We would hope that the Liverpool Daily Post could, even now, get its maritime terminology right, and I am pleased to say that it does.
The question of how to refer to the officer in command of a merchant vessel is a thorny one. My uncle, himself a master mariner with Cunard, used to get seriously cross when he heard people talk about the captain of a ship (he did admit that the Royal Navy could do what they damn well liked, but that was not expressed in a spirit of generosity and tolerance to his fellow seafarers). Yet, Wikipedia tells us that the Titanic left Southampton ‘with Captain Edward J. Smith in command’ and is right to do so. What is going on?
The clue is in the term ‘master mariner’. A merchant ship can only be commanded by an officer who has his master’s ticket, i.e. who has qualified as a master mariner (and in fact, for safety reasons, the first officer must also hold this qualification). Thus the officer in charge must be a master mariner and is the master of the vessel. Quite apart from that, the Merchant Navy has its hierarchical rank structure, which includes the rank of captain. So, Edward Smith, the master of the Titanic, had attained the rank of captain. We see this photo on Wikipedia, correctly captioned:
Unfortunately, the link from the picture leads us to this page, where Smith is described as the captain of the Titanic.
So what about the Liverpool Daily Post? Yesterday the Queen Mary 2 sailed into Liverpool, and the Post reports correctly (my emphasis):
QM2’s gross tonnage is 148,528 and her master, Commodore Bernard Warner, said: “You could fit Cunard’s very first ship, RMS Britannia, into our Britannia Restaurant onboard.”
So, a very big ship is commanded by an officer with a rank higher than captain. But he is still the master of the vessel.
The Post is also right to speak of gross tonnage. Wikipedia again:
Gross tonnage (often abbreviated as GT, G.T. or gt) is a unitless index related to a ship's overall internal volume. Gross Tonnage is different from Gross Register Tonnage. Neither Gross Tonnage nor Gross Register Tonnage are measures of the ship's displacement (mass) and should not be confused with terms such as deadweight tonnage, net tonnage, or displacement.
What the BBC means when it says
[Cunard’s] flagship vessel weighs 151,400 tonnes
is anybody’s guess. QM2’s mass (displacement) is 76,000 tonnes (Wikipedia). Now please excuse me while I go and weigh the anchor.
According to Commodore Warner in the Post (my emphasis):
“Although a new ship, QM2 is a traditional liner, not a cruise ship. A liner is a ship on a regular service across the ocean from point A to B. This ship is built for transatlantic service and we’ve done 25 return crossings this year. The other difference is this ship is designed to go faster. She has a very streamlined hull to slip gracefully and elegantly through the water, like her predecessor QE2 which was a ship in a million. Queen Mary 2 has 40% more steel in her hull than an equivalent-sized cruise liner, which means she is strengthened to cut through the Atlantic waves at speed, in all weathers all year. When you are crossing the oceans, you want to be on a proper liner. The ride and stability of this ship is amazing, even in a large ocean swell.”
What does the BBC have to say in its headline?
Huge cruise liner visiting city.
I noticed this too:
Post: WITH repeated long blasts on her throaty whistle echoing off the Cunard Building, she boomed out notice of her Mersey debut.
BBC: One of the biggest passenger ships ever built - the Queen Mary 2 - has made its maiden visit to Liverpool.
but I’ll leave that one for another day.