LORD INCHCAPE'S VIEWS
Before the war ended the British Mercantile Marine commanded the oceans. Nearly half the world's steam tonnage was British-owned—more than 12 million out of the 26 million tons afloat. Owing to the commandeering and sinking of ships and the restrictions on trade, that supremacy has" been undermined. Can it be restored and the "red duster" resume its old proud position on the seasP Lord Inchcape, under whose presidency is, nearly two million tons of British shipping, believes it can. "My confident anticipation," he says, "is that 'when the Government has set free the shipping industry the British Merchant Service will win back pretty near ly the whole of its pre-war supremacy. It may need a dogged and united effort to do it, but it can and will be done."
I A step in that direction is the transference- of Government,, standardised ships, now in course of construction, to private owners. The distribution was entrusted to Lord Inchcape, chairman of the-(P. and O. Company, and Sir Owen Phillips, chairman of the Royal Mail Company. It is now possible to adapt unfinished ships to the special needs and trades of purchasers, and, ■while the scheme has not yet been completed, there can be little doubt as to it? ultimate success. A vast deal of leeway has to be made up. Losses during the war were extremely heavy, and must be replaced. All the ships requisitioned by the Government have to be overhauled and repaired before- they can go back to their old trade. Markets have been sacrificed, familiar routes abandoned, old connections severed. Foreign competitors have started rival services. 'With all the friendliness in the world, American competition has to be faced. In this respect the position reassuring. Before the war the United States had not a tenth of the carrying capacity of our own Mercantile Marine. Exigencies of international safety compelled her to build, and build fast. It was announced that she would have 13 million dead-weight or 9 million gross tons of shipping afloat by January, 1920, but the impulse to shipbuilding created by a common peril has evaporated, and it is doubtful whether this expectation will be more than half realised. Again, the cost of building has been very high in America—£7s a ton, instead of the- £37 originally estimated. Besides, the very high wages offered,to American seamen will handicap the owners in their competition for the freights of the world. Some apprehension has been felt for the future because of the money available for rebuilding ships abroad. Lord Inchcape's reply is that there is money in Great Britain also. "If," he says, '•■foreign rivals^ knowing nothing of Excess Profit' and'Bliiß Book rates, have been able to accumulate vast reserves, the coffers of British shipping companies are by no means empty. That is , not because the companies have beeni profiteering. If their exchequers are' fairly well fiSelfl, it simply means that they are hoMng .their capital in cash or securities instead of in the-far more preferable' form of ships. At any rate, they are not going to be prevented from meeting foreign competition by financial exhaustion."
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BRITISH SHIPPING., Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9593, 24 April 1919
BRITISH SHIPPING. Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9593, 24 April 1919
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