MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT of 1854 (stat. 17 and 18 Viet. c. 104), a measure which in many impormut respects amended, and at the same time conSolidated, the law of this country relative to merchant shipping. By the merchant shipping repeal act of the same year (stat. 17 and 18 Viet. c. 120), the statutes relative to inerchant shipping previously in force were, with one or two unimportant exceptions, repealsd ; the new act, which formed an almost complete code of the laws affecting merchant-ships, coming in their place. No fewer than nine acts have since been passed, some amending, others supplementing, the act of 1854--viz., the merchant shipping act amendment acts, 1855 and 1862 (18 and 19 Viet. c. 91, and 25 and 26 Vict. c. 93); the merchant shipping act, 1867 (30 and 31 Viet. c. 124); the colonial shipping act, 1868 (31 and 32 Viet. c. 129); the merchant shipping (colonial) act, 1869 (32 and 33 Viet. c. 11); the merchant ship ping act, 1871 (34 and 35 Viet. c. 110); the merchant shipping act, 1872 (35 and 36 Vict. c. 73); the merchant shipping act, 1873 (36 and 37 Vict. c. 85); the merchant shipping act, 1875 (38 and 39 Viet. c. 88). A bill to consolidate and amend the law relating to merchant shipping has been brought before the house of commons, but has not been proceeded with. The act of 1854 is divided iuto 11 parts; and the principal pro visions of the amendment acts are referred to the part of the principal act to which they severally belong, so as to facilitate the reading the acts conjointly. The act of 1867, with the exception of two unimportant clauses, is occupied with a single subject—the enforce ment of proper sanitary conditions on board ships. The acts of 1868 and 1869, relating to colonial shipping, are not of general irnportance.
The general superintendence of matters relating to merchant ships and seamen is, by the act of 1854, part I., intrusted to the board of trade, which is invested with powers for compelling local bodies, and shipowners or shipmasters, to perfortn the duties which the shipping acts impose upon them.
British ships, their ownership, measurement, and registry, is the subject of part II. of the act of 1854. And it is provided that no ship shall be deemed a British ship unless she belong wholly to owners who are of one of the following descriptions: 1. Natural born subjects; 2. Persons made denizens, or persons naturalized in terms of an act of parliament, or an act of the legislative authority of some British possession; 3. Bodies corporate eetablished under, subject to the laws of, and having their principal place of business in the United Kingdom or some British possession. Every British ship, with
a few unimportant exceptions, must be registered; and a ship, unle.ss registered, though subject to all the ordinary- liabilities, is not to be recognized as a British ship. The regis tration is to be made by the principal officer of customs for the time being at any port or place in the United Kingdom approved by the board of trade for the registry of ships, and by certain specified officers in the colonies and possessions abroad. The registration is to comprise the name of the ship, which cannot afterwards be changed without per mission of the board of trade, and the names and descriptions of the owners; also the tonnage, as ascertained by specified rules, the build, and description of the vessel, the particulars of her origin, and the name of the master. A certificate of registry, containing all the particulars registered, is given by the registrar to the master. On this certificate, , changes in the ownership and changes of the master are indorsed as they occur; and a new ' certificate may be granted, after certain formalities, in exchance for a former one, or in the event of a former certificate. being lost. The master is the person entitled to the custody of this document, and it is a penal offense to detain it from him, upon whatever pretense of right or title. The certificate is given up to the registrar on the ship being lost, or ceasing to be British. The acts of 1871, 1873, and 181'5 require certain particulars to be marked on ships in specified ways—viz., the name, the official number, the registered ton aage, a scale denoting the draught of water, the deck-line, and the load-line; and besides 4 that there are penalties for defacing, or not maintaining such marks, and for making them inaccurately, the ship may be detained until the requirements of the law are com plied with. In any ease or class of cases, the board of trade may direct that the draught of water, and also the extent of the clear side of a sea-coin.- ship be recorded by the officers of customs, and the record preserved, and also markebd in the official -log-book. The act of 1873 provides that where a British ship. has ceased, for any reason other than capture or transference to a foreign owner, to he reedstered, she shall not be again put upon the register without a survey to test whether slie is seaworthy.