Today, 15th April 2017 marks the 105th anniverary of one of the most famous maritime disasters ever, the sinking of the ‘Unsinkable’ Titanic on her maiden voyage.
The largest ship in the world, Titanic had departed Southampton on 10th April and with calls to Cherbourg and Queenstown, the next stop for the White Star liner was New York.
However, her maiden voyage was tragically cut short for on 14th April at 11.40pm, she collided with an iceberg on her starboard side, causing the plates and rivets in her hull to buckle and causing fatal damage which would result in the ship sinking. She took her final plunge at 2.20am on 15th April.
It caused shockwaves around the world when news spread of Titanic’s foundering. She had been ‘dubbed’ as ‘unsinkable’ but yet she sank on her maiden voyage with the loss of over 1500 passengers and crew. Over 700 survivors were picked up by Cunard’s Carpathia whom had responded and turned around when she heard of Titanic’s predicament.
It was not a situation that the Board of Trade had envisioned when they deemed Titanic fit to sail. There was only 20 lifeboats on board with capacity for less than half of those on board. The number of lifeboats was deemed sufficient by the Board of Trade, much to the frustration of Thomas Andrews, head designer and architect of Titanic whom wanted to fit more lifeboats on board but it was thought that it would clutter the decks and with the heightened safety features such as a double skinned keel and watertight compartments, it was thought that if the ship did get into any difficulties, then passengers would be able to be ferried to the rescue ship if such a situation occured.
The loss of over 1500 souls was a wake up call for shipping lines, the board of trade and in humanity itself. Since the sinking of Titanic, there has been many measures established in order for the safebeing of passengers and crew on board ships. The creation of SOLAS, Safety Of Lives At Sea has helped travelling by ship become more safe. It was created as the International Convention of Safety Of Lives At Sea in 1914 as a direct result of the Titanic tragedy. The shipping lanes on the North Atlantic would also have an International Ice Patrol which would monitor the icebergs and pack ice throughout the year in order to maintain safe passage for all ships transversing those shipping lanes. All ships must carry enough lifeboats and lifesaving equipment for everyone on board. Lifeboat and muster drills must be carried out before the ship leaves port. (Titanic had only one morning of training for her crew in Southampton to accustom themselves with the lifeboats) There has been many modifications of the convention since then but it is a direct result of Titanic’s sinking that sailing today is a much safer way to sail than it was back in 1912.
Ironically, nearly 100 years later in January 2012, another shipping tragedy dominated the headlines with the capsizing of Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy.. The loss of 30 lives due to ‘human error’ resulted in the safety aspects of cruising being brought under the microscope. It was a further wake up call to the shipping and cruising industry that nothing can be taken for granted and that safety aspects and drills on board would be tightened to make sure that a repeat of this tragedy would not be repeated.
Therefore, as we mark the 105th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, the shipping industry is ever increasingly evolving when it comes to safety on board. Although nothing can ever be taken for granted and it must be the case that the shipping industry and including the lucrative cruise industry keep vigilant and further reduce the risk of another Titanic or Costa Concordia tragedy ever from happening again.