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Changes in safety practices after the sinking of the RMS Titanic

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Title: Changes in safety practices after the sinking of the RMS Titanic  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: RMS Titanic, British Wreck Commissioner's inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, United States Senate inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Sinking of the RMS Titanic, Maritime safety
Collection: Maritime Safety, Rms Titanic
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Changes in safety practices after the sinking of the RMS Titanic

RMS Titanic

The sinking of the RMS Titanic resulted in the following changes in maritime policy.


  • Lifeboats 1
  • 24 hour radio watch and distress rockets 2
  • International Ice Patrol 3
  • Ship design changes 4
  • References 5


Titanic's recovered lifeboats

Alexander Carlisle, Harland and Wolff's general manager and chairman of the managing directors, suggested that Titanic use a new, larger type of davit which could give the ship the potential to carry 48 lifeboats; this would have provided enough seats for everyone on board. However, the White Star Line decreed that only 20 lifeboats would be carried, which could accommodate about 38% of those on board when the ship was filled to capacity. At the time, the Board of Trade's regulations stated that British vessels over 10,000 tons must carry 16 lifeboats with a capacity of 5,500 cubic feet (160 m3), plus enough capacity in rafts and floats for 75% (or 50% in case of a vessel with watertight bulkheads) of that in the lifeboats. Therefore, the White Star Line actually provided more lifeboat accommodation than was legally required.[1] The regulations made no extra provision for larger ships because they had not been changed since 1894, when the largest passenger ship under consideration was only 13,000 tons, and because of the expected difficulty in getting away more than 16 boats in any emergency.[2]

On the night of the sinking, Titanic's lifeboat complement was made up of three types of boats. The most numerous were the 14 standard wooden lifeboats, each 30 ft (9.1 m) long by 9 ft 1 in (2.77 m) wide, with a capacity of 65 persons each. Forward of them, one on each side of the ship, two smaller emergency boats, 25 ft (7.6 m) long, had a capacity of 40 persons each. Four Engelhardt collapsible lifeboats measuring 27 ft 5 in (8.36 m) long by 8 ft (2.4 m) wide had a capacity of 47 persons each; they had canvas sides, and could be stowed almost flat, taking up a comparatively small amount of deck space. Two were stowed port and starboard on the roof of the officers' quarters, at the foot of the first funnel, while the other two were stowed port and starboard alongside the emergency cutters.[3]

After the Titanic disaster, recommendations were made by both the British and American Boards of Inquiry stating, in part, that ships would carry enough lifeboats for those aboard, mandated lifeboat drills would be implemented, lifeboat inspections would be conducted, etc. Many of these recommendations were incorporated into the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea passed in 1914

24 hour radio watch and distress rockets

Following the inquiries, United States government passed the Radio Act of 1912. This act, along with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, stated that radio communications on passenger ships would be operated 24 hours along with a secondary power supply, so as not to miss distress calls. Also, the Radio Act of 1912 required ships to maintain contact with vessels in their vicinity as well as coastal onshore radio stations.[4]

In addition, it was agreed in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea that the firing of red rockets from a ship must be interpreted as a sign of help. This decision was based on the fact that the rockets launched from the Titanic prior to sinking were interpreted with a bit of ambiguity by the freighter SS Californian. Officers on the Californian had seen rockets fired from an unknown liner from their decks, yet surmised that they could possibly be "company" or identification signals, used to signal to other ships. At the time of the sinking, aside from distress situations, it was commonplace for ships without wireless radio to use a combination of rockets and Roman candles to identify themselves to other liners. Once the Radio Act of 1912 was passed it was agreed that rockets at sea would be interpreted as distress signals only, thus removing any possible misinterpretation from other ships.[4]

It is also considered today that the damage would be limited with a head-on collision; indeed, only the bow and the rudder would then hit the iceberg, and not the hull, which must remain tight so that the ship can continue to float. It is now a fully rule of navigation (included in the COLREGs). The experience has been tried in 1914 (only two years after the Titanic disaster and around the creation of the International Ice Patrol) by HMT Royal Edward. As a result, only the behind compartments were flooded, and none of the 800 passengers suffered from the shock.

International Ice Patrol

After the Titanic disaster, the U.S. Navy assigned the Scout Cruisers Chester and USS Birmingham (CL-2) to patrol the Grand Banks for the remainder of 1912. In 1913, the United States Navy could not spare ships for this purpose, so the Revenue Cutter Service (forerunner of the United States Coast Guard) assumed responsibility, assigning the Cutters Seneca and Miami to conduct the patrol.

The Titanic disaster led to the convening of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in London, on 12 November 1913. On 30 January 1914, a treaty was signed by the conference that resulted in the formation and international funding of the International Ice Patrol, an agency of the United States Coast Guard that to the present day monitors and reports on the location of North Atlantic Ocean icebergs that could pose a threat to transatlantic sea traffic.

Since the mid-1900s ice patrol aircraft became the primary ice reconnaissance method with surface patrols phased out except during unusually heavy ice years or extended periods of reduced visibility. Use of the oceanographic vessel continued until 1982, when the Coast Guard's sole remaining oceanographic ship, USCGC Evergreen, was converted to a medium endurance cutter. The aircraft has distinct advantages for ice reconnaissance, providing much greater coverage in a shorter period of time.

Ship design changes

Following the Titanic disaster, ships were refitted for increased safety. For example, the double bottoms of many existing ships, including the RMS Olympic,[5] were extended up the sides of their hulls, their waterlines, to give them double hulls. Another refit that many ships underwent were changes to the height of the bulkheads. The bulkheads on Titanic extended 10 feet (3 m) above the waterline. After the Titanic sank, the bulkheads on other ships were extended higher to make the compartments fully watertight.


  1. ^ Butler, p. 38
  2. ^ "Board of Trade's Administration". British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry. 30 July 1912. Retrieved 9 November 2008. 
  3. ^ "Lifeboat Specifications". Encyclopedia Titanica (with references). Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Minichiello,P.E., Ray. "TITANIC Tragedy Spawns Wireless Advancements". The Guglielmo Marconi Foundation, U.S.A., Inc. Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  5. ^ Lynch, Don;  
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