The Development of the Merchant Ship 1880-1990

By Ian Buxton, published February 1993


It is possible to discuss the development of the merchant ship over the last hundred years ago from the perspective of taking typical dry cargo vessels and typical tankers at various milestone dates and trace the changes in features of their design and operation. It is clearer to trace developments unhindered by changes in vessel type and size and this survey looks at vessels of 3,000 tons deadweight at key dates. The survey shows that the most important legacy of merchant ship development over the last century is efficient application of technology providing cheaper, faster, safer transport, associated with greatly improved standards of living of all concerned with ships. This is a very technical article comparing several aspects of two typical 3,000 ton deadweight merchant ships: dry cargo vessels and tankers. In the first case, ships of 1885, 1920, 1950 and 1980 were compared, whereas for the tankers the comparison is between ships of 1889, 1939 and 1989. Besides obvious changes on ship outlines, several other trends were shown, amongst them the ratio of cargo payload to displacement, manning, seamen’s wages, speed, port times, and loss rates.

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Filed under: Other (Twentieth C) | Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (location)
Subjects include: Merchant Marines | Shipbuilding & Design

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