1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tonnage

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TONNAGE. The mode of ascertaining the tonnage of merchant ships is settled by the Merchant Shipping Acts. But before explaining the method by which this is computed, it is well to remark that there are several tonnages employed in different connexions. Displacement tonnage is that which is invariably used in respect of warships, and is the actual weight of water displaced by the vessel whose tonnage is being dealt with. Men-of-War are designed to carry all their weights, including coal, guns, ammunition, stores and water in tanks and in boilers, at a certain draught, and the tonnage attributed to them is the weight of water which at that designed draught they actually displace. This displacement tonnage is therefore a total made up of the actual weight of the ship's fabric and that of everything that is on board of her. It can be found by ascertaining the exact cubic space occupied by the part of her body which is immersed (including her rudder, propellers and external shafting) at the draught under consideration in cubic feet, and dividing this by 35, since 35 cubic feet of sea-water weigh one ton. Of course there is nothing to prevent displacement tonnage from being used in describing the size of merchant ships, and indeed in regard to the performances of fast steamships on trial it is usual to give their draught on the occasion when they are tested, and to state what was their actual displacement under these trial conditions. But it is obvious, from what has been said as to the components which go to make up the displacement at load draught, that this tonnage must, in respect of any individual ship, be the greatest figure which can be quoted in regard to her size. It is usual for dues to be assessed against merchant vessels in respect of their registered tonnage. This must therefore be fixed by authority, and at present vessels are measured by the officer of customs according to the rules laid down in the second schedule to the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. As will be seen from the explanation of the method adopted, this is a somewhat arbitrary process, and even the gross registered tonnage affords little indication of the actual size of the ship, whilst the under-deck and net tonnages are still less in accord with the extreme dimensions.

As to length for tonnage, the measurements start with the tonnage deck, which in vessels with less than three decks is the upper, and in vessels of three or more 1 decks is the second from below. The length for tonnage is measured in a straight line along this deck from the inside of the inner plank at the bow to the inside of the inner plank at the stern, making allowance for the rake, if any, which the midship bow and stern timbers may have in the actual deck. When this is measured it is apparent into which of five classes the ship's tonnage-length places her. If she be under 50 ft. in length she falls into the first class, while if she be over 225 ft. in length she falls into the fifth class, the remaining three classes being intermediate to these. Vessels of the first class are measured as in four equal sections, and vessels of the larger class as in twelve equal sections, according to their length. Then at each of the points of division so marked off transverse areas are taken. This is done by measuring the depth in feet from a point at a distance of one-third of the round of the beam below the tonnage deck to the upper side of the floor timbers. Where the vessel has a ceiling and no water-ballast tanks at the point of measurement, 25 in. is allowed for ceiling. But where there are such tanks the measurement is taken from the top of the tank and no allowance is made for ceiling, whether there in fact be any or not. If .the midship depth so found exceeds 16 ft., each depth is divided into six equal parts, and the horizontal breadths are measured at each point of division and also at the upper and lower points of the depth, extending each measurement to the average thickness of that part of the ceiling which is between the points of measurement. They are then numbered from above, and the second, fourth and sixth multiplied by four, whilst the third and fifth are multiplied by two. The products are then added together. To the sum are added the first and the seventh breadths. This total having been multiplied by one-third the common interval between the breadths, the resultant is the transverse area. The transverse areas so obtained at each point of the vessel's length are numbered from the bow aft. Omitting the first and last, the second and every even area so obtained are multiplied by four, whilst the third and every odd area are multiplied by two. These products are added together, as are also those of the first and last areas if they yield anything, and the figure thus reached is multiplied by one-third of the common interval between the I areas. This product is reckoned as the cubical capacity of the ship in feet. When divided by 100 the result is the registered under-deck tonnage of the ship—subject to the additions and deductions ordered by the act. Directions of a kind similar to those already set out are given whereby the tonnage in the space enclosed between the tonnage and upper decks may be ascertained, and also for the measuring of any break, poop or other permanent closed-in space on the upper deck available for stores, and the sum of the capacity of these must be added to the under-deck tonnage to arrive at the gross registered tonnage. But an express proviso is enacted that no addition shall be made in respect of any building erected for the shelter of deck passengers and approved by the board of trade. In the process of arriving at the net tonnage the main deduction allowed from the gross tonnage is that of machinery space in steamships. The method of measurement here is similar to that by which the under-deck tonnage is reached. Where the engines and boilers are fitted in separate compartments, each compartment is measured separately, as is the screw shaft tunnel in the case of steamships propelled by screws. The tonnage of these spaces is reckoned, not from the tonnage deck, but from the crown of the space; whilst, if it has previously been reckoned in the gross tonnage, there may be an allowance for the space above the crown, if enclosed for the machinery or for the admission of light and air. Allowances are only made in respect of any machinery space if it be devoted solely to machinery or to light and air. It must not be used for cargo purposes or for cabins. Further, by the act itself in the case of paddle steamships, where the machinery space is above 20% and under 30% of the gross tonnage, it is allowed to be reckoned as 37% of such gross tonnage; whilst similarly, in the case of screw steamships, where such machinery space is over 13% and under 20% of the gross tonnage, it is allowed to be reckoned as 32%. Further deductions are also made in respect of space used solely for the accommodation of the master and the crew, and for the chart-room and signal-room, as well as for the wheelhouse and chain cable locker and for the donkey-engine and boiler, if connected with the main pumps of the ship, and in sailing vessels for the sail locker. The space in the double bottom and in the water-ballast tanks, if these be not available for the carriage of fuel stores or cargo, is also deducted if it has been reckoned in the gross tonnage in the first instance.

From the rules above laid down it follows that it is possible for vessels, if built with a full midship section, to have a gross registered tonnage considerably below what the actual cubical capacity of the ship would give, whilst in the case of steam tugs of high power it is not unprecedented, owing to the large allowances for machinery and crew spaces, for a vessel to have a registered net tonnage of nil.

Suez Canal dues being charged on what is practically the registered tonnage (though all deductions permitted by the British board of trade are not accepted), it is usual, at all events in the British navy, for warships to be measured for what would be their registered tonnage if they were merchant ships, so that in case they may wish to pass through the canal a scale of payment may be easily reached. But such tonnage is never spoken of in considering their size relative to other vessels.

Two other tonnages are also made use of in connexion with merchant ships, especially when specifications for vessels are being made. The first of these is measurement capacity. This is found by measuring out the true cubic capacity of the holds, whereby it is found what amount of light measurement goods can be carried. The second is deadweight capacity. This is generally given as excluding what is carried in the coal bunkers, and it is therefore the amount of deadweight which can be carried in the holds at load draught when the vessel is fully charged with coals and stores.