Demise of the British Merchant Navy

thunderd
31st July 2005, 06:28
Some time ago I wrote a short story of my experiences at nautical college and as a Ben line cadet in the fifties and posted it on another seafaring site. I have been fortunate to get a lot of responses from people all over the place.

In my story I expressed how much I enjoyed these experiences and my regret that I foolishly left after only 4 years.

Most of the responses indicated that, in leaving when I did, I may have been one of the lucky ones. They almost all said that the Brirish MN was on a downhill run from about the mid sixties onward. I have often wondered what caused this downfall and have looked for a short explanation, I guess the executive summary, but all I have found are sites with pretty political and forceful views, can anyone suggest a site that will give me a simple explanation of the events?

Doug Rogers
31st July 2005, 06:51
It can probably be summed up in a short sentence when all is said and done. Try lack of support, incentives and finance for the British Merchant Navy and its service providers.
Cheers...

thunderd
31st July 2005, 07:05
It can probably be summed up in a short sentence when all is said and done. Try lack of support, incentives and finance for the British Merchant Navy and its service providers.
Cheers...
By whom....the government?

Doug Rogers
31st July 2005, 08:33
Who else!!, directly down to them in my opinion.

Rhiw.com
31st July 2005, 08:39
Who else!!, directly down to them in my opinion.
Yes Doug, you're absolutely right, and it can be summed up in your one sentence. Regards Tony. (Applause)

michael james
31st July 2005, 10:43
Yes George, I heard of similar experiences but companys were already reducing their tonnages and qualified personnel were competing for fewer jobs.

I agree with Doug, typically shortsighted politicians

oldbosun
31st July 2005, 14:04
Sorry, it will have to be explained to me how it can be that simple. "Politicians" and that's it?
Politicians were in place all through the hundreds of years of the halcyon days of shipping. Lets not forget that the Danes, the Dutch, the Norwegians, Germans, Finns, French, Belgian, US, Spanish, Portugese, Russian, Polish etc. all had thriving fleets that we saw in ports all over the world. Everyone made a good living even if some made better than others.

Look at this factor. Take tankers. When the norm was for a tanker to be in the 10,000 to 15,000 ton range it took a complement of about 35 men total to man her.
Captain and 3 mates. 2 or 3 officer cadets. Chief, 2nd, 3rd, 4th engineer, stewards, deck and engine room crew. Employment for 35 seamen on one ship, and there were hundreds of ships. I think in my days that Shell alone had over 135 tankers under the British flag alone.
Suddenly, and it was suddenly, along came bigger ships until it finished up that one 150,00 tonner had the same number to man her. That's equal to 15 crews of smaller tonnage. That's 14 captains, 14 chief engineers 44 mates, 44 engineers, and how many stewards, deck and engineroom crews where there's no jobs for them.
In just a very few years, aircraft took thousands of jobs away from the passenger liners of all flags. Hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide.
On top of that the ship owners got greedier than they always were. They flagged the ships out so they could employ cheap, non-unionised 3rd worlders. Less stringent demands on officer and engineers qualifications.
Container ships don't need trained deck personnel, men with seamanship skills are no longer needed on that type of ship. Deck laborers are all that's needed there. Due to advances in communications, radio officers are extinct. Engines are run and monitored from the bridge, with computers monitoring everything down there and sending all the info to head office via sattelite.
Sad as it is, it is all part of ongoing progress and had an impact equal to the shift from sail to steam.
It was inevitable, however distasteful it was to us. Us who somehow thought this idyllic life can never end.
If you want to blame politicians then you have to blame politicians of every nationality that I mentioned because the same thing happened to their seafaring population.
I forecast that one day the only ship's crews there will be will be those that go out in small boats to meet and bring in to port those totally unmanned satellite driven ships that will sail the world.
Just think how happy the owners will be then. No crew to pay. No crew to feed. No crew to fly to some part of the world to join a ship. It's gonna come, have no doubt about it.

Jeff Egan
31st July 2005, 15:09
Wonderful idea re small boats we could call them Pilots

Santos
31st July 2005, 16:24
This is the copy of a post I made on 15th May of this year,


I can remember back in the sixties, a very knowledgeable Old Man saying to me,

' You know Third Mate in the next century ships wont have crews, they will be totally automated and be sent by remote control ( his words not mine )
from Country to Country. Make the most of this type of sailing, it has not got many years left. '

We have not quite got that far yet, but I think we are nearly there. He was a very wise Old Man and I had a lot of respect for him.

Chris.

I think think its worth repeating again here. A very far sighted person.

Chris.

R58484956
31st July 2005, 17:07
What about the crippling seamans strike which must have driven a nail into the coffin. The union man who organised it is running the country this week,

janbonde
31st July 2005, 18:52
The Danes were going to try very minimum crews on liner sevices i presume one of their container runs putting mooring gangs or riggers on board for berthing wether they implimented or experimented with it I do not know or have never read about it in any Maritime publicationin Europe / Stateside.
The main reason MONEY. you guys in Europe were flown home every 3 or 4 months expenses to be met by the owner,contract crewing was the way with Asian officers and seamen doing a year for $450 per month,against European seafarers rates and even the logistics side of moving crews about once a year were or still are handled by the contract provider.I sailed on a couple of Brits in the fifties and it was 2 year agreements,and some of them did the 2 years away from th UK even a reasonable trip was about 10 months. You do not need to be a numbers pusher to work it out

waiwera
31st July 2005, 18:54
To be accurate if you left in the mid sixities ( seamans strike 66) - there ere still a few "good years" to go. Correct med if I am wrong ( I am sure someone will with the expertise on this site) but, I believe, the peak year for British Registered tonnage was around 1973?

The problems were surely

1. Huge changes in scale of ships tankers ( as explained) but box boats too 1 for 6 or 8 smaller conventional ships.

2,. Britains entry into the common market reduced Australasian and other trades as the build up of imports by ferry from Europe instead.

3. Yes, of course lack of support from the UK Government - whilst other countries were supporting their emerging MN.

4. Plus of course flags of convenience

5.??? Others .........please add.

The result of all these points is why the British MN is a shadow of the past. Plus ( as a member of a the NI - I get the regular magazine on current life at sea) it seems today - paperwork, automation and legislation that "blames" the crew for everything and even prevents shoreleave - makes me wonder how anyone goes to see in 2005????

Santos
31st July 2005, 19:13
I believe the rot started in the middle to late sixties. I know from my own experience that the trade with South America was failing.

We used to come back full to overflowing with timber, tobacco, cotton & other stuff, but into the middle to late sixties, the ships were starting to come back two thirds to a half full. They just could not get the cargos.

The company then began to cut down on the ships and of course the crews, the great decline started then. The dock strikes made things alot worse and cost the shipping companies millions. Containerisation was just starting and the new buildings were being designed to accomadate that as well. Bigger ships etc.

It started then, in the middle to late sixties.

Chris.

fred henderson
31st July 2005, 23:52
It all depends how you define demise. The British flag merchant fleet is growing strongly today, thanks to the introduction of tonnage tax, where the total tax payable by a shipowner is based on their ships' tonnage regardless of the profit they make. This tax system is the same as that used by the Italian and Dutch governments. It is the first time a British Government has introduced a tax system for shipowners that is competitive.

NUMAST and the other organisations trying to maximise their union subscriptions may complain that the ships do not need to employ British crews, but that's the way international competition works. Our present standard of living is entirely dependent upon international trade, I doubt if the British population would consider any other arrangement.

thunderd
1st August 2005, 00:56
Thank you all for answering my question. I almost wish I hadn't asked it in the first place it is so depressing. In oldbosun's reply it just seems it was inevitable.

I guess I was lucky to get out when I did, I can still have a few rums on a Friday night and all my memories are good. Those of you who stayed on must have been broken hearted to see what happened.

In a previous thread Chris wisely said that modern young people would be better off if they'd had our training.

Once again thank you for the explanations I'm sure it would have been pretty painful for some of you and I appreciate you taking the trouble.

Doug Rogers
1st August 2005, 02:06
To be accurate if you left in the mid sixities ( seamans strike 66) - there ere still a few "good years" to go. Correct med if I am wrong ( I am sure someone will with the expertise on this site) but, I believe, the peak year for British Registered tonnage was around 1973?

The problems were surely

1. Huge changes in scale of ships tankers ( as explained) but box boats too 1 for 6 or 8 smaller conventional ships.

2,. Britains entry into the common market reduced Australasian and other trades as the build up of imports by ferry from Europe instead.

3. Yes, of course lack of support from the UK Government - whilst other countries were supporting their emerging MN.

4. Plus of course flags of convenience

5.??? Others .........please add.

The result of all these points is why the British MN is a shadow of the past. Plus ( as a member of a the NI - I get the regular magazine on current life at sea) it seems today - paperwork, automation and legislation that "blames" the crew for everything and even prevents shoreleave - makes me wonder how anyone goes to see in 2005????

I think you have covered the area extremely well and I concur with all you have said...the times they were certainly a changing!!..but if the British Govt had been more proactive than they were the end result for the MN may well have been much better today.

cboots
1st August 2005, 09:48
As I have already outlined before in another post somewhere on the site, the demise of the UK merchant fleet dates from the first budget of the Thatcher/Howe period, 1980, when the government withdrew accelerated depreciation from British shipowners, thus putting them at a severe disadvantage to many other flag state owners and foc operators in particular. Although I have not lived in the UK for several years now I do understand that the current government have taken some measures to encourage and assist the UK fleet again. However, another legacy from the Thatcher/Major era is that it is no longer mandatory to have British national manning British flagged vessels.

Tony Crompton
1st August 2005, 10:17
However, another legacy from the Thatcher/Major era is that it is no longer mandatory to have British national manning British flagged vessels.[/QUOTE]

It never was.

Tony C

janbonde
1st August 2005, 15:38
If it is not mandatory to crew British flagged ships with Uk seafarers why did Evergreen when they moved some vessels to the British flag, ship their own nationals over to the UK to sit for the UK certification, when they were already qualified seafarers.

Bruce Carson
1st August 2005, 16:00
Doesn't anyone reading oldbosun's posting equate many of those circumstances with the loss of industrial production now taking place in Europe, North America and even, to some extent, Japan? The problem ain't peculiar to the maritime sector, it's industry wide: it happened that circumstances brought the changes to the shipping sector before other segments of our traditional industrial base were affected.
The loss of industrial might, maritme or otherwise, to the flags (or countries) of convenience (cheap labor, lack of humane standards, etc.) was only the beginning of an ongoing process which continues today.

Bruce C.

trotterdotpom
1st August 2005, 19:41
However, another legacy from the Thatcher/Major era is that it is no longer mandatory to have British national manning British flagged vessels.

It never was.

Tony C[/QUOTE]

It was compulsory for Radio Officers on British ships to be British subjects.

In about 1975, Fyffes 'Morant' sailed from Panama with an American RO who'd done a pierhead jump when the previous RO left under a cloud. The American hadn't been to sea since World War 2, but had worked as a Coast Station RO for Tropical Radio in Florida (company owned by United Fruit, as was Fyffes), but had been retired for several years.

He sailed with the inducement of a promised trip round Europe on arrival in Genoa, but found that he was unable to do the job as he was not familiar with the equipment and modern techniques. The ship was incommunicado all the way across the Atlantic, until approaching Gibraltar, as he could only get the Emergency transmitter going.

When the ship got to Genoa, there was no relief available and the company said he had to stay, so he went to the British Consulate and advised them of the situation. Not only was he not a British subject, whatever qualifications he had were out of date - British ROs who stayed ashore for over 2 years had to re-sit their tickets.The Consulate ordered the company to replace him with a British RO. That's when I came on the scene (Freelance) - wish I'd known what was going on, I'd have asked for more money.

Eventually I was replaced by a Maltese RO - I'm not sure if Commonwealth citizen counted or not (not even sure if Malta was still in the Commonwealth at that time, believe they were coming under the influence of the Mad Colonel in Lybia).

I'm fairly sure that Masters of British ships also had to be British subjects.

John T.

marlinspike
1st August 2005, 22:21
I wondered how many posts there would be before the 'seamans strike' would be blamed. I took part in that strike to oppose harsh working conditions in many Companies and terrible pay. As usual the higher ranks benifited after by their rise in pay and conditions (not begrudged). No one appears to mention 'deflagging' when owners simply sailed into a port - deflagged from the Red Ensign and gave the crew an option - 'leave' or 'work on much less pay and conditions'. They then took on foriegn crews at much less cost thus the end of the Red Ensign.Still happening today but with white collar workers but it is called 'out sourcing' I think'. I have never followed the arguement that salaries were the crippling aspct of running ships!!! Ociean Shipping, Elder Demster, P & O money is still around in the 'Financial Times, but they have diversified into Communications, Property, Electronics and so on.

Peter (marlinspike)

cboots
2nd August 2005, 04:32
In my time at sea, the mid sixties through to the end of the seventies, all certificated ranks on a British flagged vessel, and that included Hong Kong and Bermuda etc, were required to possess UK certificates and be UK or commonwealth citizens. So that would cover master, first and second mate, chief and second engineer, and of course the sparky. Irish citizens must have been included as many r/os were, of course, Irish. My memory is a little hazy, and I have not resided in the UK for many a year, but during the Thatcher/Major era this requirement was set aside after some lobbying by the owners about the shortage of certificated personnel, largely as a result of their fleet reductions and neglect of training I would add.

Pompeyfan
12th August 2005, 00:32
As you should note in my post regarding Shoreside Terminology taking over, the demise of the British Merchant Navy in my view is due to the end of the passenger line voyages and of course the British seafarwer who sailed in them. Modern crusing has brought about a new type of crew with a massive entertainment section who know nothing about life at sea. Couple that with a new type of passenger with cruising being so popular and affordable these days that ships cruise ships are nothing more than hotels at sea with language to match. David Cole

Doug H
13th August 2005, 08:25
I'm not wishing to buy into any of the political aspects of this thread but Members might be interested in the following link to the Business pages of today's (Oz) newspaper which gives some information on the pecuniary aspects of P&ONedlloyd. If you have any interest, check http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,16239415%255E36375,00.html
Any comments ? Doug H

Doug Rogers
13th August 2005, 11:52
My only comment about P&O's pecuniary situation would be that they have to be one of the better run businesses in the world. Just what their worth would be these days I dont even want to think, they constantly move their interests around and seem to have very good timing at moving out and on to the next!!. They have fingers in so many pies thats its not funny,

R651400
13th August 2005, 15:05
Strange isn't it, reading through the entire thread, hardly anyone blames the demise of the MN on the actual shipowners.
During my eight years at sea I sailed with four different companies two British and two foreign, not one exists today.
Blue Funnel is a typical example.
Started in 1856 and one hundred years later in 1956 when I joined, fielding around sixty ships and owning four other successful companies. Within a further thirty years, all had completely disappeared.
So where did it all go wrong?
I think poor management more than anything else is to blame.
In Blue Funnel's case, everyone waxes lyrical at the 1966 built Priam class being the best ever break-bulk vessels. Planned fifteen years before, they actually show and prove a company who was not in keeping with the times.
I personally witnessed Sealand loading containers in Newark NJ, five years before Priam was built. The other thing that holds true with following generations of British shipowners was they did not have the same fire in their bellies or loyalty, as the founders. South American Saint line is a typical example lasting only 20 years.
Fortunately there are companies such as Bank Line that continue to fly the flag but those that are no longer with us, I feel in some way, just threw in the towel to new foreign competition, who really outclassed them.
More's the pity for all the people that were in their employ.

Malcolm

pat
13th August 2005, 16:01
Its quite simple less rules and regulations and flags of convience have less rights for the crew plus less tax for the owner its that simple.

Pat

R651400
14th August 2005, 09:08
In 1960 when I joined, Niarchos had about the same number of ships as Blue Funnel, including part ownership of Skaramanga shipyard.
Today nothing.
This is an operator who enjoyed all the priveleges of flag of convenience, being the first to register under the Liberian flag.
So where did Niarchos et al go wrong and how can Maersk remain perennially successful?

Malcolm

fred henderson
14th August 2005, 15:29
I suggest that the demise of the British Merchant Fleet is entirely due to changing patterns of world trade. Over the past 50 years manufacturing has progressively moved to the Far East. Japan, Korea, and now China. These countries have all established massive shipbuilding industries, churning out container ships, bulk carriers and tankers at very low prices, because they want to keep world ocean freight rates depressed. This reduces the transportation costs of their raw materials and finished goods.
The current run-away boom in China has upset this plan and at the moment record freight rates are producing good profits for shipowners, but I am sure that the Far Eastern shipbuilders will catch up and freight rates will fall again to levels where western wage rates make shipowning impossible. The UN calculates that the average wage in UK is now 21,000 per annum. In Eastern Europe it is about 4,000, China 2,000 and India 1,000 per annum.
The Thatcher/Major Governments did not attempt to stop the tide. The Chinese would have loved them to have kept British Shipbuilders alive. That would have resulted in even more ships being built, to push freight rates even lower.

Fred

fred henderson
14th August 2005, 16:34
My only comment about P&O's pecuniary situation would be that they have to be one of the better run businesses in the world. Just what their worth would be these days I dont even want to think, they constantly move their interests around and seem to have very good timing at moving out and on to the next!!. They have fingers in so many pies thats its not funny,
P&O have been around since 1834 and the name (and even the houseflag) has remained after the parent company has disposed of its interest. As a result they are possibly not quite as widespread as you may think Doug.
The UK Stockmarket does not like diversified companies, or conglomerates. It thinks that instead of spreading risk conglomerates always seem to have at least one company that is in deep trouble. The Stockmarket forced P&O management to decide on the business it wanted to specialise in. As a result the cruise business was floated off as a seperate company, P&O Princess Cruises plc in 2000. The new company was valued significantly higher than P&O itself.
P&O has disposed of its container business and most of its property holdings. It still has a ferry business in Europe that it wants to sell, leaving it as a port and container terminal operator. The Chinese, Japanese and Koreans will probably be able drive freight rates back down, but they will still have to pay port charges. The Stockmarket likes this strategy and values P&O at 2.5 billion today, despite the company only making 30.6 million profit on a turnover of 1.35 million in the six months to June 2005. Those figures include six months operating losses of 16.6 million from their ferry business.
After P&O Princess became an independent company it was taken over in 2003 by Carnival by the creation of a unique dual listed company known as Carnival Corporation & plc. About 26% of the dual company was owned by the old P&O Princess shareholders and these shares are quoted on the London Stockexchange, with the balance of the shares quoted on the New York Exchange. The London shares are currently valued at 6.1 billion, making the entire company worth about 23 billion. Almost 10 times the value of P&O.
In the six months to May 2005, Carnival had a turnover of about 2.75 billion and it made a profit of 423 million. Clearly it is a far stronger business than P&O. It operates 77 ship in 12 seperate cruise companies, including continuing the names P&O Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia.

Fred

R58484956
14th August 2005, 21:56
Mearsk line mentioned in this thread, to save money they are having plain paper supplied to ships instead of monagrammed writing paper with ships/company name on.

Paul UK
15th August 2005, 09:15
Re P&O I have just got my copy of Ships Monthly ( Good add on back page)
In this issue it is reported that P&O are or have re registered three ships to Bermuda from UK flag.

They say that this is to be able to provide a wedding package on Artemis, Arcadia and Oceana OR is it that it will be cheaper, better tax incentives or just so the UK government can not take them for military service.

What ever the reason yet a further reduction in MN tonnage. (Cloud)

Paul

PS That leaves just Aurora and Oriana with British Flags.

wa002f0328
14th November 2005, 19:10
Can anyone tell me where the dep prime mister was at the time of the strike in the 60s, certainly not serving wine to the passengers I have always been baffled as to where he was at that time!!!!!!!!!

Jeff Egan
14th November 2005, 19:24
We had a navy, we are built on coal and used to produce the worlds steel, now we flag out, import coal and steel, In the fullness of time when the next war comes we will be begging others for the things we should have for ourselves.

peter barc
14th November 2005, 19:30
Prescott has a lot to blame for the Demise in the British MN, but also where,s the incentive to go to sea these Days for young lads ! none whatsoever, most of us went to sea to see the world but nowadays kids can go round the world without signing on a ship, if they save a months dole they have enough to buy a ticket...

wa002f0328
14th November 2005, 19:50
can anyone name a man ex - wine steward P.O. line, who was connected to seamans strike in 1960 clue liverpool

wa002f0328
14th November 2005, 19:56
Hello peter you have hit the nail on the head, PRESCOTT some seaman, what was he up to during the strike??? he is an insult to the M.N. if he was in I would like to see his discharge book, as I have my doubts he has one, fat slob, check it out peter see you later.

peter barc
14th November 2005, 20:29
The fat slob is now high up in British politics, just goes to show that Bullsh-- does get you to the top...
Peter..

Tmac1720
14th November 2005, 21:40
I take it John Prescott isn't on your Christmas card list then? (Cloud)
Oh well now he has two jags he dosen't need ships any more (*))

gdynia
14th November 2005, 21:52
One subject not touched on you cannot get direct employment these days to any of our companies left but have to go thro a Body Sop(Agency).The internet is full of them - surley this increases the ship owners costs even allowing for not paying N.I.

Gdynia

gdynia
14th November 2005, 21:54
A further comment we signed on 4 crew members today as Absailers(Bungee Rope Jumpers) what happened to AB,s or EDH,s- how times change and not for the better

Gdynia

glenn
14th November 2005, 23:57
If it is not mandatory to crew British flagged ships with Uk seafarers why did Evergreen when they moved some vessels to the British flag, ship their own nationals over to the UK to sit for the UK certification, when they were already qualified seafarers.

I think they have to employ 1 in 50 cadets, but when there time is up they offload qualified 3rd Mates and employ another 1 in 50 cadets

James_C
15th November 2005, 06:26
Indeed. Evergreen only shipped them over because a British ticket tends to mean less hassle in port when inspection time comes around, than a Taiwanese ticket does.
Lets get it clear here. You don't need a British ticket to sail on a British ship. At most (if the ship is IOM or Bermudan) your suitably ticketed Flip flop (for example) will send his (Fillipino) ticket off the IOM administration, they will have a look at it, say 'Yeah, STCW95 compliant,no worries, heres your ticket of equivalent competency'. No extra exams or suchlike are required for this 'covering letter' (basically all it is).
A few years ago, up until the 90s, it was a legal requirement that the Master on a British ship HAD to be British. The Tories did away with that.
The British flag hasn't been revived. The actual number of Brits going to sea today has actually FALLEN since the tonnage tax came into being.
So now we have a load of foreign owned, foreign built, foreign crewed ships with 'London' on the stern and flying the Red Duster, and dragging the good name of the British flag through the mud.
Some people see this as a positive sign though, but I'm proud to say I aint one of them.

John Rogers
15th November 2005, 10:47
Nice to see you back on Jim,did you have a good cruise.
John.

James_C
15th November 2005, 13:46
I'm not home yet! Still onboard, but only another 2 months to do. Will hopefully pay off in Mina Saqr and fly home from Dubai. Hopefully, anyway......
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology we now have internet access onboard, and indeed, I now have it in my cabin, through my laptop (which I always bring with me).
It took some persuading to get the Leckies to do it, with several threats of physical abuse, making them change masthead lights etc, but the thing that clinched it was the dire consequences facing their booze tab...

LOL

Hows life John?
Wheres Ron? I notice the Batcave is strangely quiet.

Pilot mac
15th November 2005, 13:52
I had always thought that the requirement for a British Master on British flag ships was a strategic requirement carried over from times of conflict. British ships used to carry highly secretive information and encryption facility in the care of the Master. (separate safe usually) . On occasions when calling at an 'unfriendly' port, this secret cache had to be destroyed or handed to a consul at the previous port. I can remember witnessing the burning of said material in a bucket on the bridge wing! I was mate on a British Flag ship in the late 70's and we delivered on time charter to NATO, all foreign nationals had to leave the ship for the duration of the charter, we thought we were ok,
forgetting all about the poor old sparkie who was Irish, he had to go.


regards
Dave MacVicker

James_C
15th November 2005, 14:03
Dave,
You're talking about DEMS safes. We had one on the 'British Skill' up until she was sold in 2002.
It was up in the Old Mans cabin and had all sorts of sealed orders and code books in it, all of which made interesting reading! Apparently the MOD had simply forgot about it, and when it was pointed out to them, they weren't interested in the slightest.
So what happened? Yep, you've guessed it, the Old Man brought them down the bar one night for everyone to have a good squint at!

Jeff Egan
15th November 2005, 14:03
I did a Merchant Navy Defence course in 1970 and remember being taught how to use the Code machine among other things and we were always told it had to be dumped overboard rather than let it get in the wrong hands. But by todays standards I think it was laughable. We were also told that if we were caught in fall out from a Atomic bomb we had to take a shower.

lakercapt
15th November 2005, 15:42
I think Derek opened a canof worms when he quired about the demise of British shipping.
Many of the explanations are very possible and it would be a good thessis for someone doing their PHD.
In my view are of the reasons given were causes but I think that then British ship owners were missionaries and not visionaries.
Trade was changing from general cargo to boxes but still general cargo ships were being built at great expense.
Tankers and ore carriers got larger with smaller crews and British heavy industries were being wiped out.
Another example.
The U.K. used to inport wheat froam Canada, Australia, Argentine etc. Now Britian is an net exporter of grain products. More efficiency all round and you did not need a fleet to service your needs.
Alas the unions must also share some blame, as they became, not for the reason unions were first formed to protect their members, but political with the gimme policy.
Not my job attitude prevailed and that was when I decided enough and left British shipping.
I was long gone before the downward spiral and it was sad to see so many well trained personnel out of work. People that were in shipping companies all their lives and only knowing that companies ways of doing thing had a difficult time adapting to a changing world and many didn't.
Alas it will never recover and sites like SN are just that. Nostalgia and I can relive some of the good and bad times knowing that we are a dinosours and will alas soon be extint taking with us stories that are still to be told

Jeff Egan
15th November 2005, 16:04
The truth is that it's not a problem that is unique to the British Marchant Navy, history shows that as the world changes life changes, many skills that were once valuable are overtaken by technology and those either skills die or are preserved as a novelty. You can imagine the sailor of the past shaking his head with a tear in his eye as he sees sail replaced by black smoke from a stack. Just as the blacksmith has the same reaction to the dunlop factory down the road and the sword maker tries to hang onto the good old days of running a fellow through with good old steel rather than the more efficient cruise missile.

janbonde
15th November 2005, 18:02
The diff is other trades have changed and a lot of basic skills gone,but good basic seamanship is the same now as it was in Nelson`s time,respect for the sea foremost

Jeff Egan
15th November 2005, 18:36
Janbonde with respect I'm not sure of your point. The blacksmiths skills are still practised but by far fewer people, the skills of sailors are still there but practised by far fewer people. Seamanship today is not the same as in Nelsons day, it has changed beond recognition. What would Nelson make of a modern ship? How many people at sea today could climb the rigging and yards to set sail or I expect even splice a rope. What would Nelson make of GPS, radar, or even engines in ships. We all look back fondly to our memories and as a person who worked his whole life on ships I have the greatest respect for all who served at sea. But as times change so do the skills needed, We no longer need a powder monkey or a sail maker on a modern ship just as Nelson would have no need for an Engineer or electrician.

Doug Rogers
15th November 2005, 21:16
Jeff, I think that what he was trying to say was simply respect the sea for what it is and the force it is, and the basic seamanship still needed to sail on it. I have to agree with you the "technical" part of seamanship is something else. as with so many other things it has changed completely. Would love to see Nelson confront a modern radar or GPS system, could he have turned a blind eye to it I wonder?
Cheers..

glenn
16th November 2005, 01:16
With regards to tecnology taking over I have been on some ships where it was more like Star Treks bridge than a ships bridge,even on 1 where the engineers did there watch on the bridge.Now dont get me wrong im all for progress but what happens when all that tecnology goes t!t$ up would the mates and engineers of today be able to fix it , you dont just hit it with a big hammer anymore

Jeff Egan
16th November 2005, 12:02
Lets take the consol to the bridge wing pilot we'll berth using the Joystick.

janbonde
16th November 2005, 16:44
Thanks to Doug Rodgers for making clear the point I was making,I am a retired mariner with over 50 years experience,I know about technology and progress having lived through it and used it and that there was no electronics in Nelsons time.There are still yachtsmen ,sailing dhows and other craft ,and various other parts world where Basic Seamanship is still used in earning a living or for pleasure.

fredkinghorn
16th November 2005, 20:00
Well lads, I've read them all. My opinion is that in many ways you are all correct. The problem we have in this sort of discussion is that we want to apportion blame. No one person or Company or Government is to blame for the demise. World economics made the changes, as they always have done. The workman always wants a fair rate for the job, the owners want the biggest profit for the shareholders. Don,t blame John Prescott, he was only doing what he thought was best for the members of the N.U.S.
It may have been misguided, but we all have the benefit of hindsight.

Jeff Egan
17th November 2005, 15:11
Glen, the simple answere is no.

wa002f0328
23rd November 2005, 19:32
Government, Greedy Shipowners, end of story

wa002f0328
23rd November 2005, 20:53
I find this hard to believe, that PRESCOTT had the members of N.U.S. at heart, I was there in the 60,s on the strike, and the only thing that was in the minds of the main men was SELF, not the merchant seamen, look at it now (PRESCOTT I mean) he certainly proved that you need no brain to prosper, just a bit of crawling, and turning a coat, what a c---.

fredkinghorn
24th November 2005, 10:20
Whoops, hornet's nest stirring ! I wonder just exactly what contribution wa002f0328 made to the N.U.S. apart from subscriptions. I get p*****d off reading stories from people who no doubt sat on the side lines, never offered themselves up as Sec. Treasurer Branch Chair etc. If it had not been for the N.U.S. we would have been carrying aboard the " donkey's breakfast " ,no sunday at sea payment etc. I am no great admirer of J. Prescott, but you get what you pay for. do we know anyone who opposed him at Branch level in the 60's ?

John Cassels
25th November 2005, 20:00
In a way every contribution to this thread is correct in their own context.
In my experience it came down to one thing -- cost.
When I came ashore in 1981, 3 of our ships were fully British manned.
Within another 2 years ,they were manned by a Bahamas crewing agency.
I remenber being involved in the discussions. It was nothing to do with expertise
or experience or superior tickets , it was do do with crew costs -- finish.

JC

Brian Dobbie
26th November 2005, 10:43
I can agree and understand comments about crewing costs. However this does not explain the companies that ceased to exist even after we had Filipino crews etc.
A lot of Ship Managers simply thought all we have to do is flag out and employ Filipino crews, perhaps the Managers should have looked in the mirror.
The recent demise of P&O, as a shipping company, highlights the problems with British Management. They are simply interested in "Shareholder Value" not in a viable British Merchant Navy.
The Maersk,Evergreens,MSC etc,etc are all thriving companies making huge profits but British Management does not see any opportunities in Shipping atall.
The entire Marine Industry in the United Kingdom is now a complete sunset industry and the people who recruit Cadets really are doing these young people no favours at all, in a few years we won't have any British Seafarers left.

Brian

douglasjamesmichael
27th November 2005, 17:15
British Crews....Please do not get me started.....The best ones I sailed with were from the International Pool in Rotterdam they were there because they wanted to work, As an Engineering Officer we used to get the best out of them - The Chinese and Indians worked like Hell - British Crews were Bolshie and the Engine Room lot especially in GP Crews....were frightened to get their hands dirty and would not take orders.....
So do not get me started on this
D.J.M. Engineer.

douglasjamesmichael
27th November 2005, 17:35
The Silence on this subject is deafening!!!!!!especially GP & NUS Crews>>>>

douglasjamesmichael
27th November 2005, 17:36
Can you blame the owners for going abroad?????

John Cassels
27th November 2005, 19:21
Perhaps you can explain what you mean with "as an engineering officer officer we used
to get the best out of them"......................................
Your comments re British crews are certainly not my experiences and I dare say many
others on this forum.

JC

gdynia
27th November 2005, 20:53
With regards to tecnology taking over I have been on some ships where it was more like Star Treks bridge than a ships bridge,even on 1 where the engineers did there watch on the bridge.Now dont get me wrong im all for progress but what happens when all that tecnology goes t!t$ up would the mates and engineers of today be able to fix it , you dont just hit it with a big hammer anymore
Glenn
Just dispelled that theory just watched our frustrated 2nd Engineer hit the anchor winch brake with a mall and it freed itself - mind you he was frustrated

oldbosun
27th November 2005, 21:54
Maybe the deafening silence is due to disgust of British seamen being trashed by another British seaman.

I sailed over a period of 42 years with the odd shore job in between, but always returning to the sea.

In the main all the men I sailed with, and I'm including Officers, Engineers, Catering staff, engine room staff and deck crowds, were decent and fine men.

Our main interests were applying our learned skills at sea and "bagging off" and getting p****d ashore. I never did hear of any serious "bolshie" talk. There 'were messroom lawyers' of course, every ship of every nationality had those, but nobody took them seriously.

It wasn't demands of British seamen that caused the demise of the British Merchant Navy, it was the numerous factors laid out in this forum by educated men and simple uneducated men like myself.
If British seamen were as lazy as Douglasjamesmichael would have us believe, how come we have a record second to none going back centuries?

gdynia
27th November 2005, 23:15
Gents

How about starting a new thread titled The Demise of DouglasJamesMichael - sounds like a film star name

oldbosun
28th November 2005, 04:29
I agree. It seems to me that this man is controlled more by his anti-Englishness than anything else.

His sourness must cause him sleepless nights. It's a shame really. I have no doubt that he was/is a good engineer and good at his profession, but somewhere in his life he got sidetracked by his hatred of England. Too bad.

I am the son of a Scot and I know that my Dad would despise his attitude.

I have never seen a person on this website that has such bitter views.

On this Forum we talk about ships, shipping companies, runs ashore, photos of ships, shipmates, engines, ship designs, you name it, but we don't put down anothers nationality.

Let's try and show him that we are a Brotherhood of the Sea, and that nationality is of no consequence.

Let us not use this website to show anger at another's nationality, but stick to the subject of the posting.

Doug Rogers
28th November 2005, 04:45
Quote...

On this Forum we talk about ships, shipping companies, runs ashore, photos of ships, shipmates, engines, ship designs, you name it, but we don't put down anothers nationality.

Let's try and show him that we are a Brotherhood of the Sea, and that nationality is of no consequence.

Let us not use this website to show anger at another's nationality, but stick to the subject of the posting.

**************************************

Well said Sir, exactly as it should be, lets make it so.

John Cassels
28th November 2005, 07:59
Old Bosun,

Well said indeed sir.
Would still have liked to know what the gentleman meant by as quote- an engineering officer,we used to get the best out of them- unquote.
Perhaps I misunderstood him , he must have been talking about a pack of performing dogs ...............................!

JC

Pat McCardle
28th November 2005, 08:21
British Crews....Please do not get me started.....The best ones I sailed with were from the International Pool in Rotterdam they were there because they wanted to work, As an Engineering Officer we used to get the best out of them - The Chinese and Indians worked like Hell - British Crews were Bolshie and the Engine Room lot especially in GP Crews....were frightened to get their hands dirty and would not take orders.....
So do not get me started on this


D.J.M. Engineer.

Obviously a "Yes Sir, No Sir" man. Some Engineering 'Officer'? You must be. Get up in a morning,look in the mirror & give yourself a bollocking (Thumb)

R58484956
28th November 2005, 14:02
It must hurt djm that he has to speak the ENGLISH language.

John Cassels
28th November 2005, 19:25
Wa002f0328,

As much as I agree with you, I would never have had the nerve to say what you did.
I think the gentleman in question has learned his lesson as is indicated by his lack of reaction. What makes it all the more sadder for me is that I am also a Scot (although a blown away Scot) and am also ex Denholms just like him.

The good news is that this fine forum will not suffer from his lack of contribution.

May he now rest in peace.

Rgds

JC

Gulpers
28th November 2005, 20:34
Wa002f0328,

As much as I agree with you, I would never have had the nerve to say what you did.
I think the gentleman in question has learned his lesson as is indicated by his lack of reaction. What makes it all the more sadder for me is that I am also a Scot (although a blown away Scot) and am also ex Denholms just like him.

The good news is that this fine forum will not suffer from his lack of contribution.

May he now rest in peace.

Rgds

JC

Well said John. Like you, with folk like DJM around I almost feel ashamed to be 1) Scottish and 2) ex Denholms - thank God he's not from the Gourock Navy (I hope). Where do we find them? See my postings in the EU flag debate for more DJM comment!

Sod him! (Thumb)

John Rogers
28th November 2005, 20:48
engineers did not have brains, the bridge did, they were the MEN that got you from A-Z not the grease monkeys.

I wouldnt go as far as say that. I would like to see the bridge officers paddling the ship.
You couldnt go from A to B without both of them.
John. Black gang

terence
28th November 2005, 23:52
simple container ships more tonnage not less look at the ships going in the panama canal

cboots
29th November 2005, 03:22
I have remained silent on this thread until now, partly because I have made my views on the subject quite plain elsewhere - viz that the decline in the UK fleet is easily traceable from the first Thatcher/Howe budget (1980) when accelerated depreciation was progressively withdrawn from the shipping industry - and partly out of shock and disgust at the way some of the respondents seem to delight in an outpouring of vitriolic on those who are our fellow seamen. I have had the occasion to take certain parties to task on a previous thread when a similar attitude has been taken to Australian crews and unions. Let us just remember that the membership of this forum consists largely of former seafarers and not all were of the upper ranks; for those that were to use this forum to air their personal prejudices and bigotory, whether they believe them to be based on their experiences or not, is insulting to fellow members and is thus not acceptable. For the record, I was at sea from 1965 to 1979 and I went from apprentice to chief mate. I sailed with several UK companies and a couple of foreign flag ones. I worked with crews of many nationalities, UK included, and found good, bad and indifferent in all. It was my experience that any nationality, when well managed and treated, will respond well. There will invariably, from time to time, whatever the nationality, be the odd ratbag with a personal agenda of their own; however, when those in charge are good managers and have earned the respect of their subordinates, the others of the crew will inevitably isolate these types. It may be of some relevance that when I was at the school for my First Mate's ticket in the early seventies the school had just introduced a course in shipboard management and brought in a lecturer from another faculity to teach it. As it was a non-examined subject it was very poorly attended, myself and one or two others frequently being the only students. Doubtless many of the others were in the local pub having a yarn and moaning about bolshie crews. As a final comment I would add that the only major stike called by the NUS was in 1966 and led by Bill Hogarth, not John Prescott, and the UK fleet went from strength to strength, despite many other adverse factors - loss of the old empire trades being a major one. The other disputes were relatively minor affairs, and many of our competitors must have suffered similar disputes. That other companies, and AP Moller (Maersk Line) is a splendid example, have thrived and prospered, is due to better management operating in a more friendly economic environment in their home country.
CBoots.

Doxfordman
29th November 2005, 05:05
Agree entirely Cboots, especially your management comments. i had very little trouble with crew or fellow officers, oil and water can be on the same page sometimes!lol.

John Cassels
29th November 2005, 08:30
Gulps,

Just read the EU debate, didn,t realise He was active there as well
Must admit that here in the Netherlands I also fly the Saltire when we go sailing.
Every year other boats( this summer both were German yachts) ask what
ensign we are flying. When I tell them ,they ask if we had a good North Sea crossing.
Always reply it was a bit hairy but we made it OK. snigger,snigger ..................

JC

John Cassels
29th November 2005, 11:28
Hey guys,

Have just realised we've all been had on.
DJM -if you read backwards- is actually that well known actor Michael Douglas.
He has always wanted to play the lead in the new Hollywood British Merchant navy
blockbuster "A tale of two Doxfords" or better known at the box office as "Gone with
the wind".

JC

Gulpers
29th November 2005, 13:31
Hey guys,

Have just realised we've all been had on.
DJM -if you read backwards- is actually that well known actor Michael Douglas.
He has always wanted to play the lead in the new Hollywood British Merchant navy blockbuster "A tale of two Doxfords" or better known at the box office as "Gone with the wind".

JC Hey JC, take it easy mate. I know you guys in the Netherlands are a bit more liberated than us in the UK but, I suspect you've possibly been dabbling with 'wacky baccy' or 'magic mushrooms' (Jester)

Good on you for flying your Saltire Cross on your yacht! Now that you've confessed publically, you won't be able to con folk into thinking you've been on passage from Scotland to the Netherlands anymore! (Applause)

ruud
29th November 2005, 13:39
Gulps,

Always reply it was a bit hairy but we made it OK. snigger,snigger ..................

JC
Ahoy John,

You're a tricker,tricker.......(*))

R651400
30th December 2005, 09:15
Nice one Cboots.
I mentioned Maersk previously but what about the perennial Greeks.
Now there's a nationality that can float a ship on a teaspoon of salt water and still turn a buck.
Regards

davidpayne
14th January 2006, 23:14
With people like DJM sailing on ships with that attitude no wonder people would not work for him and were so called Bolshie. As for not following orders, I thought the Merchant Navy was a Civilian Service!! Did he want people to salute him.

Frank Holleran
16th January 2006, 03:58
No disrespect to good officers, but remarks like DJM got many a bad name...the sight of a bit of gold braid and their pedistal was built,...f*****g orders.... many was the Fireman/Greaser/Donkeyman/Storekeeper who knew Boiler rooms/Engine rooms like road maps,.....f*****g orders....you bolshie b*****d, didnt even have the bottle to go into a good seamens bar, had to wait till the nurses where ferried down to the ship for yer...a good shore bosun would have sucked yer in an spit yer out,....f******g orders, grrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!
Sorry mates about the heavy reply, but feel a lot better now.
Regards Frank

nzmatt
16th January 2006, 04:44
hello i have been reading this forum.i didnt like djms comments at all.and most of everyone here didnt like it eaither.i think the new zealand and australian coast are going to head that way soon.its a dam shame.i knew alot of people in both anl line and bhp and pacifica.i tried to get away to sea in the catering dept but no luck.anyway have a good night cheers matt

david smith
12th April 2006, 14:25
The 3,054-teu Santa Monica (built 1991) is registered in the UK and
owned by Bonerath Shipping. It has a crew of 26 including 15 Bulgarians, five Ukranians, four Rumanians, one Russian
and one Indian.

Report seen today on a collision with a fishing boat - The modern British Merchant Navy?

jim barnes
12th April 2006, 18:43
Can you blame the owners for going abroad????? What the hell are you doing on a good ship like this, no room for your likes on any ship and if i win the lotery you wont be on my boat. keel hawling is too good for you... :@ (Cloud)

gbr16
13th April 2006, 00:06
WoW,
that boy frank sure was teed off. I'm glad I was'nt on the receiving end.
I went to sea in 39 came ashore in 59, and I thought some of our seamen had a descriptive vocabulary, but this chappie has 'em all beat to hell and gone.
This is about the most informative site on the 'net. thank y'all. I live in Canada now, so I'm a bit out of it all. Keep it up boys. Anybody from my time around ?.
Kit.

dom
13th April 2006, 01:30
history is what happened to the home boats,to big not enough control,the same thing happened to the roman empire,british empire, russian,that and not enough intergration between crew and officers.there was allways the idea that it will never happen to us and when masters,mates eng started to lose there jobs and the ships, it was to late,as some one pointed out on a posting on this thread aust,nz are slowly going that way,i'am glad i went to sea when i did 1951 i had good years on the home boats,good years onthe kiwi coast and good years here,cheap wages and exploitation of third world countries by shipping co.

BarryM
13th April 2006, 12:37
No disrespect to good officers, but remarks like DJM got many a bad name...the sight of a bit of gold braid and their pedistal was built,...f*****g orders.... many was the Fireman/Greaser/Donkeyman/Storekeeper who knew Boiler rooms/Engine rooms like road maps,.....f*****g orders....you bolshie b*****d, didnt even have the bottle to go into a good seamens bar, had to wait till the nurses where ferried down to the ship for yer...a good shore bosun would have sucked yer in an spit yer out,....f******g orders, grrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!
Sorry mates about the heavy reply, but feel a lot better now.
Regards Frank

When the level of debate (if that is what this is?) has dropped thus far then perhaps it is time to wind-up this link. Obviously DJM has hit a raw nerve with some of you but agree/disagree with him, he does have the right to express his view just as you have to express yours - although preferably without obscenities and personal abuse. I wonder if some of the contributors to this discussion actually gave any thought to what they wrote before hitting the 'submit' button? The impression they give of seafarers reflects badly on the profession.

Can we agree on this? - All seafarers, be they White, Asian or Black, have one thing in common; they are all humans and not robots. That means that they can be tolerant, hard-working, generous and good mates. It also means they can be bolshie, work-shy, tight-fisted and the kind you wouldn't cross the road to see. They can be all or any of these and they can change from year to year (watch-to-watch, some of them) and absolutely none of us is so perfect that we never did something we would rather forget.

To those ever-ready to revive the dead-end 'oil and water' argument, may I say this? No steam or motor ship would ever leave port and travel safely without the Engine Room Department but it would never navigate in safety to the next port without the Seamanship of the Deck Department. Life on board might be possible without the Catering Department but it would be uncomfortable, inconvenient and dirty. Ships have circumnavigated the Globe without R/Offs but Sparkie always provided that important link for both personal and commercial contact with the shore that was so important for emotional and business reasons. In summary, we might not have liked the bloke in the next cabin; we may not have agreed with his views but we ALL had to learn to bite our lips and rub along with each other, at the least because it made for a more efficient and happier ship. Nuff said?

King Ratt
13th April 2006, 13:44
Our sainted deputy prime minister puncher prescott was one of those instrumental incausing the seaman's strike of 66. Companies started to flag out after that. A troublemaker from day one ..that one.

muldonaich
13th April 2006, 16:06
hi somehow i think you got your dates mixed up do you know how old prescott is????regards kev.

LEEJ
13th April 2006, 20:42
I think you may find that the demise had nothing to do with the militantcy of the crews, but coincided with the introduction of containerisation and affordable air travel for foreign crews, among other economic reasons. You look at countries with no unions and you see countries with poor standards.p.s. I think Prescott was a catering boy in 1966 on one of his first trips. (Thumb)

rushie
13th April 2006, 21:44
I have stated before (and have been challenged on my views) that perhaps the decline of our ex Merch Navy was also somewhat in line with the militant dockers?

I witnessed the last BP tanker to be dry-docked on the Mersey. Just before departure she was robbed. Freezers "jemmied" opened and contents thrown overboard to waiting boats, all brass fittings nicked...the lot went. BP have never sent a ship to the Mersey since. A bold and very saddening decision to make.

The Seaman's strike was a tad different to the dockers, I agree, the Seaman were fighting for better working conditions, competing against cheap foreign labour...and the pay to go with it. The dockers on the other hand...striked because they were implored to so by militant unions who would down tools at any excuse.

I remember watching on telly in the late 70's / early 80's, a mass walk out vote by the car workers at Longbridge. The old shop-steward Red "Ron" saw from the platform that the workers had voted against a strike...yet he was caught live on telly saying "call it" to his man on the podium.

What's Ron got now...no Longbridge....but he had the gall to appear on telly 25 years later ****ging off the management.! We have no shipbuilders. We have no Merchant Navy. The few ships registered here are manned by foreigners on 80p a week. The Merch finally disappeared when Prescott learnt how to fill out an expenses form.

Yeah, and cheers Tony B...if we had another Falklands War tomorrow we'd be able to send a couple of Lapthorn coasters (out of lay-up), a tug boat and a resurgent Free Enterprise II which we nicked back off some dodgy Greek.

Even Irish and internal Scottish ferry companies are seeking employees from aboard, through offshore companies.

Let's face it...our Merch will never return...which is sad when you look at BP now, owning once again the size of fleet they once had in the 70's....and all new builds...abroad...they've even built 3 brand new tugs for the Thames...Built in the UK...no...

No shipyards, no workforce, yuppy flats dominating ex dockyard areas....we only have ourselves to blame.

End of sermon...

Rushie

muldonaich
13th April 2006, 22:16
you are so right rushie thats what all those years of tory goverment did im glad someone has twigged on regards kev.

Steve1
13th April 2006, 22:19
Having read through this thread, old bosun is absolutely spot on.
Technology has killed the Merchant Navy, as it has killed millions of jobs in every sphere worldwide in the last 40 years.
I remember back in the seventies, the old H Boats of the NZS eventually P and O GCD (eight of them) were replaced by one containership called the Remuera.
The old H boats had a total complement of 600 personnel and took around 6 months to complete a round trip to Australia/NZ.
Remuera had a complement of around thirty five and could do the same work as the eight old ones in around 3 months maximum.
Its easy to blame the ship owners, the dockers, changes in world trade and politicians etc etc etc but the world has moved on and as we all know its not for the better.
The ones who can remember the good old days are the lucky and the priveliged ones. No one in this business will ever see those days again.

benjidog
13th April 2006, 23:02
Dear All,

I know I am going to called names, but this thread has run its course and is being closed. Remarks have been getting too personal and pointed and a number of people have expressed their distaste to the tone the thread has taken to the Moderators.

I hope everyone has got their personal views about whose fault the demise of the British Merchant Navy off their chests for a while at least. I am sure we will return to the topic before long in some shape or form.

Looking through the thread it seems to me that the mud has been slung at more or less everyone. I don't think we are any wiser than we were before.

Please send any hate mail directly to me via PM rather than opening another thread on the same subject - I can take it!

Brian