NAVIGATION AND SHIPPING SEAMEN'S BERTHS NOT TO BE BELOW LOAD-LINE: WHETHER ANY PART OF BERTH ACCOMMODATION CAN BE BELOW SUCH LINE
NAVIGATION ACT 1912, s. 136 (1) (b)
The Comptroller-General of Customs has forwarded for advice the following memorandum:
Section 136 provides, inter alia, that:
Every place in a ship registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade, which is appropriated to the berthing accommodation of seamen or apprentices, shall-
(b) not be below the winter load-line of the ship.
The question has arisen in connection with a number of the smaller vessels engaged on the coast as to whether a compartment which is partly below the winter load-line, e.g. where the floor of the compartment is, say, a foot or two below that mark, should be regarded as below the winter load-line, within the meaning of the section quoted.
The view taken is that before any compartment could be so regarded, it must be substantially below the level of the load-line mark. That is to say, that something over 50 per cent of the height of the compartment must be under that level.
Possibly, however, the legal interpretation would be that a compartment is not below the winter load-line unless it is wholly beneath the level of that mark.
As the matter is of considerable importance in connection with the question of whether certain accommodation on ships for which licences are desired, does or does
not comply with the requirement of the Act, I shall be glad if the Solicitor-General will be so good as to oblige with a ruling in the matter as early as possible.
The view suggested that a compartment less than 50 per cent of which is below the winter load-line is in accord with section 136 cannot be supported. The section requires that every place in a ship appropriated to the berthing accommodation of seamen shall not be below the specified line.
The suggested view involves the possibility of a seaman being required to sleep below the load-line. This result would defeat the obvious requirements of the section.
I am of opinion that a compartment, appropriated to the berthing accommodation of seamen or apprentices, any portion of which is below the winter load-line, does not satisfy the requirements of section 136 (1) (b) of the Navigation Act 1912-1920.
[Vol. 17, p. 394]