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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From the Navhind Times of India -

After building wooden ships for the last 5000 (yes five thousand) years, the historic Beypore shipyards in Kerala are about to close down. The orders for their specialty of making Uru (also known as dhow), a traditional Arabian wooden trading vessel has ended. The last of the Beypore constructed ships was floated away in 2003.

It was known, that Beypore was a regular source of ships for the Middle East for 1500 years from 500 AD. But its fame as the shipbuilding centre since 3000 BC, the age of the ancient Mesopotamian Sumerian civilisation was brought to light by Captain Iwata, founder member of the Association of Sumerian ships in Japan. In 1990 he researched and found the picture of a ship preserved in cuneiform tablet in the Louvre museum of Paris. It had all the attributes to a Beypore built ship, down to the wooden nails and coir lashed planks. He came to Beypore and had a 300-ton wooden ship built named as Ki-en-gir (ancient name for Sumeria).

Rushie

Till 1918, when the First World War ended, Beypore shipyards were full of work. Then the business slackened as steel built ships took over the cargo business. For sometime there was a profitable business in making cargo ships modelled on the famous sailing clipper ships of Europe, but fitted with petrol engines. The period between 1930 to late 1980’s was a time of moderate prosperity for Beypore, as Arab millionaires flush with ‘oil’ money, wanted to make elaborate “dhows” for their family outings. In its heyday, the Beypore yards built 20 dhows a year. The last of the dhows to be built was for an affluent Arab completed in 2005, a marvel 130 feet long, 40 feet wide and 25 feet high vessel, as big as a three-storied house. As befitting the pious Islamic owner, the construction included a special prayer deck for the customary five prayers a day. It is said that a detailed video has been of the construction of this last of the dhows.

An eighty-five feet keel dhow the average size, takes in more than five lakhs worth of Malabar teak. Fifty carpenters have to work on this ship for four years (at a daily wage of 180 rupees) to complete it. Wage bill nearly one and half crores of rupees. As such the total cost of the ship would be about three crores of rupees.

In its heyday, the workforce consisted of nearly 2000 a secular mix of Hindu carpenters/ship designers and the famous Mappila (Muslim) khalasis known for their skill in shipbuilding. The most interesting fact about the Beypore shipbuilding was that the ship designer did not commit the plans to paper at all. He got the specifications from the buyer and based on his experience, supervised the construction, giving necessary instructions to his assistant. And thanks to their dedication, the completed ship was a fabulous creation. Crafted out of the best teakwood, these dhows, shambooks or bareeds, (all Arabic names for a variety of ships and boats) were large enough to carry as much as 2,000 tons of merchandise or 150 people. Today (2006) only four of the famous work force are left in Beypore, the rest having moved to other professions for their livelihood. While modernisation of Gulf nations could be the chief reason for the decline of the craft, those in the trade say the shipyards could have been sustained by modernisation of skills and by making pleasure boats, ketches, yachts, barges, tourist boats, boats for floating hotels in the Gulf. There are sufficient boat enthusiasts in the world, who would love to possess an all-wood perfection. Obviously, on one spared a thought for the new challenges and urges of the market. This precisely is the tragedy of Beypore, which remained moored to its millenniums old traditions.

The only reminders of the long gone glorious days are the miniature dhows handcrafted by the local carpenters, for export to the Gulf and for the occasional tourist visiting Beypore. In any heritage conscious nation, Beypore would have been made a grand living museum with halls showing the 5000-year-old history of the shipyard. But today at Beypore, only the dilapidated sheds, once used for protecting the dhows under construction, from the torrential Malabar rains are left. As the wooden ship making industry fades away in Beypore, the central Government has decided to make it into a minor port at a cost of Rs 500 crores. But for today (2006), only just a school, a bank, a housing colony and a market, marks the place of world’s oldest shipyard.
 

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Oldest shipyard

You caught me 2 in a row Rushie .
Alot of good also comes from the old east.
Makes me think, do they still build the old 50's style Morris Oxford in India ?
Cheers
Ted
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Don't know mate....but I bet this place had some fantastic long-service awards..!

Rushie
 

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Rushie,

Thanks again for this fascinating article, and it is richly educational for me also. I earnestly hope Indian government would somehow try to preserve this 5 millennium old treasure and turn it into at least a historical tourist place. Who can fathom anything that can last 5 centuries, let alone 5 millenniums!

I am very curious now, do you have a picture of dhow?

Paul
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Certainly have..!

Hi Paul,

If you type in -

Google images

into your search engine and get the home page, then type in -

dhow

You'll find lot's of images. Splendid looking boats they are too.

Cheers,

Rushie
 

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Beypore dhows

Hi,

I am new to this group... But happy to see that you people have a serious discussion on our Beypore port.. am proud to say so becoz i am from calicut just 10 kilo metres away from Beypore.. and happy to inform that the dhowbuilding yards here are regaining the lost glory.. The government have also started a Heritage Ship Technology Centre to train the youngsters in traditional ship building.. besides, two dhows, both 900 tonne capacity, are under construction at Beypore..
 

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Re Mor4ris Oxford

You caught me 2 in a row Rushie .
Alot of good also comes from the old east.
Makes me think, do they still build the old 50's style Morris Oxford in India ?
Cheers
Ted
HI i was living in india 2 years ago travelling arund north to south east to west , yes its still made there, much improved, diesel also, most taxis in delhi are those, its callede the ambadassor now, made by hindustani motor company, u can find it on line, i travelled in one for 16 hours from mamalapuram in tamil nadu to cochin in kerala, for £60 from bay of bengal to arabian sea, thats east to west accross india, Also in Kochi they were building huge indian fishing boats, traditional, high bows, around 75 feet long, also in mangalore rhet build hardwood boats , less than a quarter of what it cost here, STORES

STORES(Cloud)
 

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Many many years ago we were at a buoy in Abadan when a dhow anchored
just off our starboard quarter. Its captain (Owner) came on board with his chronometer asking for a time check. I gave him one and was invited for a tour of his vessel. With no electricity for power live food was kept on the midships deck. Toilet facilities were three 2x4 (size) beam jutting out both sides of the stern; (Sitting, feet and hold on). By our standards of carpentry it appeared crudely finished but was beautifully made. She had com from India averaging about 6 knots (a typical cargo ship then ran at 10 knots economical crusising speed). That visit has remained in my mind over the years as an example of true seamen and a ship to be proud of.

Ahhhh Memories, what would life be without them.
chas
 
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