Legislation

British merchant shipping was governed by many Acts of Parliament and regulations made under their provisions. This page provides a summary of the main acts up to 1906 and (where possible) links to copies of the Act.

Current legislation is available at legislation.gov.uk. However, most legislation prior to the early 20th century has been superceded and images of it are strangely difficult to find online. The links below come from this extremely useful site - Alsatia - with our thanks.

An Act for the Further Increase and Encouragement of Shipping and Navigation, 1786 (26 Geo 3 c 60) Act

Merchant Seamen's Act, 1823 (4 Geo c 25) Act

An act for the registering of Vessels, 1823 (4 Geo 4 c 41) Act

An Act for the registering of British Vessels, 1825 (6 Geo 4 c 110) Act

An Act for the Encouragement of British Shipping and Navigation, 1833 (3 & 4 Will 4 c 54) Act

An Act for the registering of British Vessels, 1833 (3 & 4 Will 4 c 55) Act

The Merchant Seamen Act, 1835 (5 & 6 Will 4 c 19) Act

The Merchant Seamen Act, 1844 (7 & 8 Vict c 112) Act

Wrecks and Salvage Act, 1846 (9 & 10 Vict c 99) Act

Steam Navigation Act, 1846 (9 & 10 Vict c 100) Act

The Seamen's Fund Winding-up Act, 1851 (14 & 15 Vict c 102) Act

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854 (17 & 18 Vict c 104) Act

The Merchant Shipping Repeal Act, 1854 (17 & 18 Vict c 120) Act

The Passengers Act, 1855 (18 & 19 Vict c 119) Act

The Seamen's Savings Bank Act, 1856 (19 & 20 Vict c 41) Act

Merchant Shipping Act Amendment Act, 1862 (25 & 26 Vict c 63) Act

The Sea Fisheries Act, 1868 (31 & 32 Vict c 45) Act

Some registers of fishing boats predate this act. The letters and numbers identify the boat, for example BS 109 refers to entry 109 in the fishing boat register for Beaumaris. The numbers are not unique - they were re-used in later registers if the previous vessel was no longer fishing at that port. However, they can be used to identify a vessel from a photograph if its approximate date is known.

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1871 (34 & 35 Vict c 110) Act

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1872 (35 & 36 Vict c 73) Act

The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1874 (37 & 38 Vict c 80)

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1875 (38 & 39 Vict c 80) Act

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1876 (39 & 40 Vict c 80) Act

The legislation was prompted by the casualties - between 1867 and 1882, loss of life in British vessels alone (and excluding fishing vessels) totalled 33,427 seafarers and 5,987 passengers. 16,393 ships were lost.

Sea Fisheries Act, 1883 (46 & 47 Vict c 22) Act

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1890 (53 & 54 Vict c 9)

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 (57 & 58 Vict c 60) Act

The Merchant Shipping Act, 1906 (6 Edw 7 c 48) Act