All At Sea Over Iceberg Science

At the opening of the 20th century, British maritime safety was a matter for the Board Of Trade.  This was the era of cork lifejackets.  The consensus of opinion on the saving of lives at sea was that, broadly, a minimum of lifeboats was enough to transfer passengers from a ship in distress to the other ships that were certain to come to her aid.

It was left entirely to ship owners whether or not they wanted to pay for extra lifeboats.

The loss of the Titanic in April 1912 triggered a new round of debates on that topic.

What follows is a speculation on the spin that might have been.


Manhattan Declaration on Maritime Safety
“Lifeboat shortage” is not a global crisis

We, the scientists and researchers in marine architecture and related fields, economists, policymakers, and business leaders, assembled at Times Square, New York City, participating in the 1913 International Conference on Maritime Safety,

Resolving that scientific questions should be evaluated solely by the scientific method;

Affirming that ships have always sunk and always will, independent of the actions of humans, and that ice (H2O) is not a pollutant but rather a necessity for all life;

Recognising that the causes and extent of recently-observed iceberg impacts on shipping are the subject of intense debates in the marine science community and that oft-repeated assertions of a supposed ‘consensus’ among shipping experts are false;

Affirming that attempts by governments to legislate costly regulations on industry and individual citizens to encourage lifeboat number increases will slow development while having no appreciable impact on the future trajectory of global shipping losses.  Such policies will markedly diminish future prosperity and so reduce the ability of societies to adapt to inevitable shipping losses, thereby increasing, not decreasing human suffering;

Noting that warmer clothing is generally more beneficial to life at sea than lifeboats:

Hereby declare:

That current plans to increase the number of lifeboats carried on ships are a dangerous misallocation of intellectual capital and resources that should be dedicated to solving humanity’s real and serious problems.

That there is no convincing evidence that carrying more lifeboats on modern industrial era ships could in the past, can now, or will in the future be able to prevent loss of life from catastrophic structural failures.

That attempts by governments to inflict taxes and costly regulations on industry and individual citizens with the aim of reducing loss of life will pointlessly curtail the prosperity of the West and the progress of developing nations without affecting shipping losses.

That adaptation as needed is massively more cost-effective than any attempted mitigation, and that a focus on such mitigation will divert the attention and resources of governments away from addressing the real problems of their peoples.

That the recent loss of the Titanic was not a human-caused problem.

Now, therefore, we recommend –

That world leaders reject the views expressed by the Safety Of Life At Sea - SOLAS - panel as well as popular, but misguided works such as “Some reflections, Seaman-like and otherwise, on the loss of the Titanic”.

That all taxes, regulations, and other interventions intended to provide excessive and unnecessary numbers of lifeboats on passenger ships be abandoned forthwith.

Agreed at New York, 4 March 1913.


The above 1913 declaration shares about 90% or more of its content with a similar declaration against the UKs proposed 1849 legislation to reduce the emission of smoke by steam engines.

I take this as evidence that cut-and-paste publishing was not an invention of internet users.