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What does the term loadline mean in shipping?

Find out what the term loadline means and how it originated.

A ship's loadline indicates how much weight a merchant ship can hold. [©Jupiter Images, 2008]
©Jupiter Images, 2008
A ship's loadline indicates how much weight a merchant ship can hold.

A loadline or load waterline is an immersion mark on the hull of a merchant ship. This indicates the ship's safe load limit. The lines vary in height for different seasons of the year and areas of the world.

Also called the Plimsoll Line or Plimsoll Mark, it was accepted as law by the British Parliament in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1875, primarily at the instigation of Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898). This law prevented unscrupulous owners from sending out unseaworthy and overloaded, yet heavily insured, vessels (so-called "coffin ships") that risked the crew's lives.

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