Empty ports

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Victoria Rendon

Does anyone know why the Titanic sailed without all the lifeboat ports filled?

Steve Smith

Dec 14, 1998
Hi Victoria

Titanic had as many lifeboats as she was designed to carry - and could have carried a lot less without breaking the law. Ships as big as Titanic hadn't been around long, so the rules governing how many lifeboats you needed were very outdated.

According to the original plans for the ship, she WOULD have had more lifeboats - but these were never installed - possibly because people thought they'd have taken up too much space.

Of course, her owners knew that there weren't enough places in the boats for everyone, but unfortunately, they just didn't believe that ALL the passengers would ever need to be taken off the ship all at once. Despite the popular belief, it's unlikely anyone ever thought she was "unsinkable", but they did think she was safe enough to stay afloat at least long enough for another ship to come along and rescue her passengers.

As we know - They were wrong
Apr 16, 2002
The Titanic's davits could have held four boats at a time, but Ismay thought that it would cause the passengers to worry, and take up too much space. In the end insted of carrying the 64 designed boats, or even 48, she carried only 14 regular boats, 2 emergency boats, and four Engelhardt collapsibles.
So, the davits were not full, but law only required 16 boats.

A Weintraub

Expense was probably also a factor - not so much in provision for the Titanic, but White Star, or possibly all the IMM companies, would then have been obliged to provide a maximum number of boats, as well as davits, for its entire fleet. If they so equipped their safest ship, it would seem odd if they didn't so for the rest. (Perhaps there was also an unspoken agreement on the issue amongst the large British/IMM companies - Cunard would be forced to respond in kind had White Star taken such action unilaterally.)

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
‘I do not think we went on any theory; I think it was mere guess or rule of thumb.’

There you have the story in a nutshell, from Harold Sanderson of White Star at the British inquiry.

There was no grand conspiracy, or even a mere cost-cutting exercise. Titanic had much the same lifeboat provisions as other big liners. The ordinary wooden boats were sufficient to comply with the rules and the four collapsibles were added as a bit of PR.

You have to remember that until 1912 the system had worked well. In the 20 years before 1912 the passenger deathtoll from British ships on the North Atlantic was 85, 59 of which were in a single accident. In two major wrecks (Republic and Slavonia) only 3 passengers died. "Mere guess or rule of thumb" apparently was good enough.
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