The Plimsoll line is a mark on a boat or ship which indicates to what level it can legally be loaded to ensure safe sailing. All different vessels have different levels at which they float so this line will be different depending on the type of boat. The level will also change depending on the type of water the ship is sailing in. This even changes depending on the season as well.
So, the Plimsoll line will have several lines indicating the level in different situations, such as salt water in summer, tropical fresh water, tropical salt water etc. This line ensures that standards are met so that the vessel is not overloaded and the danger of sinking or capsizing is reduced.
The term Plimsoll line was introduced back in 1876 when M.P. Samuel Plimsoll was conducting research and work around this subject. This term along with other work he undertook became part of what was later to be known as the Merchant Shipping Act which is still adhered to today, although many alterations to these acts have been made since then.
However, before Samuel Plimsoll these lines (also known as load lines) were being used for hundreds of years before the term Plimsoll line was coined. Ships dating back as far as the 12th century sailing out of Venice and Italy had a version of the line. However, this custom did not last long and eventually died out until the 19th century when the use of drawing lines on the side of a boat became largespread.