Shipping Traffic 1912 Compared with Today


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Aaron_2016

Guest
Does anyone know roughly how busy the shipping traffic was in 1912 and in comparison with this screenshot taken from a live shipping tracker today would the Atlantic have been much less congested or much more in 1912? Thinking about the coal factor being the driving force of many ships and the possibility that many ships were not built for the Atlantic run and also the possibility of meeting derelicts. Would ships have followed a more orderly route and used each other for guidance, as the ships below appear in all manner of directions and perhaps with the benefit of radar they are able to follow a flexible route across the Atlantic? Would the likely hood of passing other ships have been greater in 1912 than today? Many thanks.


12th January 2017

shipping.PNG



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Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
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Many of those ships were anchored or moored alongside piers. Their indicated direction of travel is meaningless. Also, since ships have radar, it'd difficult to compare traffic congestion
 

Doug Criner

Member
Dec 2, 2009
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USA
I don't know. But if it's true that there are fewer ships in the world, I would think that there must be fewer ships as sea at any one time.
 

Stephen Carey

Member
Apr 25, 2016
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There were over 50,000 ships trading worldwide in 2016, and almost 90% of everything we buy arrives by sea, so the traffic across and through the Atlantic is far busier than it was in 1912. Economically, the shipping industry is huge; in the UK, shipping accounts for more of the GDP than restaurants, takeaway food, and civil engineering combined — about 2 percent of the GDP by itself, just behind construction (Rose George - Ninety Percent of Everything - the biggest business that you know nothing about).
Atlantic traffic in 1912 was confined to the major passenger ships (one or two sailings per day), many many sailing ships dependent on the wind rather than a course they would like to steer, and the few transatlantic cargo ships. Container traffic alone across "The Pond" would outweigh anything in 1912. In those days, your food was seasonal - no way you could get strawberries to go with your Christmas Dinner. If you've ever wondered why sprouts are always served with that dinner, it's because they are a winter seasonal vegetable! When I was on the transatlantic container trade, we would have containers full of frozen cherries from Canada - that would have been a delicacy even on Titanic in winter.
However, the Atlantic is pretty big, and even with thousands of ships it's possible to go days without seeing one, even though they may be just over the horizon (48 miles at best). Ships in 1912 didn't talk to each other as they had in most cases no radio, and indeed even today they don't (unless they are lost...). There's not a lot of difference today (by the way, radar is not a navigation aid once out of sight of land, apart from spotting other ships) and ships crossing the Atlantic will take either a Great Circle route (the shortest distance between two points on the globe) or Rhumb Line which is a straight line across the same points on the chart, or a combination of both. Ships still have to navigate, though gps does tell you where you are to phenomenal accuracy. I was at sea before and during the advent of Satnav, and positions were made using sun and star sights using a sextant, providing the sky was clear. Otherwise Dead Reckoning, DF on the coast or Estimated Position was used on the basis of experience. Navigation was an art rather than a science.
As to the ships shown in the chart above being at anchor - you can't anchor in the middle of the Atlantic, so the direction and speed of each is reasonably accurate. There is a lot of coastal traffic, as would be expected, and you can see the extent of traffic into and out of the Mediterranean owing to the Suez Canal, which of course was also there even in 1912 though not handling nearly as much traffic. The most congested waterway in Europe - the Channel (or La Manche if you are French or Canadian) shows the extent of shipping using it these days, heading for the major port of Rotterdam, which is massive compared to what it was at the turn of the 20th century. The Port of Rotterdam is currently the biggest port in Europe and the sixth biggest in the world by annual cargo throughput. The port handled 441.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2012 - not so 100 years earlier!
Hope that's done it for you Aaron!
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
There were over 50,000 ships trading worldwide in 2016, and almost 90% of everything we buy arrives by sea, so the traffic across and through the Atlantic is far busier than it was in 1912...........

Many thanks. The Atlantic is certainly a busy place. I wonder if a ship were in distress on the Atlantic today would the chances of being rescued be up to 50 times greater owing to the busy traffic and I wonder how many would turn away and not come to their rescue. Do all ships have a sworn duty to help each other or is it a courtesy among captains to give assistance regardless of their company's orders?


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