Ships of the World

The world shipping fleet has changed more rapidly during the last fifty years than at any time in history. For centuries, the most ships were powered only by the wind and ship design changed relatively little: a seafarer from 1500 would have been able to adapt quite easily to life on board a ship in 1800. During the 19th century, however, the technological changes of the industrial revolution began to transform shipping, just as they had already changed life on land.
By 1900 steamships and diesel powered vessels were becoming more and important, but it was not until the 1930s that the days of commercial sail finally came to an end. By 1950 the largest ships in the world fleet were passenger ships ? just as they had been since the boom in Transatlantic travel and emigration in the 19th century - especially those designed for premium routes such as that from Europe to North America, where speed was essential and luxury an important selling point. Most ships in the fleet were small cargo ships, of around 10,000 gross tons and oil tankers of about the same size.
By the end of the century everything had changed. The huge passenger liners that had once dominated the oceans had nearly all gone, put out of business by airlines that could travel in hours distances that took ships days to cover. People still travelled by sea, but they did so on cruise ships for recreation or on short sea crossing, often in roll-on/roll-off ships designed to carry vehicles as well as people. The biggest ships in the world were oil tankers and bulk carriers. There were still thousands of dry cargo ships, but they were far more specialised than in the past. These different ships used in world trade are described in detail under three categories, namely, Containerships, General Cargoes and Bulk Carriers and Tankers and Passenger Ships.

Safety Regulations for Different Types of Ships


World Fleet Today

As at December 2010, today's world fleet of propelled sea-going merchant ships of no less than 100 GT comprises 103,392 ships of 958 million GT with an average age of 21 years; they are registered in over 150 nations and manned by 1.5 million seafarers of virtually every nationality.

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