Plimsoll Line

   Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898) was born in Bristol, England. He started out as a brewery clerk, became a manager, and then became a coal dealer. Elected to Parliament (1868) from Derby, Plimsoll cast about for a cause that could inspire him and also make him famous. He hit on an idea that he was sure would satisfy both these goals. Without any nautical experience or maritime association, Plimsoll became publicly concerned with the plight of seamen who were known to sail on derelict ships. Plimsoll haunted the waterfront, questioning seamen, their wives, stevedores, and anyone affiliated with nautical activities. He learned that many of the ships were of poor quality, and were overloaded and undermanned purposely to make them unseaworthy. If a heavily insured ship were to sink, the unscrupulous ship owner would stand to make a handsome profit. Sailors called these overloaded ships "coffin ships." Plimsoll pursued his cause with a religious zeal. He published Our Seamen (1873), which contained heartrending accounts of the risks sailors might face and scathingly attacked everyone connected with the business of sponsoring these hazardous sea vessels. His publication had a profound impression on the seafaring population and pricked the conscience of some members of Parliament.
   When Disraeli caved in to vested interests and announced that a government bill to correct shipping faults would be dropped, Plimsoll lost his temper and shouted that his fellow House members were "villains." Plimsoll was made to apologize, but his sensational outburst is said to have generated so much interest in maritime problems in the Parliament that, in 1876, the Merchant Shipping Act, requiring better inspection, was passed. The act was followed by others, including one known as the Plimsoll line. That one required that a line (a circle and a horizontal line) be placed round a merchant vessel to designate its maximum load point in salt water. The line proved valuable and resulted in fewer ships being sunk and many lives saved.
   Quite naturally, Plimsoll became a hero among seamen, and they elected him president of the Sailors' and Firemen's Union. His interest in improving mercantile shipping, especially cattle ships, continued until his death.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Plimsoll line — also Plimsoll mark n BrE [Date: 1800 1900; Origin: Samuel Plimsoll (1824 98), British politician] a line painted on the outside of a ship, showing how low in the water it can safely be when it is loaded …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Plimsoll line — UK US noun [C] (also Plimsoll mark) ► MEASURES, TRANSPORT LOAD LINE(Cf. ↑load line) …   Financial and business terms

  • Plimsoll line — ► NOUN ▪ a marking on a ship s side showing the limit of legal submersion when loaded with cargo. ORIGIN named after the English politician Samuel Plimsoll, responsible for the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 …   English terms dictionary

  • Plimsoll line — n. (also Plimsoll mark) a marking on a ship s side showing the limit of legal submersion under various conditions. Etymology: S. Plimsoll, Engl. politician d. 1898, promoter of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 * * * ˈPlimsoll line 7 [Plimsoll… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Plimsoll line — /plim seuhl, sohl/, Naut. See load line (def. 1). [1890 95; see PLIMSOLL MARK] * * * ▪ international reference line also called  Plimsoll mark , official name  international load line        internationally agreed upon reference line marking the… …   Universalium

  • Plimsoll line — noun properly the International Load Line, a mark on the hull of a merchant ship to show the waterline under specified conditions. The line shows the maximum capacity load the ship may carry. See Also: Plimsoll mark, plimsoll …   Wiktionary

  • Plimsoll line — /ˈplɪmsəl laɪn / (say plimsuhl luyn) noun a line or mark required to be placed on the hull of all British merchant vessels, showing the depth to which they may be submerged through loading. Also, Plimsoll mark. {named after Samuel Plimsoll} …   Australian English dictionary

  • Plimsoll line — (also Plimsoll mark) noun a marking on a ship s side showing the limit of legal submersion when loaded with cargo under various sea conditions. Origin named after the English politician Samuel Plimsoll, responsible for the Merchant Shipping Act… …   English new terms dictionary

  • Plimsoll line — also Plimsoll mark noun (C) a line painted on the outside of a ship, showing the depth to which it can safely be allowed to float in the water when it is loaded …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • Plimsoll line — noun see Plimsoll mark …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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