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About Us


Why Plimsoll?

Plimsoll stands for Public Library of Maritime Sources   Online. The PortCities Southampton website aims to make important maritime information as easy to use as a public library - available to everyone without charge. By the end of the project in June 2004, it will offer over 8,000 images and 30,000 text pages. These will include important maritime sources such as Lloyd`s Register of Ships for 1930-45, and the official British formal investigations into shipping casualties (wreck reports). These are available for you to help in your research, to pursue an interest or just to entertain you.

Plimsoll is also named after Samuel Plimsoll. He was MP for Derby 1868-1880, and became very worried about the dangers seafarers faced. Every year thousands of sailors lost their lives around the British coast and in open seas. He believed the biggest threat to their life came from two causes: overloading ships and not keeping them in good repair. In the face of opposition from some shipowners and government officials he tried to change the law.

He proposed a special mark on every British ship to show the maximum amount of cargo that could be carried. This mark is called the load line and by law it is fixed on the side of ships to this day. It quickly became known as the 'Plimsoll line' in honour of Samuel Plimsoll's work.

He also said that every British ship should be inspected by government officials to check it was maintained in good order. This also became law, and today the Maritime and Coastguard Agency employs inspectors called marine surveyors to ensure safe ships. Some of the changes came about after Plimsoll's death in 1888, but his tireless work to protect lives at sea led to his nickname, the "sailor's friend".

Seafarers can still face danger at sea, from accidents, weather, machinery and even piracy. They still need a "sailor's friend".

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