Shipping Wonders of the World

 © Shipping Wonders of the World 2012-23  | Contents  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Cookie Policy

British Shipping

On all the seas of the world will be found vessels of different types flying the Red Ensign. It is the symbol of the greatest Merchant Service ever known and a flag that unites with a common bond seamen of many races


The Empress of Japan built in 1930

THE FAR EASTERN SERVICE from Vancouver is run by the Canadian Pacific Line with its luxury liners of the Empress class. Typical of these great ships is the Empress of Japan, which was built in 1930 and has a gross tonnage of 26,032. This vessel attains a speed of 21 knots.

SEAMEN may call the Red Ensign “Old Blood and Guts” in the same way as Americans call the Stars and Stripes “Old Glory”. When British sailors are disgruntled by cold and wet they may say that it is the worst flag under which a man can sail, but deep in their hearts they know that the Red Ensign of the British Merchant Service is a wonderful and beloved symbol. It links together men of all types, grades and races with an enduring bond that is revealed only in exceptional circumstances. The Red Ensign unites this heterogeneous collection of seamen and links all the material of the British Merchant Service, which is of greater diversity than any other in the world.

This service is still the biggest Merchant Service, and the Red Ensign is worn by most types of ship in some corner of the Empire or other. There are many types that have not been specially developed under this flag as they have been under foreign flags. There are also a few local types which have no counterpart in the British Empire. In general terms, however, the British Merchant Service is a complete catalogue of every type covered by modern maritime architecture, and every single type has its interest.

At the head of the list, a fine figurehead for the whole fleet, is the great express liner, the Queen Mary. The commercial importance of such liners is surprisingly small compared with that of other less imposing types of ship. In these liners the passenger accommodation, machinery and bunkers occupy all the available space, and the holds are limited almost exclusively to mails, passengers’ luggage and a few special items of cargo. Ships of this type can exist only on the main route across the Atlantic Ocean, and even there only in small numbers.

FOR SHORT-DISTANCE SERVICES between Great Britain and ports on the Baltic Sea a fleet is maintained by the United Baltic Corporation. A typical steamer on this route is the Baltannic of 1,739 tons gross. She was built in 1913 and has a speed of 14 knots.

On every other route in the world, the fastest passenger liners must have capacity for cargo as well, or they could not be kept on service. The term “passenger liner” covers a wide field. Apart from the giants, there are ships up to 30,000 tons gross on the North Atlantic, where the lower limit is now about 13,000 tons. Ships employed on the first-class services to India and Australia range from 10,000 to 23,000 tons; ships on the secondary service to India from 8,000 to 13,000 tons. On the Far Eastern run the tonnage is between 10,000 and 15,000. Ships running to various points in Africa vary from 5,000 to 22,000 tons in size, and those to South America have an even greater range of gross tonnage.

A BRITISH COASTAL MOTOR SHIP of 1,120 tons gross, the Pacific Coast runs regularly between Liverpool and London for Coast Lines Ltd. Primarily designed to carry a general cargo, she also has accommodation for twelve passengers. The Pacific Coast was built in 1935, and her oil engines have sufficient power to maintain her designed speed of 12 knots in almost any weather conditions.

In all these vessels the architects have to compromise over the conflicting claims of passengers and cargo. The passenger accommodation must not be cut down too much, nor the deck space obstructed, yet hatches must be big enough for the quick loading and discharging of cargo. Some fine ships have failed on service because their hatches, limited for the convenience of passengers, have been so small that a full cargo could not be handled during normal stay in port. There must be complete cargo-handling gear, such as winches and derricks, whereby the cargo may be worked rapidly and as silently as possible so that the passengers shall not be disturbed. The P. and O. Company were the first to abandon the noisy steam winch for the hydraulic crane; but the electric winch and crane have now been perfected. In all types, the size, speed and standard of accommodation have to be made a matter of careful compromise. Some services will not support luxury ships and speed has to be arranged by careful balance of saving and cost. There are so few mail subsidies in Britain that the balance is not affected by these payments to the extent that it is in other countries; but when such a subsidy exists it is often to secure features that no owner could provide on a paying basis.

BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND RANGOON,  the Bibby liner Staffordshire is able to maintain a steady 15 knots. Although she was built in 1929, she is one of the few ships to retain the old rig of four masts and one funnel. The Staffordshire is a diesel-engined vessel with a gross tonnage of 10,595. She is propelled by twin screws.

There are many widely differing classes of passenger liner, designed according to the route the ship is to take and the class of trade in the service. Specialization has been carried to such an extent that surplus liners often go to the scrappers when only a few years old, whereas formerly a buyer, generally foreign, could always be found to adapt them for another trade. It is obvious that a ship designed to cross the North Atlantic in winter and summer demands different treatment from that given to ships that voyage in warmer climates. Her draught would make her useless for a service to ports with little depth of water.

Every trade has its own special task and every type of passenger has individual tastes. The lay-out and lavish decoration demanded by the ordinary South American traveller would be unpopular with the New Zealander. In most trades there is still room for the liner with first-class accommodation. The other classes of accommodation have changed greatly in recent years.

Instead of three classes and sometimes steerage class in addition, most large liners carry only first class and “tourist third” - a superior third class recently introduced. The label “second class” is peculiarly distasteful, and the modern cabin liner, which has no first-class accommodation, gives the traveller the run of the ship almost at the old second-class fare.

Popular Cabin Class

It is now often difficult to distinguish the passenger liner from the cargo liner. Promenade decks are not infallible indications, since some of the latest cargo liners have abolished the old forecastle, with its unnecessary discomforts, and house the crew in two-berths cabins amidships on decks that appear to be passenger decks. The ship that carries a large number of boats is not necessarily a passenger vessel, for the fast cargo liner also has a big crew and regulations demand a proportionate number of boats. Any ship with more than one funnel may safely be labelled as a passenger vessel; but the modern tendency is to reduce the number of stacks, and many of the most modern passenger liners afloat have only one funnel. Identification, therefore, is not easy at first, but with a little experience every passenger ship can be distinguished.

It is impossible in this chapter to deal in detail with the internal design of a passenger liner; the arrangement of public rooms to obtain the most striking effect; the ingenuity necessary to work attractive spaces round the funnel uptakes; the provision of space for children to play without disturbing their elders; the changes demanded by. the universal smoking habit of to-day; the necessity of arranging dining-rooms to the best psychological effect and of placing the kitchens so that food can be carried into the saloon hot but unaccompanied by any smell of cooking - all these considerations combine to make the interior arrangement of a liner a difficult task. On some services, too, a passenger ship without a gymnasium would be regarded as obsolete. On the Australian service passengers prefer to take strenuous open-air exercise on the sports deck among the boats. Swimming pools may be on deck or down below according to the service, and cabin accommodation also varies according to the climate on the particular routes.

The Bonnington was built in 1911 for the Canadian Pacific

A STERN-WHEEL STEAMER specially designed for the waterways in the lakes of British Columbia. The Bonnington, a passenger vessel of 1,700 tons gross, was built in 1911 for the Canadian Pacific. Stern-wheelers of similar type drawing only a few feet of water are used also on the Mississippi and associated waterways.

On the transatlantic services the number of ships with first-class accommodation has decreased, because the new cabin class had become so popular. Old ships for which owners could not reasonably ask first-class fares were put on a so-called “cabin service” as early as the beginning of this century. In 1914 the Canadian Pacific Line, whose primary purpose was to transport to Canada the type of passenger who would buy the land the railway had for disposal, introduced the new cabin class. The Missanabie and Metagama, two of the first Atlantic liners to be given cruiser sterns, were built with a gross tonnage of 12,000 and a speed of fifteen and a half knots. They had accommodation for 520 cabin-class and 1,100 third-class passengers.

In 1919 the designs were improved. The new ships had a gross tonnage of 16,500 and a speed of sixteen knots. In 1925 vessels of the Duchess type, of more than 20,000 tons, were built; they attained a speed of seventeen knots.

The largest British cabin ships until the Queen Mary was built were the 27,000-tons Cunard White Star liners Britannic and Georgic.

The West Indian trade was once so large that the Royal Mail Steam Packet was the biggest shipping company of its day, but now this trade needs comparatively small ships. This is partly due to the present volume of the trade, and partly to the limitations of the ports that have to be used. The passenger business is made up largely of health seekers, and the ships have to be arranged accordingly. Many of the refrigerated ships engaged in the fruit trade from the West Indies have accommodation also for a number of passengers.

The mail ships to South Africa range up to about 25,000 tons gross in size. They run direct from Southampton, but the smaller Union Castle liners from London make many calls on the east coast, and some on the south-western coast of Africa.

Loading Cargo from Surf-Boats

The size of ships engaged in this trade is gradually increasing because of the demand for faster speeds and the carriage of cargoes that require special treatment. Dutch and German competition is also a stimulant for this service. In addition to these routes to the African coast, the British India line runs a passenger service from Rangoon to East Africa.

Bullard, King & Co, a firm associated with the Union Castle line, finds many passengers who prefer its smaller ships, and a certain number of people travel to Africa in cargo liners. West Africa has conditions entirely its own, demanding special ships, and the Elder Dempster liners supply the greater part of this need. The features of these vessels are determined by many circumstances. They must be able to take cargo on board from lighters and surf-boats in open roadsteads. The cabins must be as comfortable for the passengers in tropical climates as in the storms of the Bay of Biscay. In addition, the cargo carried by these vessels is so diverse that the holds must be arranged to suit any type.

The Chesapeake an Anglo-American Oil Company tanker

THE DECK OF AN OIL TANKER is comparatively close to the water, but the small tank hatches are hermetically sealed and there is no danger to cargo or to ship as long as the fore-and-aft gangway remains undamaged. This photograph was taken on board the Chesapeake, the Anglo-American Oil Co.’s tanker of 8,955 tons gross. Her length between perpendiculars is 477 feet, and her beam 64 feet.

There is also keen competition on the route to South America from the Continent. The passenger trade on this route fluctuates considerably. In times of prosperity the South American is a great traveller to Europe, and he demands light, brightness and luxury on a lavish scale. Ships up to 22,000 tons from Southampton and of about 14,000 tons from London cater for this trade, under the Royal Mail and Blue Star Flags. The Pacific Steam Navigation ships from Liverpool still serve the west coast of South America, as they have done for nearly a century.

A South American liner would not suit the traveller to and from India, who regards his ship as a comfortable club and continues in it the social life he leads ashore. The P. and O. Company is predominant in the Indian trade and carries the Bombay mails, but there is a good deal of business for the secondary passenger services maintained by the Anchor Line and the Ellerman group. The British India line runs sundry services on the Indian coast and also from England to India. The Burmese trade is covered by the Bibby Line - the last company to retain the old rig of four masts and one funnel - and by Henderson of Glasgow.

The Indian service of the P. and O. was once distinct from the Australian service. Modern machinery has so much accelerated the speed of liners that now these two services have been combined and the Australian ships call at Bombay. This necessitates a careful blending of the requirements and tastes of two types of passenger. The young Australian prefers much of the brightness demanded by the South American, although his taste differs in other ways. The improvement of the Suez Canal has enabled the Australian trade to be served by much larger vessels than formerly. Examples are the P. and O. liner Strathmore (23,428 tons) and the Orient liner Orion (23,371 tons).

The New Zealander wants nothing that is not typically British. The biggest, passenger ships on this service are motor ships of about 16,700 tons gross.

The Harrison liner Inanda

A PASSENGER AND FREIGHT LINER of 5,985 tons gross, the Harrison liner Inanda is engaged in the West Indian trade. This vessel was built in 1925 and registered at Liverpool. Her overall length is 407 feet and her beam 52 feet. She was originally built for a service to Natal, and was thus given the Zulu name Inanda.

Subsidized Competition

Ships of similar size serve the Far Eastern passenger trade, but they are steam instead of diesel-driven. Ships up to more than 20,000 tons are used on the services to the Far East and Australasia by way of Western Canada or California. This Pacific fleet offers an alternative to the Suez Canal route to the Eastern parts of the Empire. The trans-Pacific companies, however, have to fight hard for their business against heavily subsidized competition under the Japanese and American flags. The list of more important types of passenger liner is completed by the smaller ships that run to European ports, the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, the Iberian Peninsula and Scandinavia. These ships are naturally limited in size, and many of them are not much bigger than the packets on the short Continental services. Finally there are the liners employed solely on pleasure cruises, an important section of the passenger business to-day. Under the British flag all such ships are converted vessels that were originally used on the ordinary passenger service.

Special Board of Trade passenger licences, with many precautionary restrictions and extra expenses, are necessary if more than twelve passengers are to be carried. Enterprising modern owners generally fit excellent accommodation into cargo liners for twelve passengers or fewer. There is always the chance that such ships may pick up passenger business when they are running to places that the normal passenger liners neglect. They are also much favoured by travellers with business connexions along their route; for in a passenger ship travellers must either curtail their interviews at each port to be ready for the ship to sail again, or else wait for the next ship and spend unnecessary time in port. The cargo liner requires at least a few hours in which to handle her freight; this gives the traveller ample time in which to conduct his business.


A STANDARD MODERN MOTOR TRAMP SHIP, the Sutherland is propelled by an opposed-piston Doxford diesel engine of 1,800 horse-power. Built in 1935 and registered at Newcastle, she has one deck and a shelter deck, with a cruiser stern. Her gross tonnage is 4,956, and she has a deadweight capacity of 9,200 tons. Her length is 412 feet and her beam 54 feet.

Cargo vessels are divided into two classes: liners which run on regular berth whether full or empty, collecting their general cargo from numerous shippers, and tramps which are chartered by one party at a time for single cargoes. The distinction, therefore, lies in the work rather than in the design. There is no reason why a ship should not be on regular berth one voyage and tramping the next. Innumerable cargo liners, when they are outclassed, are sold to become tramps under a foreign flag. Generally the regular trader is the faster, bigger and better vessel, and the necessity for reasonable access to any section of her cargo demands features not always necessary in a tramp.

The modern tendency of many trades is towards cargo liners and away from tramps, and this tendency is noticeable in every sea. A quicker turnover is permitted if the cargo is constantly received in small consignments.

The Orient liner Orion

COMPLETED IN 1935, the Orient liner Orion, 23,371 tons gross, is one of the latest vessels in the Australian mail and passenger service. Her mainmast was eliminated to give her a modern appearance. She has two swimming baths on her deck. Her length between perpendiculars is 630 feet, her beam 82 feet and her depth 47 ft. 6 in.

Decline of “The Tramp Trade”

The number of British tramp steamers, once always referred to as the “backbone of the Merchant Service”, has declined rapidly, and cargo liners of greater speed and capacity have been built.

Speed is increasingly demanded for ships of this type, and engineers have made great improvements in the reliability and economy of the machinery. Careful hull construction has also become necessary, for the time-table has to be maintained in any weather and a heavily loaded ship plunging through rough seas puts an immense strain on the forward parts of the vessel. Time saved at such great expense by high speed at sea must not be wasted by delays in port, either intermediate or terminal. The ’tween decks, holds, and hatches must be so arranged that the cargo can be rapidly sorted and handled, and winches and derricks must be carefully planned and provided, even at high cost, although the owner knows that some ports discourage their use.

Many cargo liners are specially designed for the particular work of their owners and are ill adapted for anything else. Meat cargoes, either frozen hard or chilled to the right temperature, demand elaborate refrigerating plant and the careful insulation of the bulkheads and decks. Dairy produce, but not fruit cargoes, can be conveniently carried in a meat ship. Although some meat ships have been diverted to the fruit trade, the modern fruiter is of a highly specialized design, with moderate size and high speed. Nowadays Great Britain alone builds new tramps in any number. Almost all her competitors buy them secondhand and run them as economically as possible to supply the cheapest form of transport. These tramps have to be designed to enter any port and to handle cargo there. These factors principally influence the draught of water and the design of the derricks.

The motor vessel Waiwera

A REFRIGERATED SHIP for the New Zealand meat trade, the motor vessel Waiwera was built in 1934 for Shaw, Savill and Albion. She is propelled by diesel engines which give her a sea speed of 16 knots. Her gross tonnage is 10,782, and she has a length of 516 feet and a beam of 70 feet.

The design of ocean tramps is an ingenious compromise, for the greatest carrying capacity seems to demand bluff lines, but the most economical propulsion demands fair lines. Happily, modern hull forms have greatly reduced the horse-power necessary by reducing the resistance of the water, and modern machinery improvements have reduced coal consumption. Cheap running is the great aim of the tramp steamer faced by cut-price competition from Mediterranean and Baltic flags. A careful balance has to be found between the first charges and the running costs of every new device.

Low running costs are an important factor to the tramp shipowner, and it is surprising that the diesel engine, with its admitted economy in fuel and space, has not found greater favour. This is largely because an outward cargo of coal is still the mainstay of the business, and there is also the question of economy in running and first cost. A few tramps, mostly Scandinavian, have been equipped with diesel engines, but only recently has the experiment been tried on any large scale in Great Britain.

Cargoes of Silk or Oil

When the overseas petroleum trade grew up in the ’seventies the spirit was carried in barrels. Several attempts to evolve a tank ship to carry it in bulk had failed, but in the ’eighties the bulk oil tanker came into existence. Great Britain was the pioneer, but she has had to surrender a large part of the trade to Norway.

Tanker design is now almost standardized, with the machinery as far aft as possible to reduce the risk of fire and to simplify pumping arrangements. The bridge, with officers’ accommodation, is forward of amidships, and in some vessels a forecastle is connected with the bridge and after-superstructure by fore-and-aft gangways. These are necessary because of the low freeboard of the tanker.

Inside the ship the hull is subdivided into numerous tanks with carefully built bulkheads. The tanks are connected with the elaborate piping installation and its attendant pumps. Provision is made to allow the cargo to expand in hot weather, at the same time avoiding a big surface of oil which would roll heavily at sea. Small air-tight hatches, with vent plugs where necessary, offer the greatest measure of safety.


OIL ON TROUBLED WATERS. This excellent example of the work of Frank Mason R.I., the famous marine painter, shows a typical oil tanker battling with heavy seas. There are many varieties of tanker, but they all retain certain characteristics. They are relatively long, with the machinery space aft. Built for the carriage of crude oil and its derivatives in bulk, they are divided longitudinally and transversely into tanks. An expansion space is provided to allow for any alteration in the volume of oil in different temperatures. Normally, tankers carry no outward cargo, but occasionally they take fresh water to oil-yielding districts, some of which are waterless. The vessel illustrated is a steamer, but oil-engined tankers are now common.

With cargoes of heavy oil, a tanker’s life can be as long as that of any other ship, but with a cargo of motor spirit, corrosion of the tanks is rapid, especially round the rivet heads and pumping connexions. Re-riveting a ship is an expensive business, and the alternative is to cut out the tank portions completely after a few years’ service and to install a new ’midship section between the old bow and stern.

By the nature of their work, tankers are given considerable length in proportion to their beam. This necessitates tremendous longitudinal strength to prevent their breaking in two amidships, and tankers are almost all constructed on the longitudinal system of framing. Economical running is a difficult matter, because a satisfactory way of carrying an outward cargo has not yet been found, so that the one journey with cargo has to pay the expenses of running both ways. Some Japanese tankers, however, carry cargoes of silk one way and oil the other way. Some oil-bearing districts are notoriously waterless and tankers have been known to carry cargoes of fresh water on their outward voyage for the benefit of employees of the oil companies.

THE ARANDORA STAR formerly used on the South American passenger service, was converted by the Blue Star Line into a cruising liner with increased passenger accommodation. She was built at Birkenhead in 1927 and has a gross tonnage of 15,305. Her length is 512 ft 9 in, her beam 68 ft 4 in and her depth 42 ft 6 in. Her twin screws are driven by four steam turbines with single reduction gear fitted between the main engines and the screw shafting.

In addition to the ocean-going ships under the Red Ensign, there are numerous types on the British coastal or on the short sea services, nearly all designed for special work and of little use for any other. Of these, the most interesting and important type is, perhaps, the cross-Channel packet that maintains fast mail and passenger services to and from the Continent. Speed varies according to the service on which it runs. It is easy to understand that the popularity of a night service, for instance, may be ruined if the ship’s speed prevents the passengers from enjoying a good night’s rest. Again, a fast vessel might reach port at an inconveniently early hour. The faster vessels run up to twenty-five knots and are nearly all propelled by geared turbines of modern designs. On services that do not demand such a high speed diesels have proved themselves remarkably successful and economical, and it may be that the internal combustion engine will soon be fitted to all cross-Channel ships. This experiment has already been successfully made under the Belgian flag.

A PIONEER PASSENGER MOTOR SHIP, the Royal Mail liner Asturias, 22,048 tons gross, was built in 1925. Her diesel engines were replaced by geared turbine propulsion to increase her speed. Her length is 640 ft 6 in, her beam 78 ft 6 in and her depth 40 ft 6 in. She has twin screws driven by six steam turbines with single reduction gear. Fitted with refrigerating machinery, she has thirteen insulated cargo spaces, with a total capacity of 210,610 cubic feet.

Mail packets are exceedingly difficult to design for they generally run across troubled waters where seaworthiness is a first consideration. In most of them the draught of water is restricted by one or other of the terminal ports and, unless it is carefully designed, the shallow ship has an uncomfortable motion. The owners also require reasonable economy in circumstances that make it difficult to secure, for these ships spend considerable spells in port between short voyages at high speeds.

A CARGO LINER of 7,951 tons gross, the Clan Robertson was built at Glasgow in 1920. She has many derricks to facilitate the quick handling of cargo in port, and the two heavy-weight derricks stowed against either mast allow her to lift railway engines or similar heavy machinery. She is 449 feet in length, with a beam of 58 feet and a depth of 37 feet.

Allied to the packets, but not so exacting in design because of lower speeds, are the vessels that maintain numerous services all round the British coast. In spite of growing competition from the roads, these little ships still attract large numbers of passengers as well as considerable parcels cargo. Their type is exclusively British and the passenger ships are all steam-driven, although motors now propel many cargo types, which are often fitted to carry twelve passengers. Another regular type on the coast is the collier. These vessels have been brought to a high pitch of efficiency and they carry a constant supply of coal from the mining districts to the industrial centres, principally for public utility concerns. The colliers sometimes cross to the continent of Europe and return with a cargo of pit props for use in the mines. Household coal is mainly carried by rail. Colliers are not striking externally, but they are scientifically designed and exceedingly efficient in their sphere.

Early British Enterprise

Some colliers have collapsible funnels and bridge-work, to allow them to pass under London bridges and take coal up to Battersea Power Station, Wandsworth Gasworks and other destinations on the Thames. The sailor calls these vessels “flat-irons”.

In addition to the coasters on regular routes there are also coastal tramps, available for full charter in the same way as tramps on overseas trades. Formerly these vessels were invariably steam-driven and after years of experience a remarkably efficient type has been evolved.

Recently, however, the motor coaster has for many reasons proved far more useful than the average steamer. Motor-driven boats are economical and the machinery occupies far less space than in a steamer. Crews are smaller, and - most important of all - the draught is so light that they can use a number of small ports which were allowed to silt up during the war of 1914-18 and have not yet been restored. The Dutch are generally given credit for the development of the motor coaster. The earliest enterprise, however, came from British owners, who are now rapidly making up the leeway.


THE BRITISH COASTAL TANKER, Pass of Melfort, 757 tons gross, distributes to ports round the coast the motor spirit which is discharged by the overseas tankers at the main depots. Although this type of tanker is comparatively small, with a length of 182 feet and a beam of 30 feet, every precaution must be taken to protect the dangerous cargo. The spark-arrester fitted over the funnel is one of the measures adopted for safety’s sake, as this ship was originally coal-fired.

On the coast there are also excursion passenger vessels. This type varies widely according to the demands of the district. The Clyde has an excellent fleet of passenger ships, turbine and paddle-propelled. On the River Thames and on the south coast some fine paddle steamers are still in service. On the west coast the geared turbine has proved highly satisfactory, and in the west of Scotland diesel and diesel electric machinery has been used with great success. Unfortunately the excursion business has suffered from the competition of the roads and is fighting hard for its existence. Coasting steamers, however, are not being driven off the sea in the same way as the coastal sailing vessel.

The fishing fleet is as important to the country as the cargo ships. From the beginning of history Britain has been a fishing country. With the introduction of modern methods, much that is picturesque has been eliminated. The little inshore fishing boats have almost disappeared and there are few survivors of the huge fleets of sailing smacks. The British were the pioneers of fishing with power vessels, and still possess the finest steam-fishing fleet in the world. The trawlers drag their heavy nets over the bottom of the sea, and the drifters, which are smaller than the trawlers, search for herring and other fish that swim on or near the surface. The diesel engine is making a deter mined attack on the fishing business, but so far the steamer has retained her popularity.

The tug is the indispensable handmaiden of the big ship. In addition to this work, tugs are used for towing the barges on the River Thames and elsewhere. Tugs flying the Red Ensign may not be as big as many under foreign flags, but they are designed for their special functions and fulfil them well. In the latter half of the nineteenth century the tug’s most important task was to tow the sailing ship out to sea and to bring her in at the end of her voyage. Sailing ships have all but disappeared, but the size of steamers demands the help of tugs in and out of dock and on many other occasions.

A few paddle tugs survive, mainly on the narrow waterways, but the screw-propelled tug has been most efficiently developed. She is always to be recognized by the towing rails that span her after-part and prevent everything from being carried away by the tow rope. Her superstructure is built forward so that she may tow from as near amidships as possible.


THIS CLYDE EXCURSION STEAMER was named the Queen Mary when she was built in 1933. Before the giant liner of that name was christened, this turbine steamer had to be renamed Queen Mary II, to comply with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. She has a gross tonnage of 870 and a speed of 21 knots.

Allied to the tug is the salvage vessel, but nearly every tug is equipped with fire-extinguishing apparatus for salvage purposes. There are numerous salvage ships flying the Red Ensign which are not normally employed on towing. These ships are generally conversions from other types.

Among the numerous minor types of interest are the train ferries that carry passenger and goods trains overseas.

One of the latest additions to the Southern Railway Co.’s fleet is the Twickenham Ferry, designed as a train and motor car ferry for the service between Dover and the northern coast of France A twin-screw steamer with a tonnage of 2,839 tons gross, she can accommodate twelve sleeping cars and two vans or, alternatively, forty 25-ft. railway wagons on the four sets of rails laid along her heavily-strengthened deck. There is, in addition an extensive motor garage.

SPRINKLING THE DECKS of the oil tanker Cheyenne with cold water

SPRINKLING THE DECKS of the oil tanker Cheyenne with cold water as a precaution against the action of hot weather on her cargo of motor spirit. If this cargo were subjected to prolonged heat, there would be great danger of explosion. The Cheyenne, 8,825 tons gross was built in 1930 and has a length of 477 feet.

There are also specially designed motor-car ferries for the traveller who prefers to take journeys by road, fishing mother-ships for work with a fleet of trawlers and small steamers and motor launches which ply on the English and Scottish lakes.

Although the Mersey ferries are not now so widely used as they were before the Mersey Tunnel was opened between Birkenhead and Liverpool, the remarkably efficient vehicular traffic ferries still run regularly. These vessels are almost rectangular in shape to give the largest possible deck space for the miscellaneous cargo of motor-vans, steam tractors, horse-drawn wagons and cattle.

In every corner of the British Empire there are special types of vessels designed to suit various local conditions.

You can read more on “Merchant Ship Types”, “Sea Transport of the Nations” and

“The World’s Largest Ships” on this website.