Even if this were true, it would not outweigh the other arguments for the merchant marine, and the evidence points both ways.
8. Economic conditions.—One of the great handi caps which American ship-owners have to overcome in their competition with foreign ships is the higher standard of wages.
The United States Steel Corporation operated nine steamers which during the war were transferred from British to American registry. The American law re quired an addition to the crew of water carriers. This requirement is imposed by the United States In spection Law and is not found in any other country. It resulted in an increase in the number of the crew of these vessels from 373 to 393, and, combined with the demand for higher wages, an increase in payroll from $12,478 to $17,537, or about 41 per cent.
The higher rate of wages also makes its influence felt in the cost of building ships. Mr. E. S. Cramp, vice-president of the William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company, said in 1906 that as far as forgings, steel castings and other materials were concerned, these could be bought more cheaply here than abroad. The only difference in the cost of construction in American yards and foreign yards is the labor.
Labor constitutes approximately two-thirds of the cost of a ship. Admiral Bowles at the same time stated that it costs on the average 50 per cent more to build ships in American yards than in English. Tes timony pointing to the same conclusion was produced before the House Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries : the American built vessel has "cost from 50 to 70 per cent more than the foreign built." As late as January, 1913, Mr. M. Vowvier, vice president of W. R. Grace and Company, of New York, stated that the difference between the Phila delphia yards and the British yards amounted to ap proximately 35 per cent, while in the previous year the difference had been as much as 70 per cent.
The Committee on Merchant Marine points out bow this adverse condition is not necessarily fatal: This does not mean that American ships will always cost more than British ships. There was a time when American
locomotives and railway bridges cost a great deal more than British locomotives and bridges, but that was before locomo tive and bridge builders in this country had gathered experi ence, practiced standardization, and achieved all the econo mies of large production. Now we manufacture locomotives and bridges and sell them in competition all over the world. When by firm and adequate encouragement to shipping, we develop ship-building also to a manufacturing business, high wages paid to workmen in constant, not spasmodic, employ ment, will not prevent a steady output of ships as low in cost as they are efficient and economical in operation.
9. Adverse legislation.—A law which, whatever its other merits, has certainly affected the competitive po sition of the American-owned ship is the so-called "Seaman's Law" of March 4, 1915. This law re quires an apportionment of able seamen to lifeboats; regulates the size of the crew's quarters ; defines the food rations to be served ; requires that separate wash ing places with shower baths, hot arid cold water, be set aside for seamen and firemen; decrees that where the crew exceeds twelve, provision must be made for a hospital, and forbids the employment of Asiatic sailors and firemen and more than a certain number of Asiatic deckhands. The "language clause," as it is called, is said to have been primarily responsible for the withdrawal of the Pacific Mail Steamship Com pany's vessels from the Trans-Pacific trade. Accord ing to a .statement prepared by a firm of certified public accountants, the operation of the Seamen's Act resulted in an increase in operating cost on the five ships owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company of $495,425.38 per annum.
Too much weight must not be attached to this testi mony, however, since it is uncertain that the with drawal of these ships was not in fact caused by the law forbidding railroad-owned vessels to use the Panama Canal. The company has been reorganized and has recently begun operations.