The Plimsoll Line

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OldenburgThe Plimsoll Line was named after safety campaigner and politician Samuel Plimsoll (1824 - 98) who fought for safe loading limits on ships. He instigated a Royal Commission, which led to the 1876 Merchant Shipping Act, giving the Board of Trade powers to inspect ships. Plimsoll never saw the Act in force, he died the month before it was passed. The Act also fixed the International Load Line - known as the Plimsoll Line - that was applied to any ship leaving a UK port, both British and foreign. The picture shows the bow of the MS Oldenburg, supply ship to Lundy Island, with the Plimsoll "line" clearly marked. That's the white numbers. 

The symbol is painted on the side of a vessel to show the safe maximum level at which it should float in water. Both the salinity and temperature of water affect buoyancy of a craft so the level mark shows different bands for every variation from tropical fresh water to Winter North Atlantic. Samuel Plimsoll eventually became president of the Amalgamated Sailors' and Firemen's Union.