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Ebb Tide in the British Maritime IndustriesChange and Adaptation, 1918-1990$

Alan G. Jamieson

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780859897280

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780859897280.001.0001

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(p.155) 6 Conclusion
Ebb Tide in the British Maritime Industries

Alan G. Jamieson

Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

It was inevitable that the great British maritime predominance of 1914 would be undermined as other nations established or expanded their own maritime industries. That competition became significant in the inter-war period, but the chief reason for the relative decline of the British maritime industries in those years was the collapse of world trade. After the Second World War world trade grew rapidly and so did foreign competition. The failure of the British maritime industries to adapt to this new reality was mainly due to internal constraints, to industrial structures and practices still little changed from the pre-1914 period. Only in the second half of the 1960s, with government support, did shipping, shipbuilding and the ports begin to modernise, and additional new openings were offered to them by the growing oil and gas industry in the North Sea. Yet internal constraints had barely been addressed when the world shipping and shipbuilding markets collapsed after 1975. By the 1980s it was clear that government was no longer willing to pour money into supporting the maritime industries, and they were left to the mercy of the open market. For 400 years the maritime industries had been considered of vital importance to Britain, but by 1990 that no longer seemed to be the government view.

Keywords:   Predominance, World trade, Foreign competition, Internal constraints, Open market, Decline

The 1990 working party on British shipping concluded that it was ‘a vital national asset. After its years of contraction, it is lean and fit. The industry is well placed to take advantage of the upturn in world trade, in the right conditions.’1 World shipping certainly regained some prosperity during the 1990s, but the British shipping industry on the whole did not take a great share in this. The principal exception was P&O under the leadership of Lord Sterling, who as Sir Jeffrey Sterling had been closely involved in the 1990 report as President of the General Council of British Shipping for 1990–91.

With a background of success in finance and property investment rather than the maritime industries, Sterling had become chairman of P&O in 1983. In 1986 he had secured sole ownership of the OCL container consortium for P&O and in 1987 took control of European Ferries.2 Building on these acquisitions, P&O merged its container operations with those of the Dutch firm Nedlloyd in 1996, creating in P&O Nedlloyd one of the top container shipping operators in the world, and then P&O and the Swedish firm Stena linked their European ferry operations.3 However, perhaps the most important P&O success was in the world of cruise ships. The firm built up the world's third largest fleet, with all the new vessels constructed outside Britain, and when P&O's Grand Princess (109,000 gross tons; built in Italy) appeared in 1998 she was the largest cruise ship in the world.4 P&O no longer had any significant British rivals in the cruise area, Cunard having been sold to the Norwegian firm Kvaerner in 1996 and then to the American company Carnival, the world's leading cruise line, in 1998.5 In 1999 Lord Sterling announced that P&O was to return to its roots, restructuring around its maritime operations and selling off non-maritime interests.6

(p.156) Yet one company, no matter how successful, is not an industry. If P&O prospered, other British shipping firms gave up the struggle. Ropners, once Britain's largest tramp shipping company, was sold in 1997, albeit to Jacobs Holdings, a British firm with shipping and port interests.7 The most dynamic British independent tanker owner of the postwar period, London and Overseas Freighters, was merged with John Fredriksen's Frontline shipping group, also in 1997.8 In the same year a new Labour government came to power and among its commitments was one to revive British shipping. In late 1998 the government published a strategy aimed at enhancing the UK's attractiveness to shipping enterprises.9 In 1999 the government promised to bring in a tonnage tax, like that in Germany, Norway and the Netherlands, which it was hoped would bring tonnage back under the British flag. In return for this fiscal concession, British shipowners were to expand their training of seafarers.10 For the first time in years, a British government seemed to be taking active measures to assist British shipping, but the long-term effects are as yet uncertain.

If British shipping did show some glimmers of hope during the 1990s, British shipbuilding largely remained lost in the gloom, and this continued malaise was in a decade when world shipbuilding was enjoying a general recovery. By 1994 shipbuilding had ceased at Cammell Laird (Birkenhead) and Swan Hunter (Newcastle), and in March 1995 Britain had only five merchant shipyards left, of which only Kvaerner-Govan and Harland & Wolff were building vessels of more than 30,000 dwt.11 Both yards were owned by Norwegian firms. From 1995 there began some revival in the shipyards, but not initially in new building. Cammell Laird, bought from Vickers, began to revive as a ship repairer, then moved into ship conversions. A similar process was taking place at Swan Hunter by 1996.12 Nevertheless at the start of 1997 the principal British shipyards were still three naval ones—Vickers (VSEL) at Barrow, Yarrows at Glasgow and Vosper Thornycroft at Southampton—and four merchant: Harland & Wolff, Kvaerner-Govan, Ferguson at Glasgow and Appledore in North Devon.13 The end of the Cold War had reduced naval orders and one of the naval yards, Vickers, was undertaking merchant work as well. The industry remained at a low ebb, although new naval orders were promised at the end of the decade. When in 1999 P&O ordered five new cruise ships at a total cost of £1.25 billion the orders all went (p.157) abroad, the company claiming that no British shipyard was capable of building them.14

If British shipping had only limited success in the 1990s and British shipbuilding did little more than avoid final extinction, the country's ports continued to improve their efficiency. The 1991 Ports Act made possible the compulsory privatisation of all trust ports with an annual turnover of £5 million or more. A private company was set up to run Tilbury, and the Clyde, Forth, Tees, Medway and other port authorities soon followed Tilbury into the private sector. Some municipal ports also followed the trend, with Bristol, for example, passing to a private company on a 150-year lease in 1991. The private company did much to revive the port of Bristol, while another private company took over the old BP refinery site on the Isle of Grain and built a new container facility called Thamesport. By 1993 nine of the ten top British ports were wholly or largely controlled by private interests. The exception was Sullom Voe, which was still run by the Shetland Islands Council. In 1994 it was announced that Felixstowe, the flagship of the privately owned ports, was the leading container port in the UK, the fourth in Europe, and fifteenth in the world, handling almost half of Britain's deep-sea container traffic. Felixstowe was also, after Dover, the second largest ro-ro port in the UK. The triumphs of privatisation seemed complete, and although the dispute from 1995 to 1998 over sacked dockers at Liverpool brought back memories of an embittered past, in general the port companies felt they had made a successful transition to a modern and efficient industry.15

In the North Sea oil and gas production kept up better than expected during the 1990s with new peaks in oil and gas production. In 1996 UKOOA suggested that UK North Sea oil production would stay above consumption for at least ten years and reserves would last for at least another twenty years.16 Nevertheless the North Sea was a ‘mature’ oil and gas province, and new exploration was pushed into areas in the Atlantic west of the Shetlands. New fields were found, but developments were hampered by various factors, not least the fall in crude oil prices at the end of the 1990s. In 1999 BP and its partners agreed to suspend work on the huge Clair field (with an estimated five billion barrels of oil) west of the Shetlands.17

One of the emerging problems in the North Sea during the 1990s was the huge cost of removing redundant structures from the UKCS. The fate of the (floating) Brent Spar caused an outcry from (p.158) environmentalists in 1995, but at least fifty of the 200 or so structures on the UKCS were noted in 1996 as having to be removed in the next ten years at a cost of £1.4 billion.18 For this reason oil to be extracted from fields west of the Shetlands would be taken out by floating production platforms.19 A few of these were built in Britain, but most were not. The share of the British maritime industries in offshore energy suffered a major blow in 1997 when OIL, the second largest OSV operator in the world, was sold by its owner Ocean to the number one operator, the American firm Tidewater. OIL had become a worldwide operator, with the North Sea just one part of its scheme, but its disappearance marked the end of perhaps the main British maritime success story from the North Sea opportunity. Now only Stirling Shipping remained as the principal British OSV operator in the North Sea.20

Thus during the 1990s the situation in the British maritime industries remained little changed from that in 1990. Despite the success of P&O, British shipping in general showed no great signs of revival, although the government finally offered some support at the end of the decade. Shipbuilding remained in a poor condition and despite a few hopeful signs, it is clear the remaining shipyards have a hand to mouth existence, with the prospect of total shutdown never far away. The ports alone of the old maritime industries have successfully completed the transition to a modern and efficient operation, although largely concentrated on only a handful of major ports. North Sea oil and gas still remain of vital importance to the British economy and will continue to do so for ten to twenty years. On the whole the British maritime industries failed to take much advantage of the North Sea opportunity and what was achieved, such as OIL, was not sustained in the long term. Compared to the situation in 1914, Britain's maritime industries—other than offshore energy—are now of minor importance in her national economic life. How has this great change come about?

The Course of Decline

Tor one half century [1870–1920], British shipping had dominated the world; complacency was one effect of this supremacy. The shipping industry of 1920 was one geared to the maintenance of supremacy, not the meeting of changes.'21 So wrote one commentator on the history of British shipping. His charge of complacency and reluctance to change might cover British (p.159) shipbuilding and ports as well as shipping, but it would seem unwise to put all the blame for the decline of the British maritime industries on internal failings, at least in the interwar period.

Whatever action those industries took between 1920 and 1939, one fundamental external factor could not be wished away. During most of the interwar period world trade showed little growth, only exceeding the 1914 level in a few years. The demand for shipping services, new ships and more port facilities was not growing. If demand was less, supply was more, with more countries expanding their maritime industries and steadily reducing Britain's maritime supremacy. Two challenges faced the British maritime industries. First and most immediate was the need to adapt to the negative change of the collapse in demand. Secondly, there was the need to adjust to changes in marine technology and trade patterns. It can be argued that by adapting to the second challenge the British maritime industries might have been better able to deal with the first, and Norway has often been put forward as an example of what an enterprising maritime state could achieve in the interwar period.

However, Norway did not have the array of maritime commitments that burdened Britain in good times and in bad. At this time Norway had little shipbuilding of her own, only a comparatively small national trade needing few major ports, and her national merchant fleet was almost entirely devoted to tramp shipping, which required little infrastructure but did put a premium on rapid response to changes in the world shipping market. In contrast Britain had the world's largest shipbuilding industry, a huge national trade which had led to massive investment in port facilities, and the world's largest merchant fleet, of which the majority was liner shipping, with an expensive worldwide infrastructure which not only bound the British empire together but also provided the basic framework for world seaborne trade through the British-dominated liner conference system.

Norway was comparatively free to seize new opportunities such as motorships and oil tankers to see her through the grim interwar years. Britain also made progress in those areas, but she was also held back by the burden of past maritime assets which had now become liabilities. Shipbuilding was probably the most depressed of all British industries in the interwar period; the ports saw comparatively little new investment while providing a declining service; and in shipping while the liner system had to be maintained for (p.160) economic and political reasons, the collapse of the Royal Mail shipping group made liner shipping less attractive to investors. British tramp shipping suffered what was almost to be a fatal blow. Damaged by the boom and bust of 1919–20, it was further hit by the steady decline in British coal exports after then. Tramp companies disappeared—as did many of the shipyards that had provided their ships—and few new firms took their place. This was of fundamental importance since tramping was the entry level for the shipping industry. With no new blood coming in, the long-term health of the industry was undermined.

One reaction to the problems of the interwar period was a shift away from free trade and towards economic nationalism in the 1930s. In 1931–32 Britain took this road, ending her commitment to free trade and turning in upon herself. British shipbuilding became more dependent on home orders and British shipping more geared to empire and commonwealth trade. For the first time since the repeal of the Navigation Acts, the British government took measures to aid shipbuilding and shipping, industries which had not received protection when the country turned away from free trade. Still weakened by the effects of the interwar depression, the British maritime industries were thrown into a new world war in 1939, a conflict which would strain their resources much more than the Great War. Yet, when the Second World War was over, the British maritime industries enjoyed in the first ten years after 1945 a return to a prosperity unknown since before 1914. Most of Britain's maritime rivals had been incapacitated by the war and the USA's wartime maritime expansion could not be translated into peacetime dominance in world shipping and shipbuilding. In the immediate postwar years Britain continued to be the top shipping and shipbuilding nation. It was almost a return to the Victorian heyday, but unfortunately with maritime industries still with basically Victorian structures and outlooks.

Between 1945 and 1973 the non-communist world economy enjoyed an unprecedented boom, with world trade increasing almost every year. The demand for shipping services and new ships to provide them was immense. Yet Britain largely failed to seize these opportunities and by the 1960s the decline of her maritime industries was becoming increasingly obvious. With such favourable external conditions, unlike in the interwar period, the British maritime industries could not put all the blame for their failings on external factors (although they tried). Internal obstacles (p.161) to change and modernisation were the main problem. At first attempts were made to ignore the need for change. Shipyards tried to survive on the basis of the British home market for ships; shipowners stuck to the old empire and commonwealth trades. But soon it was obvious such attitudes could not be sustained. British shipyards just did not produce what the world market required, so even British shipowners came to have most of their ships built abroad; the inefficient performance of British ports led foreign shipowners to base their European operations increasingly in continental ports; and the end of empire and closer links with Europe undermined the basis of the old British liner shipping routes. By the mid-1960s all this was becoming clear and with government support the British shipbuilding, ports and shipping industries sought to modernise in order to obtain a greater share of the still-growing world markets. Another stimulus to change and promise of new opportunities was the growth of the North Sea oil and gas industry from the mid-1960s.

Yet the modernisation and restructuring of British ports, shipyards and shipping companies that took place in the 1965–73 period was too late, at least ten years too late. What was the use of three British shipyards trying to get into the supertanker market around 1970 when the Japanese had been turning out such vessels quicker and cheaper by production line methods for more than a decade? The modernisation of the port of London was welcome, but its re-export trade to Europe had long since disappeared; now it was ports such as Rotterdam which re-exported cargoes to London. British liner shipping companies certainly adjusted to the challenge of the container revolution with speed, but the Americans led the way and Asian shipping lines were not far behind.

Excessive fragmentation and individualism had been among the legacies of Victorian Britain to the structure of the maritime industries. Internal efforts at co-ordinated responses to change by industry trade organisations, such as the National Shipbuilders Security in the interwar shipyards, did something to overcome this, but not a great deal. The liner shipping companies had perhaps the longest experience of co-operation through the conference system, making the move into container consortia comparatively easy, but competitive rivalry between shipping firms still existed. In Japan the government took an active role in restructuring both the shipping and the shipbuilding industries when required. The British government tried to do something similar in shipbuilding (p.162) and the ports from the mid-1960s, but with less success. Mergers produced shipbuilding groups and larger, estuarial port authorities, but had only limited impact on the difficult labour relations that were one of the main problems in both industries.

Successive British governments simply did not have a coordinated policy for the maritime industries. In Whitehall and Westminster those industries were disappearing off the political radar screen by the 1960s and only fears of large-scale unemployment in certain sectors pushed them back on. Ambitious civil servants in the transport bureaucracy avoided shipping after 1960.22 Few shipowners sat in the House of Commons after the early 1960s.23 Only the trade unions of the dockers and the shipyard workers, and their political supporters, kept the maritime industries in the public eye, all too often generating negative images which discouraged both potential customers and investors. Government intervention in those industries was usually aimed at preventing unemployment, or at least easing redundancies, rather than assisting the transition to a new stage in an industry's development. The ultimate measure was nationalisation, as proposed for the ports in the late 1960s and carried out for the shipyards in 1977, but it was too often seen as an end in itself. Without some overall plan for future development, nationalisation was just a pooling of individual inefficiency.

The nationalisation of the shipyards had little hope of reviving British shipbuilding because it was carried out against the background of the worst shipbuilding and shipping depression since the 1930s. Between 1975 and 1990 all the major maritime countries suffered large reductions in their merchant fleets and shipbuilding capacity. The problem was that Britain fell faster and further than the others. The attempted modernisation of her maritime industries from the mid-1960s was beginning to make some progress in the early 1970s just when the world markets for shipping services and new ships collapsed. At a time when British maritime industries seemed to be overcoming internal problems, external difficulties were renewed with immense power. The Conservative governments from 1979 sought to end state assistance to the maritime industries and leave their fate to the free market. Only the ports really prospered as a modern and efficient industry. Offshore energy was of vital importance to the British economy, but the opportunities it offered to the maritime industries were either not taken up or not sustained over time. By 1990, when world shipping and shipbuilding (p.163) were at last beginning to revive, the British maritime industries were in no condition to derive much benefit from the upturn.

It was inevitable that the great British maritime predominance of 1914 would be undermined as other nations established or expanded their own maritime industries. That competition became significant in the interwar period, but the chief reason for the relative decline of the British maritime industries in those years was the collapse of world trade. After the Second World War world trade grew rapidly and so did foreign competition. The failure of the British maritime industries to adapt to this new reality was due to internal constraints, to industrial structures still little changed from the pre-1914 period. Only in the second half of the 1960s, with government support, did shipping, shipbuilding and the ports begin to modernise, and additional new openings were offered to them by the growing oil and gas industry in the North Sea. The problem was that modernisation was at least ten years too late and did not take place fast enough. Internal constraints had barely been addressed when the world shipping and shipbuilding markets collapsed after 1975. By the 1980s it was clear that the government was no longer willing to pour money into the maritime industries, and they were left to sink or swim in the open market. For 400 years the maritime industries had been considered of vital importance to Britain, but by 1990 this seemed no longer to be the government view. Others viewed the decline of those industries with greater concern.

Does the Decline Matter?

In short, the moment the British, an island race, who have always earned their living from maritime trade, cease to wish to sail out into distant seas, Britain will wither and decline. The sea is her natural habitat; it surrounds, comforts, guards and beckons her. From it, all through her history, she has drawn her strength.24

Fine words indeed. They come from a book that first appeared in 1993. Had the book been published in 1893, 1793, 1693 or perhaps even 1593 the sentiments of the quotation would have seemed unexceptional. In the 1990s they seem old-fashioned, irrelevant in a time of globalisation and a possible United States of Europe. Yet strong arguments are still made that Britain should (p.164) take action to revive her maritime industries. The reasons given are usually three-fold: financial, commercial and strategic.

Financially the foreign currency earnings of British shipping have been seen as an important part of those invisible earnings of the service industries that do so much to cover the imbalance between Britain's imports and exports. In the age of British maritime dominance between 1870 and 1914 shipping provided major invisible earnings.25 However, shipping's contribution began to fall thereafter. Between 1952 and 1960 the contribution of British shipping to the balance of payments fell from 12.2% to 6.1% of the import bill.26 Between 1975 and 1985 shipping's contribution to all invisible services earnings fell from 5.7% to 0.9%.27 That British shipping can still make a positive contribution to the balance of payments cannot be denied. However, shipping's contribution is not vital and some economists have long argued that the gain may be purchased at a high cost, shipping producing a low return on capital and labour resources that might be better invested elsewhere in the economy.28

In addition to the direct foreign currency earnings of shipping are the foreign currency earnings of the related maritime services sector, sometimes called ‘Maritime London’. These are the financial, insurance, legal and other services which became established to support British shipping in its heyday and still find a worldwide market for their expertise. In 1998 Maritime London generated £948 million in overseas earnings, with principal contributors being the Baltic Exchange (£297 million), legal services (£190 million), insurance brokers (£160 million) and banks (£100 million).29 Other centres such as Athens (Piraeus), Singapore and Hong Kong have sought to challenge London's predominance in maritime services, but so far with only limited success. Nor does such business greatly rely on British maritime activities any more. In 1999 the chairman of the Baltic Exchange, whilst supporting an enhanced British merchant fleet, stated that as long as business came to London the flag was immaterial to the Baltic.30

The second reason to support the British maritime industries, and particularly shipping, is said to be commercial. Fears are expressed that if all British seaborne trade is carried by foreigners this will lead to exploitation via high freight rates and a possible refusal to provide direct services to the UK, just trans-shipping British cargoes at continental ports, thus raising costs.31 However, such alarming scenarios are only really possible if one foreign carrier were (p.165) to dominate the British carrying trade. In a world of numerous competing shipping companies, with few obstacles to market entry, fears of monopoly control seem unrealistic. Cheap ocean transportation is one of the fundamental factors in the globalisation of the 1990s under American leadership just as it was one of the basic characteristics of the free trade system under British leadership in the late nineteenth century. The big difference is that the British dominated world seaborne trade in their time, while the USA allows a wide range of competing shipping companies from many countries to keep world seaborne trade flowing. As long as the present liberal world trading system exists, nations should not be bothered who carries their goods at sea as long as they do it cheaply and efficiently.

The third reason given for supporting British maritime industries is strategic, so that ships will be available to support the navy and other armed forces in time of war or crisis. The end of the Cold War would seem to have reduced this requirement, and anyway in the 1990–91 conflict with Saddam Hussein only five of the 162 ships chartered to support British forces in the Gulf were British vessels.32 Britain now seems to be following the USA in moving away from reliance on a national flag merchant fleet to supply transport tonnage. Instead the United States Navy has built up a transport fleet under its own direct control, and the Royal Navy seems in the process of doing the same.33 Defence has always been used by US governments to justify their traditional protectionist maritime policies, but it now seems to have little further relevance. Support may be given to shipbuilding to preserve a basic naval building/repairing capacity, but the subsidising of merchant shipping for supposed defence needs seems to have been a costly failure.34 A nation which preaches free trade to the world seems strangely blind to the costly folly of its own maritime protectionism.

The American example should do much to discourage those who seem to crave some sort of return to the Navigation Acts to protect British maritime industries. In addition membership of the European Union would seem to rule out any such action. Common European policies towards the maritime industries have been slow to emerge, perhaps because, as one scholar has put it, the ‘conceivers of the unification of Europe do not seem to have taken greatly into account its maritime possibilities.’35 Nevertheless such policies are now being put forward and Britain has a part in their formulation.36

Thus there are financial, commercial and strategic arguments for supporting Britain's maritime industries, but they seem less (p.166) compelling in a world seeking to establish a global system of free trade and free markets. The maritime industries were vital to Britain when she was an offshore nation state battling for survival against European rivals and seeking to extend her commercial and imperial dominance around the world. Once British hegemony was achieved, the maritime industries remained supreme even after Britain espoused a liberal worldwide trading system after 1850. The wars and depression of the 1914–45 period ended British hegemony, which passed to the USA. Under the pax Americana a liberal worldwide trading system has again been created, but, outside the naval sphere, with no one nation achieving overall maritime dominance. In a fiercely competitive world the British maritime industries have largely failed to adapt to the new challenges. Their belated modernisation, barely begun before the world markets collapsed in the mid-1970s, could not prevent them slipping from relative to absolute decline.

The British maritime industries reached their zenith in the 1870–1914 period. Some decline after the First World War was inevitable, but external factors hastened it in the interwar period. The Second World War strained the industries further. The postwar boom brought those industries a short return to prosperity, but on the basis of largely unchanged internal structures. When foreign rivals re-emerged with modernised industries geared to the world market, the British maritime industries failed to adapt fast enough. When they finally made the effort it was too late and decline came dangerously close to complete collapse.

One may view the fall from greatness of the British maritime industries with regret and hope for some revival in the coming years, but it seems certain that never again will it be possible to speak of the British merchant fleet as a government report did in 1959: ‘The ubiquity of British shipping is in itself a world wide advertisement for British industry and commerce, and for things British generally.’37


(1) Department of Transport and the GCBS, British Shipping: Challenges and Opportunities (London, 1990), p. 1.

(2) D. Howarth and S. Howarth, The Story of P&O (revised edition, London, 1994), pp. 200, 204, 211–213.

(3) . F. Broeze, ‘Containerization and the Globalization of Liner Shipping’, in D.J. Starkey and G. Harlaftis (eds), Global Markets: The Internationalization of the Sea Transport Industry since 1850 (St John's, Newfoundland, 1998), pp. 398–399; Marine News, November 1996 and May 1998. By 1999 P&O Nedlloyd, with 108 ships and a total capacity of 252,638 teu, was the world's second largest container fleet (Lloyd's List, 23 July 1999) (In 2002 P&O demerged its ferry operations from Stena.)

(4) . Howarth and Howarth, P&O, p. 232; R. McAuley, The Liners (London, 1997), pp. 140–141; The Guardian, 27 May 1998. (In 2002 P&O was attempting to sell its cruise ship operations to Royal Caribbean in face of a counterbid by Carnival.)

(5) . The Observer, 10 March 1996; The Guardian, 4 April 1998.

(6) The Guardian, 24 March 1999.

(7) Marine News, April 1997.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), British Shipping: Charting a New Course (London, 1998).

(10) . Marine News, October 1999. (That some revival of British shipping has taken place is seen in UNCTAD figures which show that at the start of 2000 Britain was tenth in the world table of merchant fleets by ownership—but less than 40% of British-owned shipping was under the British flag (The Economist, 10 February 2001).)

(11) Clarkson Research Studies Ltd., World Shipyard Monitor, vol. 2, no. 3, March 1995.

(12) . The Observer, 10 March 1996; The Guardian, 21 June 1997; K. Warren, Steel, Ships and Men: Cammell Laird, 1824–1993 (Liverpool, 1998), pp. 299–300. (After considerable expansion Cammell Laird went into receivership in April 2001.)

(13) The Observer, 26 January 1997.

(14) Daily Mail, 23 June 1999.

(15) . P. Turnbull, C. Woolfson and J. Kelly, Dock Strike: Conflict and Restructuring in Britain's Ports (Aldershot, 1992), pp. 200–201; Bristol Port Company brochure 1995; information from R. McLeod, managing director of Thamesport (London) Ltd., April 1995; Central Office of Information, Britain 1995: An Official Handbook (London, 1995); Shetland Islands Council ports handbook 1995–96; Port of Felixstowe brochure 1995. For the Liverpool dockers' dispute 1995–98 see The Guardian, 4 December 1995; 23 November 1996; 14 December 1996; 27 September 1997; 27 January 1998.

(16) The Guardian, 12 March 1996.

(17) . Ibid., 6 April 1999. In 1999 North Sea oil output was 124 million tonnes, the highest since 1986 and not far short of the 1980s peak of 127 million tonnes (Office of National Statistics, Britain 2001: The Official Handbook of the United Kingdom (London, 2000).

(18) . {London} Evening Standard, 15 May 1996; The Guardian, 14 January 1997; S. Howarth, A Century in Oil: The ‘Shell’ Transport and Trading Company, 1897–1997 (London, 1997), pp. 381–383.

(19) The Independent, 2 December 1996.

(20) . A.G. Jamieson, ‘British OSV Companies in the North Sea, 1964–1997’, Maritime Policy and Management, vol. 25, no. 4, September 1998, p. 310. (Stirling Shipping was acquired by the American company SEACOR Smit in May 2001.) Nevertheless British oil services groups such as John Wood and Balmoral continued to enjoy international success based on expertise acquired in the North Sea. See Balmoral Group, Black Gold and the Silver City: The Oil Revolution in Aberdeen and the North of Scotland, 1965–2000 (Aberdeen, 2000).

(21) S.G. Sturmey, ‘“British Shipping and World Competition” Revisited’, Maritime Policy and Management, vol. 18, 1991, no. 4, p. 277.

(22) Sir Colin Goad, The Times, 6 April 1998. (p.208)

(23) . In a House of Commons debate on 15 July 1964, Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner MP, who was to retire at the next election, said ‘for many years I have been the only shipowner in this House’ and he had tried to the best of his ability to be the voice of the British merchant navy (Hansard, Commons debates, vol. 698, 1963–64, col. 1229).

(24) J. Cantlie Stewart, The Sea Our Heritage: British Maritime Interests Past and Present (revised edition, Keith, Banffshire, 1995), p. vi.

(25) P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins, British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion, 1688–1914 (London, 1993), p. 170.

(26) S.G. Sturmey, British Shipping and World Competition (London, 1962), pp. 185–187, 406–408, 415–418.

(27) . House of Commons, session 1987–88, transport committee, 1st report: Decline in the UK-Registered Merchant Fleet, vol. 1, report and minutes of proceedings (1988), p. xxix.

(28) . Rochdale report on the shipping industry (1970), p. 360.

(29) . Details of report by British Invisibles on maritime services given in press release by the Maritime London group, 15 June 2000. See also the Department of Transport and the General Council of British Shipping, British Shipping: Challenges and Opportunities (1990), pp. 47–48, and J. Cantlie Stewart, The Sea Our Heritage, pp. 264–274.

(30) Marine News, April 1999.

(31) . House of Commons transport committee: Report on Decline of UK-Registered Merchant Fleet (1988), p. xxviii.

(32) . House of Commons public accounts committee: Report on Movements of Personnel, Equipment and Stores to and from the Gulf, June 1993, pp. 10, 22–23.

(33) . The ‘in-house strategic lift capabilities’ of the Ministry of Defence are to be strengthened with additional ships. If further ships are needed they are to be chartered in the open market, with no special preference for British vessels (DETR, British Shipping: Charting a New Course (1998), p. 11). For US policy see A. Gibson and A. Donovan, The Abandoned Ocean: A History of United States Maritime Policy (Columbia, SC, 2000), p. 253.

(34) Gibson and Donovan, The Abandoned Ocean,

(35) M. Mollat du Jourdin, Europe and the Sea (Oxford, 1993), p. 236.

(36) . For EU policy see A. Bredima-Savopoulou and J. Tzoannos, The Common Shipping Policy of the EC (Amsterdam, 1990); Commission of the European Communities, Towards a New Maritime Strategy (Brussels, 1996).

(37) . Report on the prospects of British shipping to 1965 (PRO, MT 59/3189). (p.210)