The following is an abstract of the Act for:
" Improving the Condition of Masters, Mates, and Seamen, and maintaining Discipline in the Merchant Service;" passed during the last session of Parliament.
1st. That the Act may be cited as " the Mercantile Marine Act. 1850."
2nd, 3rd, and 4th clauses, all respect the interpretation of terms in the Act.
5th. That so much of the Act as relates to the appointment of new officers of the Board of Trade - the constitution, and powers of the Local Marine. Boards, and to the establishment of shipping offices and register offices, and examinations for masters and mates, shall come into operation immediately after the passing the Act - that so much as relates to the production of certificate of masters and mates, agreements with seamen, &c., with respect to such ships as are in the United Kingdom on the first day off January, 1851, shall come into operation of that day - and to such ships as are not within the United Kingdom on that day, as soon after the first subsequent arrival, as preparations are commenced for a further voyage, or departure from any place therein ; the remainder of the Act to come into operation on the 1st January, 1851.
6th. The Board of Trade to undertake the general superintendence of all matters having reference to the British mercantile marine, and to enforce the provisions of this Act and of all other Acts and laws relating to the British merchant service.
7th. That at such of the marine ports of the United Kingdom as have in foreign going ships a registered tonnage of 30,000 tons or upwards, and at such other places as the Board of Trade may appoint, Local Marine Boards shall be established, such boards to be constituted of the Mayor, Provost, or stipendiary magistrate, to be appointed members ex officio. The Board of Trade to appoint four members from the residents of the place, or within seven miles thereof ; and six members to be elected by the owners of the foreign going vessels ; to be elected and appointed every third year, except in case of extraordinary vacancy, which shall be filled up one month after it may occur.
8th. That such boards shall keep minutes of these proceedings, to he open to the inspection of the Board of Trade.
9th. Voters for the election of members to the local boards, to have one vote for every 250 tons of shipping he may own ; so that his votes for any one member do not exceed ten.
10th.. Votes for members to be registered by the Collector of Customs of the place.
11th. Lists of voters to be revised every third year by two Justices appointed for the purpose.
12th. Collector of Customs to produce the books of the register of ships at such Revision Courts.
13th. Expenses of the Collector and other officers in such Courts and elections to he paid to them.
14th. Persons on the list to be qualified to vote
15th That every person entitled to vote shall be qualified to be a member of a local board so long as he retains shipping to qualify him to give one vote.
16th That functions or powers relating to seamen or apprentices not in the merchant service now vested in the Admiralty may be transferred to the Board of Trade.
17th. Board of Trade to nominate two clerks to assist in the execution of this Act at salaries not exceeding £600 a year, and appoint and remove such officers as may be necessary.
18th. Accounts of the Board of Trade under this Act to be laid before Parliament every year.
19th. Minutes. &c., to be sent to the Board of Trade. if sealed, to be received in evidence.
20th. The Board of Trade to sanction the forms required by the General Merchant Seamen's Act.
21st. The Board to settle and issue forms required by the Act, and to seal and mark the same, and no form not so marked to be received as evidence ; such forms to be published with due previous notice.
22nd. Forms to be exempt from stamp duty.
23rd. Forgery of the seal and fraudulent alterations of the forms to be a misdemeanour, or punishable summarily by a fine not exceeding £50, or imprisonment not exceeding three months
24th. Examinations to be instituted for persons who intend to become masters or mates of foreign going ships, or who wish to procure certificates of competency, and the Board of Trade to determine on a general plan for the conduct thereof ; and the local Marine Boards to provide for such examinations at their respective ports, and may appoint and remove examiners to conduct the same, subject to the general superintendence of the Board of Trade, and under such superintendence regulate such examinations, and fix there munerations of the examiners.
25th. Applicants for examination to pay certain fees.
26th. Certificates of competency to be granted to those who pass the board.
27th. Certificates of service to be delivered to persons who are already masters and mates, and when deserved certificates of competency to be given.
28th. Board of Trade to have power to cancel or suspend certificates under certain conditions.
29th. The Registrar of Seamen to have notice of grants, cancellations, and certificates, and to record the same.
30th. No foreign going vessel to proceed to sea without production of the certificates of the master and mates.
31st. False representation, or for forging or uttering, or fraudulently using any certificate, to be a misdemeanour, or punishable summarily by fine not exceeding £50, or imprisonment not exceeding three months ; and neglecting to give up certificate when cancelled, or going to sea without a certificate, punishable by a penalty not exceeding £50.
32nd. Powers of the Admiralty as to control over the Registrar to be transferred to the Board of Trade, and with the consent of the Admiralty may dispense with so much of the Act 7 and 8 Vic., No. 112, as relates to the register tickets.
33rd. Registry of seamen to be kept under the direction of the Board of Trade.
34th. Shipping masters and other officers to transmit documents to the Registrar to be preserved, and the Registrar to permit inspection of his records on a moderate fee.
35th. Local boards to establish and regulate shipping offices.
36th. That the general business of shipping offices shall be to afford facility for engaging seamen, by keeping registers of their names. &c.
37th. Duties new performed by officers of the customs, relative to seamen or apprentices, may be transferred to shipping masters.
38th. Fees to be paid on engagements and discharges, under a schedule, to the shipping matter.
39th. Masters or owners of ships to pay fees and deduct from wages.
40th. Shipping masters taking other fees than those appointed under the Act liable to a penalty not exceeding £20.
41st. Forms for all agreements, advances, &c., used by the shipping offices, to be issued by the Board of Trade.
42nd. Business of shipping offices may, under certain circumstances, be transacted at Custom Houses.
43rd. In encouragement of sailors' homes, superintendents of such establishments allowed to take certain fees.
44th. Board of Trade may dispense with shipping masters superintendence.
45th. So much of 7 and 8 Vic , c., 112, as relates to agreements with seamen, repealed.
46th. Agreements to be made with every seaman, stating nature and length of voyage, time of work, capacity in which to serve, amount of wages scale of provisions, regulations as to conduct, &c., &c., &c.
47th. Such engagements in foreign going ships, except is special cases, to be attested by a shipping master, and to be in duplicate.
48th. In home trade ships' such engagements to be entered into either before a shipping master or on board.
49th. Alterations in agreements to be void, unless attested to have been made with the consent of all parties.
50th. Agreements to be produced by the masters of foreign going ships on the departure, and delivered on the arrival of such ships to the shipping master or Collector of Customs.
51st. Home trade ships to produce their agreements half-yearly to some shipping master or officer of the Customs.
52nd. Seamen not bound to produce any such agreement or copy of it, but may give evidence as to its contents.
53rd. Seamen not to lose their lien in the ship for the payment of wages by reason of any agreement.
54th Master to cause a legible copy of the agreement, omitting the signatures, to be placed on beard at the commencement of a voyage; such document to be accessible to the crew.
55th. Masters taking seamen to sea without an agreement, or refusing to produce such agreement if required, to he liable to a penalty not exceeding £5 ; and not placing on board a legible copy of such an agreement, to be liable to a penalty not exceeding £5 ; and any person fraudulently altering such agreement to be guilty of a misdemeanour, or liable to a summary penalty not exceeding £50, or three months' imprisonment
56th. Seaman's right to wages and provisions to commence from the time specified in the agreement for the commencement of his work ; but not to prejudice any fine or forfeiture which he may incur.
57th. Seamen discharged after signing such agreement, or before earning one month's pay, to be entitled to compensation not exceeding a month's wages.
58th. So much of the Act 8th and 9th Vict., c. 116, as relates to advance of wages and advance notes to be repealed.
59th. All advance notes to be made in forms sanctioned by the Board of Trade, leaving blanks to be filled up ; and no alteration to be made in such form except filling up the blanks, and all such notes to be given to the seaman himself, and all advances given to be stated in the agreement signed by the seamen.
60th. Any advance made contrary to the above regulation, to be no discharge of wages.
61st. All advance notes when discounted, to be receipted by the seaman, who shall mark in it the sum actually received by him, and such notes may be sued upon ten days after the departure of any ship.
62nd. All stipulations for the allotment of any portion of a seaman's wages to be stated in the agreement.
63rd. The place appropriated to seamen to have nine superficial feet for each man, and to be properly constructed and ventilated.
64th. That the Board of Trade shall issue a scale of medicines, instead of the Board of Admiralty.
65th. The Board may, in such cases as they think fit, dispense with or limit so much of the General Merchant Seaman's Act as relates to lime or lemon juice, sugar, and vinegar.
66th. Board of Trade and Local Boards to appoint inspectors of medicines, to see that ships are properly supplied, and give certificates to that effect, such certificates to be produced before such vessel goes to sea.
67th. Persons selling bad drugs, &e., to any vessel, to be liable to a penalty not exceeding £20.
68th. Masters to keep proper weights and measures on board for serving out provisions.
69th. Want of space or non-sufficient ventilation of the place allotted for seamen. to subject the owner to a penalty not exceeding £20 ; and not keeping such space free from goods or stores, or not having proper weights and measures on board, to subject him to a penalty not exceeding £10.
70th. Any seaman after signing his agreement, or any apprentice a neglecting or refusing to join his ship, or deserting therefrom, and afterwards found to any place where there is a Court capable of exercising jurisdiction in this Act, to be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve weeks, or may be put on board at the request of the owner or master.
71st. Masters or owners, or their officers, may give deserters in charge to police officers, without a warrant.
72nd. During the voyage of a ship, any seaman found absent from his ship, may, if there is no Court, under this Act, be carried on board
73rd. Wages forfeited for desertion, to be recoverable by the master who has suffered from such desertion.
74th. Entries of certificates of desertion abroad, to be copied by the persons appointed under the General Merchant Seamen's Act, and sent home, and to be admitted in evidence.
75th. False statements by a seaman of the name of his last ship, or of his own name, to be punished by forfeiture out of wages to any amount not exceeding £5.
76th. Board of trade may by regulations duly published, dispense with the necessity of obtaining such sanctions for the discharge of seamen, as are required by the general Merchant Seamen's Act, and may limit such dispensations to any particular class of ships or voyages.
77th. Wilful breach or neglect of duty, by reason of drunkenness or otherwise on the part of the master, mate, or seamen, tending to the serious damage or loss of the ship, or to endanger the life of any person on board, to be a misdemeanour.
78th. That any seaman, or apprentice, may, on his arrival at any port, be taken before a competent court and summarily punished by imprisonment, with or without hard labour, as follows: 12 weeks for wilfully, damaging the ship, or embezzling or damaging her stores and cargo - for assaulting any master or mate - for continued disobedience to lawful commands, or for continued neglect of duty - for combining, with any others of the crew, to disobey lawful commands, or to neglect of duty, or to impede the navigation of the ship, or the progress of the voyage. Four weeks for wilful disobedience to any lawful command.
79th. Fines for misconduct to be proved to the satisfaction of the shipping master, and to be deducted from wages, and paid to him.
80th. In any proceeding under the Merchant Seamen's act, the Justices may punish by imprisonment, and make such order in regard of wages, as they may think fit.
81st. No allowance to be made to seamen, for reduction of provision during neglect of duty or confinement on board.
82nd. On the complaint of the master or one of his mates, or one-third of the seamen, to any naval officer in command of any ship of Her Majesty, or to any consular officer, a court may be summoned, consisting of not more than five nor less than three members, who shall hear the case, administer oaths. &c., and may discharge any seamen ; and if the court be unanimous that the safety of the ship requires it, supersede any master.
83rd. The costs of the court to be paid by the parties to the case.
84th. Any person preventing the investigation of any complaint, to be liable to a penalty not exceeding £50.
85th. The Board of Trade to sanction forms of official log books for different classes of ships ; such log books to be invariably employed and properly kept.
86th. Entries of fines and punishments to be made in the log and attested, and also entries as to the general conduct of the crew.
87th. Entries to be made and attested in the log book of illness, injury, and death, and of the medical treatment in any such cases &c.
88th. Lists of seamen set forth in schedule G. of the Merchant Seamen's Act, not required ; but a full and accurate statement required of every change which takes place in the crew of a foreign going vessel before it finally leaves the United Kingdom.
89th. Foreign going vessels to deliver official log books within forty-eight hours after arrival.
90th. Official logs to be delivered by home trade vessels half-yearly.
91st. Official log-hook to be sent home in ease of the transfer of any ship, and in case of the loss of any ship.
92nd. Official log-book to be delivered to the master or owner of any ship at the expiration of 48 hours, but to be reproduceable at any time within two years after, if required by the Board of Trade,
93rd Imposes penalties by fine for any neglect of the above duties.
94th. No seaman to sue for wages abroad, except in cases of personal danger, but seamen to have remedy for the default of the owner or mater on his return to the United Kingdom.
95th. Maters to deliver accounts to Seamen before payment, except in cases where the seamen require to be paid without waiting for such account,
96th. In the case of foreign going ship, all seaman shall be discharged and paid in the presence of a shipping master duly appointed.
97th. Shipping master to decide questions which both parties submit to him in writing.
98th. A release by both parties to be signed and attested by the Shipping master on the completion of any discharge or settlement, such release to be kept by the shipping master.
99th Master to make reports of character to the shipping master.
100th. Masters &c., are to produce ships' papers, &c., to shipping masters, and to give evidence.
101st. Imposes penalties for not observing the regulation as to payments and discharge.
102nd. Consul, Officers, Officers of Customs, Local Marine Boards and Shipping Masters, to make and send Reports and Returns to the Board of Trade on any matter relating to the British Merchant service.
103rd. Shipping masters, naval officers, consuls and officers of customs, may call for the production of the official log of any ship in any port in her Majesty's dominions.
104th. In cases of accident or misconduct conduct or of gross violation of law, the board may appoint special inspectors to report.
105th. Inspectors may call for the production of evidence, summon witnesses, &c., &c. Persons obstructing Inspectors, and witness not giving evidence, liable to penalties.
106th to 115th inclusive, technical clauses as to the mode of procedure under the Act.
116th. Shipping masters and other public servants receiving or recovering money to pay, or account for the same, to the Board of Trade.
117th. Monies thus received or recovered not presently required, to be invested in parliamentary Securities.
118th. Monies obtained under the Act to be applied in payment of the expenses of the same.
119th. Extends certain provisions in the General Merchants Seamen's Act to India.
120th. East India and Colonial Governments may appoint officers and give directions for enforcing 7th and 8th Victoria, c. 112, and this Act, within their respective jurisdictions.
121st. The provisions of the said Acts when applied by colonial governments to their own ships, may be enforced throughout the empire.
122nd. East India and Colonial Acts to be subject to disallowance and require sanction, as in other cases.
123rd. Persons obtaining passages surreptitiously to be liable to a penalty not exceeding £20, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four weeks.
124th. Corporations, &c., may grant sites for sailors' homes.
SG & SGTL Vol 8 pages 7 - 8 ; 1851
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