Friday, April 13, 2012

British Ship Regulators Did Not See The Need For More Titanic Lifeboats

From The Wall Street Journal, "The Real Reason for the Tragedy of the Titanic: The disaster is often seen as a tale of hubris, social stratification and capitalist excess. The truth is considerably more sobering." by Chris Berg:
In the [British] Board of Trade's post-accident [Titanic sinking] inquiry, [Alexander] Carlisle [managing director of the shipyard] was very clear as to why White Star [Titanic's owner] declined to install extra lifeboats: The firm wanted to see whether regulators required it. As Carlisle told the inquiry, "I was authorized then to go ahead and get out full plans and designs, so that if the Board of Trade did call upon us to fit anything more we would have no extra trouble or extra expense."

So the issue was not cost, per se, or aesthetics, but whether the regulator felt it necessary to increase the lifeboat requirements for White Star's new, larger, class of ship.

This undercuts the convenient morality tale about safety being sacrificed for commercial success that sneaks into most accounts of the Titanic disaster.

The responsibility for lifeboats came "entirely practically under the Board of Trade," as Carlisle described the industry's thinking at the time. Nobody seriously thought to second-guess the board's judgment.
At the accident's core is this reality: British regulators assumed responsibility for lifeboat numbers and then botched that responsibility.

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