(From the Liverpool Mail, 21st April, .)
We deem it serviceable to call the earnest attention of all Shipowners and Shipmasters, all charterers of merchant vessels, all exporters or importers desirous of expedition and dispatch of Shipping, to certain stringent terms of the new " Merchant Shipping Act of 1854," which (inexorably) take effect on the 1st May next.
By its enactments, no merchant-vessel can clear from any port of the three kingdoms, unless and until her managers have first complied with a double new regulation :-
1st. Her existing certificate of British Registry must be handed in to the Custom-house to be newly enrolled, and endorsed with an " Appropriation" or official Number, as prescribed by the Act.
2nd. That " Appropriation" number must be conspicuously marked or carved on her Main Beam. These two pre-requisites to proceeding to sea apply alike to all British or British Colonial vessels. True; already all had a local or " port " number ; but these " port " numbers are vague and not reliable. E. G. The " port " number may be " 333 " for a ship hailing from old London or new London. or " 444 " for a ship hailing from old Liverpool or new Liverpool.
This numerical " carving " brings the whole Merchant Navy of the British Empire into one progressive numbering, one general focus. If it be fraudulently obliterated, most severe is the penalty - never more can she enjoy the privileges of a British ship. If she be wrecked, or sold to foreigners, her " appropriated " number is but partially cancelled - it remains blank ; but is never transferable to any other vessel. On the whole, this scheme seems to us at once simple and grand in its very simplicity - exhibiting at a glance the might and majesty of our Merchant Navy. The first thousand successive numerals are alloted for vessels about to clear outwards from London : the second thousand for Liverpool. The third thousand for the next great sea-port. We only wish a similar well-digested and simple scheme of " Registration with Securities " were enacted for every emancipated British newspaper. Questionless it is a novel but most effectual National " registering " for " the better identification " of all British ships.
In fine : the whole registering, as well as the measuring and numbering of British ships, is transferred from the Customs to the Board of Trade, as the supreme Directors. This is to separate the true cost of Customs collection from other distinct and super-added service. To restrain idle curiosity a charge of 1s. is legalised and to be carried to the credit of the Crown, for each and every reference, or query, or certified copy of a British Registry. But, we believe, bona fide references, i.e. all reasonable references, are to be exempt from this too trivial charge. Five shillings would have been little enough for curious people to pay far prying into other people's parchments and mortgages of ships.
Lastly, the Board of Trade have just appointed Mr. William Cowley Miller, an able and well-known local shipbuilder, as their Chief Surveyor for Liverpool. His salary is but £300 a year. Hence we infer he will be still allowed to retain his private business - particularly as other ordinary rules of public servitude have been dispensed with in his favour. Ordinarily none can enter the Customs Service beyond 30 years of age ; he is said to be between 50 and 60. But we doubt not he will make a most valuable Public Officer.
SG & SGTL Vol 12 ; Page 177 ; 30 Jul 1855
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