A warship and a trading ship were not the same, but their history is closely related. Both types of vessels carried cargo and traded in the same manner. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Suez Canal opened up a vast new trade route. However, in the twentieth century, the merchant fleet dwindled, with American-flagged ships declining in number and importance. Here are some key facts about trading ships history.
Steamships became trading ships in the second half of the nineteenth century
Originally, steamships were used to transport passengers from one country to another, but this changed when steam was discovered to be more efficient in carrying cargo. By the mid-1840s, steamships were used for a range of transportation tasks, from mail to freight. They were built for specific distances, and some had scheduled routes. Today, these ships are known as “trading ships”.
As steam continued to advance, so did ship size, forcing massive investments in port
infrastructure and a decrease in shipping rates. By the end of the nineteenth century, the largest ships in the world reached a gross registered tonnage of almost four thousand tons. By the end of the nineteenth century, the shipping industry was flooded with larger vessels, and ocean freight rates fell 70 percent.
By contrast, sailships lost commercial significance, declining from 85% of the total maritime tonnage in the 1870s to only 14% by the mid-19th century. In the 1860s, European exploration and colonization were in full swing. Portugal and Spain had
been exploring the Congo seven years before Columbus, while the Spanish and English had been attempting to explore the Niger River and Zambezi River in the late sixteenth century.
The new routes, however, were blocked by disease and made it difficult for the Europeans to continue exploring Africa. The discovery of quinine, a malaria preventative, allowed Europeans to use steam in the continent. As steam became more prevalent in the sea, ships began to use the power of the steam engine
to navigate the waterways. The PS Margery provided a ferry service along the Thames in 1815, and regular service across the channel was established in 1821.
Eventually, crossing times were reduced to two-and-a-half hours, from the time the vessel set sail. During this time, London shipyards also began building steamboats designed for short sea journeys. The first commercial steamships were wooden vessels, and most of them were paddle-powered with steam. Their engines were single-expansion, and the steam was expelled through jet condensers.
While these engines were more powerful, they still used sails for safety. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, steamships had evolved from simple sailing vessels to fast trading ships. The growth of international transport occurred at the end of the nineteenth century. Improvements in steamship engine technology paved the way for oil to replace coal.
By the 1870s, steamships gradually switched from coal to oil. Oil had long been known for its combustion properties, and it was only in the nineteenth century that it was commercially used. This new fuel provided increased speed and capacity while reducing energy consumption by 90 percent.
Although steam technology was used to make ships, not everyone had access to it, and wooden brigs remained an important type of shipping until the early twentieth century. One example of a trading ship built in the nineteenth century was the Douro, a two-masted merchant ship that wrecked off the Isles of Scilly in 1843.
The wreck was later found and recovered, where a collection of bronze slave tokens were recovered. It is thought that the Sunderland-registered vessel was engaged in the slave trade and bound for Africa.
Suez Canal opened up for trade in the second half of the nineteenth century
Entrepreneurs were interested in building the Suez Canal in the early nineteenth century. They planned to connect the Mediterranean and Red Sea, and would save time in transit by avoiding the long journey by sea through Africa and transhipping over the Suez Peninsula. In the mid nineteenth century, a French engineer and diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps, convinced Egypt's viceroy to allow the building of a canal.
But while the Canal promised to benefit all mankind, it failed to attract investors. Though the de Lesseps project was novel and promoted its benefits for all of humanity, most investors viewed it as too risky and expensive. In addition, it was also perceived as French, a problem for the project. But this did not deter De Lesseps from his original plan.
Today, the Suez Canal is one of the world's busiest waterways, with more than 30 percent of container shipping passing through it each day. But as the demands of the world's global economy continue to grow, the number of vessels traveling the canal has increased as well. For instance, the Suez Canal Authority's new rules allow vessels with a draught of 19 metres to pass.
Similarly, vessels with a breadth of 40 metres are now allowed to transit. The new rules also allow ships with hazardous cargo to transit the canal if they comply with the latest international conventions. While the Suez Canal opened up new opportunities for trade, it also introduced massive numbers of invasive species. Over 350 non-native species were introduced to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.
The arrival of such species threatens human health and local ecosystems. It has also led to the closure of popular tourist beaches and the interruption of a power station.
Further, the Canal's enlargement is expected to increase the number of invasive species. The Suez Canal was built over a period of half a century and became a major international waterway. Its opening helped trade between Asia and Europe, as well as forged new economic ties with Europe.
In the twentieth century, the Suez Canal was the most important transit route between Europe and Asia. These economic connections helped Egypt become a global power. The canal also gave Egypt access to markets in Europe. The Suez Canal opened up for trade in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Beforeconstruction of the canal began, Egyptian pharaohs had entertained the idea of creating a canal to connect the two seas. Their pharaoh Senusret III was the first one to dig the soil. The first narrow canal was completed 1000 years later by Darius I of Persia. Construction stopped for a few years, however, because sea levels were too different to make the canal feasible
American-flag merchant fleet declines in the twentieth century
The American-flag merchant fleet, a part of the global ocean transportation system, is a tiny fraction of the world's total cargo capacity. In 1960, it accounted for 16 percent of world shipping capacity. By the end of the twentieth century, it numbered only eighty-four. During that time, the U.S. government stopped writing new contracts to subsidize American maritime giants and instead purchased foreign shipping companies.
In the United States alone, the US-flag merchant fleet has dwindled from nearly a third of its peak capacity in the 1980s. In 1936, Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act, which created the U.S. Maritime Commission to oversee the U.S. merchant fleet. The mission of this agency was to provide shipping service to waterborne commerce and to act as a military auxiliary during times of war or
The U.S. merchant fleet is a highly-equipped and efficient group of vessels.
The shipbuilding and repair facilities of the U.S. merchant fleet are among the world's most sophisticated. In 1939, the majority of merchant ships were already more than 20 years old. When the Merchant Marine Act was passed, the U.S. government intended to build fifty new ships a year for 10 years. But, the United States found that the existing construction plan wasn't sufficient for the changing world situation.
In 1941, the U.S. government created an emergency fleet program to build standardized ships for wartime needs. These standardized cargo steamers became
known as Liberty ships. Since then, the U.S. shipbuilding industry has experienced a decline in size. The Jones Act, which aimed to keep the shipping industry healthy and competitive, has imposed a massive cost on the U.S. economy while providing little in the way of national security.
Despite the Jones Act's intended benefits, the U.S. merchant fleet has aged into obsolescence. The Baltimore clipper was an excellent example of a ship designed for speed. Developed in the Chesapeake Bay before the American Revolution, the Baltimore clipper had an exceptional speed. Its deep draft allowed it to sail close to the wind.
The speed of these ships made them instantly recognized as speed-oriented vessels, in contrast to the traditional merchant ships that were used to cruising at speeds of nine to nine kilometers per hour. The USMC has also played a crucial role in the maritime industry.
During the Vietnam War, the merchant fleet provided 95 percent of the supplies for the forces, which often sailed under fire. In the SS Mayaguez incident, mariners from an American merchant ship were captured by Khmer Rouge naval forces. Although the Khmer Rouge claimed territorial waters and international sea lanes, they seized the American container ship SS Mayaguez