removal of the depression in British shipping cannot ! effected by legislation, but a step has, we learn, already been mad in some financial circles. It has been reported that in Glasgo the banks will not advance money to shipowners without securit other than the ship. The unsound state of the shipping trad will, however, never be remedied until every banker who ha advanced money on shipping, and every person who holds a mor gage; insists on registering or even on realising their securitie Borrowed money cannot in the long run materially aid the owne while his vessels are earning no money to pay the loans off whilst those who have lent it have a depreciated security year afte year. Some banks are running steamers on which they have ad vanced money. These steamers are sometimes sailed under th names of brokers as owners. The shareholders of those ban! should look to this and realise, if and while they can, at profit.
The first remedy we can suggest is inquiry and caution befor investment. Further, an investor should have nothing to do wit a ship unless he is sure that all bills of sale and mortgages ar registered when given, so that the status and financial position the owner can be easily ascertained, and losses to creditors an
co-owners provided against. Let co-owners in every ship or steamer meet and limit the cost of management to a fixed sum, to include brokerage, and let every "commission " be placed to the credit of the owners. The effect of this would be to secure management unprejudiced by conflicting or opposite interests. It should be remembered that the law is very stringent indeed on anyone acting for others in a joint venture, who receives profits outside the general fund for distribution. Many trials in courts of law will show this.
Brokers who have ships or steamers of their own should bear the honourable distinction of shipowners, and make it their sole business, as some now do. Let builders return to their legitimate mode of payment, viz.,
instalments at certain stages of the building, and the balance on delivery of the ship. Let bankers object to take long date bills for advances unless for legitimate purposes, and refuse renewal anless they are entered in the register book as mortgagees. With these fair and reasonable precautions, shipowning would become a fair and profitable investment, and take its stand as a separate and distinct business, as it does in many places, and would meet with the old success.
In the foregoing remarks we have not said anything likely to lead to mistrust of well-established lines and businesses. The public can safely invest in steamship companies and in steamers well managed: but let investors in other vessels refrain from being misled by statements as to inordinate profits, and insist on knowing with whom they are associated as co-owners, so as not to run the risk of having to pay for them.
DISTINGUISHING LIGHTS FOR LIGHTHOUSES.
HE letter from Sir William Thomson, on the subject
of “Distinguishing Lights for Lighthouses," and the leading article thereon, which appeared in the Times,
of the 2nd ultimo, have re-opened a question which has several times been brought forward since Mr. Charles Babbage, the renowned mathematician, in 1851, first ventilated his theory, that every lighthouse should, by systematised occultations or eclipses of its light, be made to indicate periodically its own number from sunset to sunrise. This proposition apparently did not find favour with those interested in the lighthouse system at that time, and after lying dormant for over twenty years, the question was taken up by Sir William Thomson, who, in a paper contributed to Good Words in 1873, with the somewhat ambitious title
Lighthouses of the Future,” strongly advocated the introduction of a system by which the dots and dashes of the Morse Telegraph Alphabet should be made available for enabling each lighthouse to indicate itself. Sir William Thomson's efforts on this occasion do not seem to have met with any more success than that accorded to the proposals of Mr. Charles Babbage, and although the subject has several times since been brought before the public, it appears to have awakened but little enthusiasm, nor has it at any time sufficiently interested seafaring men to induce them to take any definite action in the matter.
At length, however, Sir William Thomson has succeeded in obtaining a champion no less powerful than the editor of the Times, who has not only published a very long letter from the distinguished man of science, but has also devoted a leading article to the consideration of the subject. The question being thus prominently brought before the public, it becomes of some importance to enquire more fully into its merits, and to ascertain, if possible, what is the cause of the apathy and inaction which have followed every public reference to the subject since the time of Babbage.
From the letter in the Times we learn that what Sir William desires is “a three-fold reform in our lighthouse system," viz.,
(1) "a great quickening of nearly all revolving lights; (2) the application of a group of dot-dash eclipses to every fixed light ; and (3) the abolition of colour as a distinction of lighthouse lights except for showing dangers and channels and ports by red and white and green sectors.”
As regards the first of Sir William Thomson's propositions, it is probable that nautical men will generally agree with the principle that the periods of darkness in revolving lights should be made as short as possible. The desirability of this has long been admitted by the lighthouse authorities themselves, and the long intervals of darkness which were in vogue fifteen years back have since then from time to time been considerably shortened, so that at the present moment there are, on the British coasts, only two revolving lights pure and simple whose entire period reaches two minutes, including the length of the duration of the light, the dark interval being about 1 minute and 45 seconds. This of course is a long time for a seaman to have to wait, and no doubt makes the picking ap of the light more difficult than if the light recurred more frequently. It should however be remembered that the light while it lasts is of great intensity, that as soon as it is sighted it is unmistakeably distinctive, and that at Beachy Head and Lundy, where these two-minute lights are shown, the range of the lights is so great that the mariner can pick them up long before he approaches any danger, and when he has plenty of room to move about and plenty of time to make sure of his position. If however these lights were intended to mark narrow channels or dangerous reefs or shoals, it would be absolutely essential that the illuminated periods should recur more frequently. Sir William does not bring forward evidence from practical mariners of their disapproval of either Lundy or Beachy Head lights on the score of their lengthened intervals, although no doubt many would say that if it were possible for the dark intervals to be shortened it would be advantageous to do so, provided it did not interfere with the distinctive characters of the lights, and to this extent we are at one with Sir William Thomson, although we do not think there is so urgent a necessity for the change as he would make out. But it is with the numerous one minute revolving lights of the English Channel