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INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SAFETY OF LIFE AT SEA,
LONDON, APRIL 16-MAY 31, 1929 REPORT OF THE DELEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WASHINGTON, D. C., August 6, 1929. TO THE PRESIDENT:
As chairman of the delegation of the United States of America to the International Conference for the revision of the Convention of 1914 for safety of life at sea, held at London from April 16 to May 31 last, inclusive, I submit the following report on behalf of the delegation:
The Convention of 1914 was signed by representatives of 16 governments. It was ratified by some of the signatory governments but because of the war and for other reasons it was not brought completely into force as a convention, by any state, although parts of it were made effective by particular states by legislative enactment or otherwise. In the years following the signing of the Convention in 1914, many changes and advances were made in the types and methods of construction of ships, and additional experience and knowledge were gained with respect to many other matters covered by the Convention of 1914. For these reasons the British Government in the autumn of 1927 transmitted to other maritime nations which had signed the Convention of 1914 a memorandum by the British Board of Trade covering in some detail a study which had been carried on in Great Britain since 1914 of the subjects included in the convention of that year, and made tentative suggestions for the revision of the 1914 convention and for the holding of a conference for that purpose.
As a result of these proposals from the British Board of Trade, a study of the 1914 convention and of the respects in which it should be revised was undertaken by interested departments of our Government and by shipbuilding and ship-operating interests of the United States. An interdepartmental committee under the chairmanship of one of the Assistant Secretaries of State, and an executive committee, under the Department of Commerce, were created for the purpose of organizing and directing these preliminary studies.
For making the detailed technical studies, three principal technical committees with subcommittees were organized, under the supervision of the Department of Commerce, as follows: (1) Ship-construction committee
(a) Subdivision of ships,
(2) Wireless telegraphy committee;
(a) Ice patrol and derelict destruction,
(c) Rules of the road. Representatives of the American Steamship Owners' Association, of the National Council of American Shipbuilders, and of the American Bureau of Shipping, as well as of the interested departments of the Government, were included in the membership of these technical committees and of the executive committee.
The technical committees devoted a year to an intensive study of their subjects. From their earliest organization, they were aided in their work by many of the leading naval architects, shipbuilders and marine insurance authorities of the country. Their reports were submitted to the executive committee, and by it were transmitted through the Secretary of Commerce to the Secretary of State, who issued the instructions to the delegates.
The holding of an international conference to convene at London on April 16, 1929, having been decided upon, an invitation to the Government of the United States to participate therein was extended through the British Ambassador at Washington on January 21, 1929, and was accepted on behalf of the United States on February 21, 1929. Participation by the United States in the Conference was authorized by Congress and delegates were appointed by the President. The members of the delegation were: Hon. Wallace H. White, jr., Member of Congress, Chairman of
the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House
of Representatives Mr. Arthur J. Tyrer, Commissioner of Navigation, Department
of Commerce Mr. Charles M. Barnes, Chief of the Treaty Division, Depart
ment of State Rear Admiral George H. Rock, Construction Corps, U. S. Navy,
Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair,
Steamboat Inspection Service, Department of Commerce
Navy (retired), U. S. Shipping Board
With a single exception, the delegates designated by the President had served upon the technical committees to which reference has been made and were familiar not only with the 1914 convention but with all the shipping and navigational questions likely to be considered at the Conference. They were the men who had determined the principles and the policies and indeed the precise proposals which were recommended in the reports of the technical committees, and which it was believed the United States should endeavor to have adopted by the Conference.
In addition to the delegates, the following technical assistants were appointed and accompanied the delegation to London: Lieut. Commander E. L. Cochrane, Construction Corps, U. S.
Navy, Bureau of Construction and Repair, Navy Depart
ment Mr. J. C. Niedermair, Navy Department Mr. J. F. MacMillan, American Steamship Owners' Association Mr. David Arnott, American Bureau of Shipping Capt. William E. Griffith, U. S. Shipping Board Mr. A. J. Smith, Marine Office of America Capt. N. B. Nelson, U. S. Steamboat Inspection Service Lieut. E. M. Webster, U. S. Coast Guard Commander C. M. Austin, U. S. Navy, Bureau of Navigation,
Navy Department Mr. Edgar B. Calvert, U. S. Weather Bureau Instructions were issued to the delegation under date of March 28, 1929. A copy of these instructions is attached hereto and is marked "Exhibit A.” In addition to these general instructions, the President, in a letter to the chairman, indicated his desire that the delegation should strive at the Conference for the highest practicable standards of safety. A copy of this letter is attached and is designated “Exhibit B.” 2
In pursuance of these instructions, the delegation of the United States proceeded to London, arriving there on April 12. The Conference convened on April 16. Delegates were present from Germany, the Commonwealth of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Irish Free State, United States of America, Finland, France, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The League of Nations was represented by observers. The Conference was opened by Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, President of the British Board of Trade. By request, the chairman of the delegation of the United States placed in nomination, as President of the Conference, Vice Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond, of the British delega