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Ebb Tide in the British Maritime IndustriesChange and Adaptation, 1918-1990$
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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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Breaking with the Past Ports 1918–1990

Breaking with the Past Ports 1918–1990

(p.84) 4 Breaking with the Past Ports 1918–1990
Ebb Tide in the British Maritime Industries

Alan G. Jamieson

Liverpool University Press

By the 1960s Britain's ports were not a link in an efficient transportation system but an obstacle to its proper functioning. The great expansion of British ports during the Victorian era had been based on a break bulk system of loading and unloading cargoes which relied heavily on a casual dock labour supply. This method of working the ports was just about acceptable until the post-1945 period when the growing importance of the unit load – principally the container – to carry cargo meant that the old port system needed a radical overhaul. Basically capital was to replace labour, with expensive container cranes working more swiftly and efficiently than gangs of dock workers. Port labour's resistance to these changes in the 1960s and 1970s led to government intervention aimed at reducing the negative impact of containerisation on port communities, but in the end the old dock labour scheme was dismantled in the 1980s. Although now fewer in number, the main British ports were by 1990 efficiently run and were an example of successful adaptation to major economic change.

Keywords:   Dock workers, Break bulk, Containerisation, Labour, Capital, Victorian

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