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How much of a difference did the Titanic sinking really make to maritime safety?

Discussion in 'Safety Regulations Issues Post1912' started by Rob Lawes, Jan 3, 2019.

  1. Rob Lawes

    Rob Lawes Member

    The thread title is something I've been pondering on for a while now.

    We know what the outcomes of the initial inquiries were and the responses by White Star and the wider industry. Looking at the impact of these going forward, I think it's easy to argue that very few of the recommendations have had a significant impact on maritime safety.

    The most obvious one that did was 24 hour radio coverage by all ships at sea. At least distress calls wouldn't be missed. With the advent of modern telecommunications this system has become even more reliable.

    On the other hand, if we look at the lifeboats and space for all onboard, how many subsequent sinkings have had the time or list free ability to launch all of the available boats? None spring to mind. Various examples where this was impossible are available. The Estonia and Herald of Free Enterprise rolled over in minutes. The Andrea Dora, Costa Concordia and Oceanos listed so badly that only half their boats could be launched. Yarmouth Castle remained on an even keel but fire prevented passengers from accessing many of the boats.

    In terms of practices and procedures at sea, a lot of these were already in place although there use was being implemented sluggishly. I suppose the Titanic sinking hastened the abandonment of the old style rudder orders and the standardisation of communication and distress signalling but again, this had already been agreed by international conferences before the disaster.

    Finally, in terms of ship construction, ships would for many years after still become death traps in a fire or have fewer compartments open to the sea than Titanic and still sink. The fact remains, if enough water gets into a ship, no matter how high the bulkheads or the thickness of the double hill, she'll still end up on the bottom.

    Overall, I think it's easy to argue that apart from the huge outrage at the time and the "seen to do something" response, the impact on maritime safety made by the Titanic disaster was arguably negligible.

    Thoughts ??
  2. Doug Criner

    Doug Criner Member

    There is an interesting incident where a subsequent marine disaster was worsened because of safety requirements adopted in the wake of the loss of Titanic.

    In 1915, SS Eastland was loading passengers in the Chicago River, and capsized, killing more passengers than died aboard Titanic. After Titanic, Eastland had been required to add many more lifeboats, which caused the ship to become more unstable due to the reduction in metacentric height (and Eastland was rather tender, even before adding additional lifeboats). For more information, Google "SS Eastland disaster",
    Rob Lawes likes this.
  3. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    I believe there were a number of positive changes that were made as a result of the disaster which may or may not have been a mandatory change, but were obeyed for the sake of safety. I believe shipping routes may have been moved further south by orders, or by the captain of each ships own discretion, and more rigorous ice patrols were created as a result of the Titanic disaster. Ships fitted with wireless would also operate longer hours and possibly the confusion of distress rockets and signal rockets were made more clearer. I wonder how often the Titanic was mentioned to all of the new recruits.

    I agree the addition of lifeboats was more of a cautionary measure, and sadly there were no guarantees that more lives could be saved with more lifeboats. e.g. Here are a number of wartime disasters from 1915 - 1916. More lifeboats had little or no effect in the loss of life.


    I wonder if the Titanic had more lifeboats, would the added weight cause her to roll over to port and sink more rapidly. Lightoller believed the movement of the passengers created a "righting movement" and the crew heard Captain Smith order the passengers to the starboard side "to straighten her up" and keep her balanced in the water. The additional weight of extra lifeboats on the port side might have rolled her over completely. Keeping the ship upright long enough to lower all available lifeboats was a difficult task. It was incredible how steady the Titanic settled down.

    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019