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Conditions for emigrants on the voyage from Gothenburg to Hull

- REPORTS received by the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board relating to the Transit of SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS, &c
This is the second of 5 reports dealing with the conditions of Scandinavian emigrants traveling from Scandinavian ports on the Wilson Line ships, to the Port of Hull. This second report is written by Charles P Wilson, Principal Officer at the Marine Department, Board of Trade in England. It is a report after he made a voyage on the S/S Romeo from Gothenburg to Hull in May 1882 to observe the arrangements made for the conveyance of the emigrants.The reports was provided by Debbie Beavis

- No. 2. -

(M. 13,517.)

The Principal Officer, London, to the Board of Trade.

Board of Trade Surveyor's Office
St Katherine Dock House
Tower Hill, London, E., 30 May 1882


I have to report, for the information of the Board, that in accordance with instructions I proceeded to Gothenburg on the 4th instant for the purpose of making a further report on Scandinavian emigration, and in continuation of your report of the 28th September last, which more especially related to the Christiania branch of the trade.

On arrival at Gothenburg I found the emigration season at its height, upwards of 2,000 emigrants leaving that port weekly; and as it was impossible for any single vessel of the "Wilson" line to carry this large number, two extra steamers were got read to assist the "Romeo," one of the vessels regularly employed in this trade.

The "Romeo" is a screw steamer of 1,840 tons gross, and 1,210 tons net register. She was built in 1881, and is fitted for carrying third class passengers in three compartments; two of these are aft, the other forward.

The after Compartment, which for the sake of distinction I will call Compartment No. 1, forms a portion of a long poop, and is between the second class accommodation and the engine-room. It is fitted with open berths in two tiers which are almost identical with arrangements of this description in the Atlantic trade, the berthing space of each individual being separated by a moveable board eight inches high.

Compartment No. 2 is under No. 1 Compartment, but is not so long, and is fitted with berths on the shelf principle, as described in my report of the 28th September last.

Compartment No. 3 is a large 'tween deck, forward, fitted in the same way as No. 1.

Each of these Compartments have wooden decks, and are well lighted and ventilated. They are entered by ladders coming down the hatchways abreast of each other at an easy angle, lined at the backs, and fitted with hand-rails, the entrances being protected by substantial booby hatches.

Compartment No. 2 is set aside for the accommodation of single women, and was fully occupied by them.

The water-closet arrangements of this vessel for Compartments Nos. 1 and 2 are at the after end of Compartment No. 1, males and females being on opposite sides of the deck. There is a constant supply of water flowing through them, they are fairly ventilated and lighted, and being under deck are fully protected from the weather. Forward the water-closets are under the topgallant forecastle, and are in every respect the same as those aft, but of course not so well protected from the weather.

I went round the decks of this vessel before the emigrants came on board and at various intervals afterwards. The decks were sprinkled with disinfectants, and sawdust freely used; they were swept up after meals, and were fairly dry, notwithstanding the weather was extremely wet both before and at the time of embarkation, and the passage to Hull an unusually wet and stormy one for the season of the year.

I noticed that these Swedish emigrants had much more bedding with them than the Norwegians I saw last year, and there was not any huddling together in sleeping places, such as I commented on in my previous report; indeed I was informed that the supply of ship-bedding and tins for the use of emigrants is becoming quite an important industry at Gothenburg.

The food supplied to the emigrants was in my opinion good in quality and quantity, and excellently cooked.

The cooking arrangements of this vessel were exceptionally good, and admitted of the food being issued in a cleanly and palatable state. I repeatedly tasted it, and feel sure it must be superior to anything the emigrants could afford to have in their own homes. I was particularly impressed with the excellence of the soup, and the free use of butter on the bread.

There were, however, two other vessels at Gothenburg, the "Marsden" and the "Albano," both of which were employed on this occasion in carrying emigrants to Hull, and without entering into a detailed account of each of these vessels, which would be wearisome, I may say that I found an instance of an iron deck unsheathed, or simply covered with loose boards for the voyage, an arrangement I do not consider satisfactory.

The ladders for both of these vessels were without linings at the back, and in the case of the "Marsden," were pitched athwartships at so steep an angle as to be but 10 degrees or 12 degrees out of the perpendicular. This I consider particularly objectionable on board ship as it requires but very little rolling of the vessel to make them absolutely so when at sea. There was also no water in the closet arrangements of either of these vessels. It is, however, but fair to add that I was informed they were extra boats put on during the busy season only, and by no means regularly employed in the emigrant trade with Scandinavia, and that on my pointing out these details the ladders were at once lined, and arrangements made for rectifying other points, and a general desire expressed to do whatever would conduce to the decency and comfort of the emigrants.

These remarks will show how essentially necessary it is to pay constant attention to details; and such things as urinals for men fitted in closets marked for women, and instance of which I noticed at Hull, should not escape observation.

There is an agitation I understand going on at present in Sweden to provide life-saving arrangements for every person on board ship. The "Romeo" was in consequence hung round with life-buoys of the usual circular shape, and I was informed many more were to be provided.

In other respects the arrangements at Gothenburg were much the same as at Christiania, with the exception that the police appeared to be more active in their supervision, and in addition to a considerable number on duty at the gangways, I was informed, there were several detectives in plain clothes present.

Passenger traffic by water being in Sweden under police control, I called on the chief of the police whilst at Gothenburg, and was informed by him that the Swedish law was not considered to apply to the carriage of emigrants by the Wilson line to Hull, the trade not being provided for by the Oversea Passengers Act; on the one hand, whilst the requirements of the law regulating coast navigation is considered insufficient, on the other, under these circumstances, the numbers allowed by the Board of Trade passenger certificate is taken as the limit of the number each vessel is capable of accommodating.

I travelled from Gothenburg to Hull in the S.S "Romeo," and on the question of overcrowding I thought the vessel was rather crowded, but no more so than the rules of the Board of Trade admitted.

The Board's printed instructions as to the survey of passenger accommodation, paragraph 7, states that for third class passengers in foreign-going ships, -

"The net area of the deck (that is after deducting all hatches and encumbrances) multiplied by the height between decks, and the product divided by 72, gives the number to be allowed."

But taking the special circumstances of this trade into consideration, the Board have allowed the superficial area of the coverings of the hatchways in the 'tween decks of this line of steamers to be measured under certain conditions, which the owners distinctly agree to in their letter of the 29th of January 1880, one of these conditions being:

"That the hatches be properly caulked so as to cut off all communication with the lower holds."

This condition does not appear to be always observed, for in at least one instance, namely, on board the "Marsden," I noticed that one of the 'tween deck hatches did not ship properly, and on a carpenter being sent for to ease it, a hold full of coal was seen which the vessel was carrying about as ballast. In this case the hatches were certainly not caulked, and in reply to enquiries I was informed that the coal was not ventilated.

In this line of steamers the Board has already one check on excessive numbers due to cubic capacity by not allowing anything over eight feet to be measured as height between decks, but I submit that, in consequence of the measurement of the superficial area of the coverings of the hatchways in the 'tween decks, a further check is advisable, especially on the lower passenger deck, where, as the case now stands, a greater number of passengers are carried than on the deck above, an arrangement opposed to the requirements of our own Passengers Acts, and also, I believe, almost all foreign governments. I would therefore submit that on a lower passenger deck 100 cubic feet of space should be provided, instead of 72 cubic feet now required, but subject to the existing limit of eight feet in height between the decks.'

As the terms on which the Board allowed the superficial area of the coverings of the hatchways to be measured are not strictly observed, I venture to submit that this may be a good opportunity for re-adjusting the whole question.

This report would be incomplete if I failed to mention that whilst at Hull I had an opportunity of visiting the "Angelo," the vessel in which I returned from Christiania last September. I find the owners have adopted all the suggestions made in my Report to the Board, and in addition have tried Dewar's patent berths. I was surprised to find how much the appearance of the accommodation had been improved, and certainly think the comfort of emigrants travelling by this vessel has been materially increased,

If the owners would treat their other vessels in a similar manner it would leave but little room for complaints.

I have, &c
(signed) Charles P Wilson,
Principal Officer

The Assistant Secretary,
Marine Department, Board of Trade

RETURN to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons dated 14 July 1882;- for,

COPY "of REPORTS received by the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board relating to the Transit of SCANDINAVIAN EMIGRANTS through the Port of Hull, and to the arrangements for Feeding and Lodging them while there".

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