Plimsoll line: Many commercial ships have a symbol called a Load line painted on each side of the ship. This symbol, also called an International load line, or Plimsoll line, marks the level to which the ship can be safely loaded. As cargo is brought on board, the ship floats lower and the symbol descends farther into the water.
Before these symbols were made compulsory many ships were lost due to overloading. Sometimes they were deliberately overloaded in the hope of collecting insurance money. Ships carrying emigrants from Europe to America were also lost. The British social reformer and politician Samuel Plimsoll advocated improved safety standards, particularly at sea, and the mark bears his name in his honour.
The letters on the Load line marks have the following meanings:
F - Fresh Water
T - Tropical Seawater
S - Summer Seawater
W - Winter Seawater
WNA - Winter North Atlantic
These season and zone marks are used to ensure adequate reserve buoyancy for the intended area of operation. Ships encounter rougher conditions in winter as opposed to summer, and in the North Atlantic as opposed to tropical waters, for example.
Fresh water marks make allowance for the fact that the ship will float deeper in fresh water.
It's actually the line to which a ship can be safely loaded.
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