Is a ship a ‘She’?

News | Fri 10th May, 2019

The Scottish Maritime Museum has been in the news for adopting gender-neutral signage for ships as a response to vandalism of its signs.

This is a thorny issue. HMS Queen Elizabeth may well logically be a ‘She’, but what about HMS Prince of Wales or STS Lord Nelson?

English Admiralty Law still respects the use of the feminine gender for ships, regardless of their name. Thus Paragraph 61.8 of Part 61 of the Civil Procedure Rules that deal with Admiralty Court Jurisdiction and Procedure refer to:

‘Where-

  • a ship is not under arrest but cargo on board her is; or
  • a ship is under arrest but cargo on board her is not…’

Under the Interpretation Act 1978, however, such language would include any vessel used in navigation even if they were masculine.

The Civil Procedure Rules are made under Statutory Instruments approved by the Westminster Parliament, the ‘Mother of Parliaments’.

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