American Maritime Documents, 1776-1860 - Stein, Douglas L.
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In 1838, amidst increasing steamboat accidents and passenger fatalities, the Federal government got involved by passing "An Act to provide for the better security of passengers on board vessels propelled in whole or in part by steam." The Act called for some loosely worded regulations, including the creation of inspectors for steam vessels - particularly the hulls, boilers, and related machinery. An inspector or inspectors were to be appointed for each port by the local Federal district court judge. The inspectors were in charge of inspecting and, in turn, certifying steam vessels that operated out of their port.
Accidents still occurred and safety standards continued to lag. Consequently, in August, 1852, Congress passed an amendment to the 1838 Act which included tougher legislation, and created an elaborate structure for its implementation. Nine supervising inspectors were appointed by the President of the United States to oversee all districts listed in the amendment. Hull and boiler inspectors were then appointed within each district, and it became their responsibility to examine and certify all aspects of steam vessels as well as to license steam engineers and steam pilots.
This amendment not only established certifying requirements for vessels, pilots, and engineers, but is also created the specific wording of the documents themselves. By 1858 the Steamboat Regulatory Certificates had become fairly uniform in style and content.