In this post, Emigration, the Press and Fear of the Sea, an excerpt from her book,Coin, Kirk, Class and Kin: Emigration, Social Change and Identity in Southern Scotland (British Identities Since 1707) MH Beals gives a bit of insight to the tales of shipwrecks and disasters related by the Scottish press in the 19th century.
I've not read yet read Coin, Kirk, Class and Kin, so I'm not sure where the text goes next; but I have read about shipwrecks and disasters, most recently in An Unstoppable Force: The Scottish Exodus to Canada by Lucille Campey. She countered claims of shoddy ships and poor captains with detailed analysis of Lloyds Shipping Register and discovered that in her study sample over 75% of the ships were on the highest rated ships, class A1 or AE1. She also shared favorable reviews that emigrants wrote about their captains and pointed out that if shipping lines were so unsafe, they would have all gone out of business. (see Chapter 8, "What About the 'Coffin' Ships?")
It seems that while many tales of horror on the high seas that circulated in the British Press were true, in reality they are probably more about the experience and expectations of people in Britain, than the reality of crossing the Atlantic. For more on this line of thinking see Sea Changes: British Emigration and American Literature by Stephen Fender.