The sinking of the RMS Titanic was a factor that influenced later maritime practices, ship design, and the seagoing culture. Changes included the establishment of the international Ice Patrol, a requirement for 24 hour radio watchkeeping on foreign-going passenger ships, and new regulations related to life boats.


hi No single aspect of the Titanic disaster has provoked more outrage than the fact that the ship did not carry enough lifeboats for all her passengers and crew. This is partially due to the fact that the law, dating from 1894, required a minimum of 16 lifeboats for ships of over 10,000 tons. Since then the size of ships had increased rapidly, meaning that Titanic was legally required to carry only enough lifeboats for less than half of her capacity. Actually, the White Star Line exceeded the regulations by including four more collapsible lifeboats—making room for slightly more than half the capacity.

In the busy North Atlantic sea lanes it was expected that in the event of a serious accident to a ship, help from other vessels would be quickly obtained. That the lifeboats would be used to ferry passengers and crew from the stricken vessel to her rebutt

scuers. Full provision of lifeboats was not considered necessary for this.

Alexander Carlisle, Harland and Wolff's general manager and chairman of the managing directors, suggested that Titanic use a new, larger type of davit which could give the ship the potential to carry 48 lifeboats instead of 16. This was around 12 boats short to save everyone on board, and the White Star Line decreed that only 20 lifeboats would be carried, which could accommodate about 38% of those on board when the ship was filled to capacity. At the time, the Board of Trade's regulations stated that British vessels over 10,000 tons must carry 16 lifeboats with a capacity of 5,500 cubic feet (160 m3), plus enough capacity in rafts and floats for 75% (or 50% in case of a vessel with Watertight Bulkheads) of that in the lifeboats. Therefore, the White Star Line actually provided more lifeboat accommodation than was legally required. The regulations made no extra provision for larger ships because they had not been changed since 1894, when the largest passenger ship under consideration was only 13,000 tons, and because of the expected difficulty in getting away more than 16 boats in any emergency.

It was anticipated during the design of the ship that the British Board of Trade might require an increase in the number of lifeboats at some future date. Therefore lifeboat davits capable of handling up to four boats per pair of davits were designed and installed, to give a total potential capacity of 64 boats.[1] The additional boats were never fitted. It is often alleged that J. Bruce Ismay, the President of White Star, vetoed the installation of these additional boats to maximize the passenger promenade area on the boat deck. Harold Sanderson, Vice President of International Mercantile Marine denied this allegation during the British Inquiry.[2]

The lack of lifeboats was not the only cause of the tragic loss of lives. After the collision with the iceberg, one hour was taken to evaluate the damage, recognize what was going to happen, inform first-class passengers, and lower the first lifeboat. Afterwards, the crew worked quite efficiently, taking a total of 80 minutes to lower all 16 lifeboats. The crew was divided into two teams, one on each side of the ship, and an average of 10 minutes of work was necessary for a team to fill a lifeboat with passengers and lower it.

Yet another factor in the high death toll that related to the lifeboats was the reluctance of the passengers to board them. They were, after all, on a ship deemed to be "unsinkable." Because of this, some lifeboats were launched with far less than capacity, the most notable being Lifeboat #1, with a capacity of 40, launched with only 12 people aboard.[3]

The excessive number of casualties has also been blamed on the "women and children first" policy for places on the lifeboats. Although the lifeboats had a total capacity of 1,178 - enough for 53% of the 2,224 persons on board - the boats launched only had a capacity of 1,084, and, altogether only 712 people were actually saved - 32% of those originally on board. This is a tragic result when the 1,084-person capacity of the lifeboats actually launched had sufficient room to include all of the 534 women and children on board, plus an additional 550 men (of which there were 1,690 on board). It has been suggested based on these figures that allowing one man on board for each woman or child from the start would not only have increased the number of women and children saved, but also had the added benefit of saving more lives in total. In addition, the psychological impact of seeing fully loaded lifeboats may have spurred more passengers to evacuate, and the resulting less crowded and chaotic deck would have made the process much more efficient. There would also have been the added benefit of keeping families united, whereas in the policy adopted aboard the Titanic, this was not the case.[4] As it was, the many desperate men had to be held off at gunpoint from boarding the lifeboats, adding to the chaos of the scene and there were many more casualties - of women, children and men - than otherwise.[5]

24 hour radio watchEdit

Following the inquiries, United States government passed the Radio Act of 1912. This act, along with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, stated that radio communications on passenger ships would be operated 24 hours along with a secondary power supply, so as not to miss distress calls. Also, the Radio Act of 1912 required ships to maintain contact with vessels in their vicinity as well as coastal onshore radio stations.

It is also considered today that the damage would be limited with a head-on collision; indeed, only the bow and the rudder would then hit the iceberg, and not the hull, which must remain tight so that the ship can continue to float. It is now a fully rule of navigation (included in the COLREGs). The experience has been tried in 1914 (only two years after the Titanic disaster and around the creation of the International Ice Patrol) by HMT Royal Edward. As a result, only the behind compartments were flooded, and none of the 800 passengers suffered from the shock.

International Ice PatrolEdit

After the Titanic disaster, the U.S. Navy assigned the Scout Cruisers Chester and USS Birmingham (CL-2) to patrol the Grand Banks for the remainder of 1912. In 1913, the United States Navy could not spare ships for this purpose, so the Revenue Cutter Service (forerunner of the United States Coast Guard) assumed responsibility, assigning the Cutters Seneca and Miami to conduct the patrol.

The Titanic disaster led to the convening of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in London, on November 12th, 1913. On January 30th, 1914, a treaty was signed by the conference that resulted in the formation and international funding of the International Ice Patrol, an agency of the United States Coast Guard that to the present day monitors and reports on the location of North Atlantic Ocean icebergs that could pose a threat to transatlantic sea traffic.

Since the mid-1900s ice patrol aircraft became the primary ice reconnaissance method with surface patrols phased out except during unusually heavy ice years or extended periods of reduced visibility. Use of the oceanographic vessel continued until 1982, when the Coast Guard's sole remaining oceanographic ship, USCGC Evergreen, was converted to a medium endurance cutter. The aircraft has distinct advantages for ice reconnaissance, providing much greater coverage in a shorter period of time.

Distress rocketsEdit

In addition, it was agreed in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea that the firing of red rockets from a ship must be interpreted as a sign of help. This decision was based on the fact that the rockets launched from the Titanic prior to sinking were interpreted with a bit of ambiguity by the freighter SS Californian. Officers on the Californian had seen rockets fired from an unknown liner from their decks, yet surmised that they could possibly be "company" or identification signals, used to signal to other ships. At the time of the sinking, aside from distress situations, it was commonplace for ships without wireless radio to use a combination of rockets and Roman candles to identify themselves to other liners. Once the Radio Act of 1912 was passed it was agreed that rockets at sea would be interpreted as distress signals only, thus removing any possible misinterpretation from other ships. This treaty was scheduled to go into effect on July 1st,, 1915, but was upstaged by World War I.

Name changeEdit

For example, after the disaster, the name Gigantic was no longer considered acceptable for the third Olympic class liner. She was named Britannic instead. Due to World War I, Britannic never saw passenger service. She was sunk in the Mediterranean Sea in 1916 while serving as a hospital ship.

Ship design changesEdit

The sinking of the Titanic also changed the way passenger ships were designed, and many existing ships, such as the Olympic, were refitted for increased safety. Besides increasing the number of lifeboats on board, improvements included reinforcing the hull and increasing the height of the watertight bulkheads. The bulkheads on Titanic extended 10 feet (3 m) above the waterline; after Titanic sank, the bulkheads on other ships were extended higher to make compartments fully watertight. While Titanic had a double bottom, she did not have a double hull. After her sinking, new ships were designed with double hulls. Also, the double bottoms of other ships (including the Olympic) were extended up the sides of their hulls, above their waterlines, to give them double hulls.

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  1. Testimony of Alexander Carlisle at British Inquiry
  2. Testimony of Harold Sanderson at British Inquiry - Question #19398
  3. Robin Gardener & Dan van der Vat, The Riddle of the Titanic (London: Orion 1995) p136
  4. [1]
  5. [2]
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