Qualifications for master mariners in the 19th century

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1830 – Present Day Qualifications for master mariners in the 19th century

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      I understand only foreign-going masters and passenger ships in home waters needed a certificate of competency but were such qualifications also introduced for coastal/home trade masters?

      Alston K

        The simple answer is no. However what constituted a passenger ship needs defining.

        ’Every British foreign-going ship and every British home trade passenger ship … shall be provided with officers duly certificated in the following scale:’ ‘home trade passenger ship’ means every home trade ship employed in carrying passengers. Officers means masters, mates and engineers. Passenger steamers and emigration ships had additional requirements. (Quotes from MSA 1894)

        The essence was that until 1980 the bulk of British and foreign shipping in the home trade (ie not sailing outside of UK & I waters or the Continent from the Elbe to Brest), need carry no legally qualified masters, mates or engineers. Numbers of certificated men were limited below 100 tons/ 100hp. As there were no rules for ratings qualifications, it was easy to carry extra people if they were signed on in lowly capacities. HT masters could do this without going to a shipping office. But presumably if even one fare-paying passenger was carried, that made the ship a passenger ship. No doubt a clearer answer is embedded in the BT/MT files at NA. In the 1970s it was legally possible for a 100,000 to tanker to operate in UK waters without certificated men!! You can see the difference in manning when a FG ship engaged for a HT passage: almost a skeleton crew. We need to keep in mind that most ships trading overseas frequently became HT ships for short periods.

        That is the legal position. But owners of ships and insurers were in a position to enforce their own standards. Local certification of masters and mates certainly occurred on a voluntary basis, and local P & I clubs might elect to require a member to carry mast and masters so qualified or after 1850 with BoT certs. But though known there is no evidence that it was widespread. Command, eg came through experience, local reputation, and testimonial in the old fashioned way. Casualty could mean being dumped. Though often such men were preferred as being more careful from the experience. The Master of Alfred Holt’s first Blue Funnel ship, Agamemnon, who had previously been employed by Holt in other ships, had recently lost his previous steamer in South Americal (Herschel) yet was given a brand new ship (of course he had certs.)

        Alston K

          Passenger ships carrying in excess of 12 passengers also required a certificate for the master

          Maritime Notes and Queries has I think the final answer to the passenger ship definition:

          MNQ (Dec 1874): fines for exceeding the licensed no. £20 plus 5/-per head

          MNQ (Sep 1881, p 105) Passenger = any person carried in a steamship other than the master & crew and owner, owner’s family and owner’s servants!!! I suspect only personal servants as otherwise the owner could claim any numbers of employees as servants.

          Ibid p 99: Any ship may carry passengers not exceeding 12 in number, although not surveyed by BoT as a passenger steamer, under MSA 1876 section 12.

          (MNQ 1896 pp 106): 111 Passenger certificates were only required for steamships, but a SV was limited to 50 or one for every statute male per 20 tons register as covered by the Passenger Acts 1855 and 1863. Cites also sect 271 of MSA 1894 (consolidation act), but a glance through yesterday did not pick up that detail.

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