London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3
The Mercantile Marine.
THE number of vessels belonging to the United Kingdom was, in , nearly , having an aggregate burden of upwards of tons, and being manned by hands. To give the reader, however, a more vivid idea of the magnitude of the "mercantile marine" of this kingdom, it may be safely asserted, that in order to accommodate the whole of our merchant vessels, a dock of square acres would be necessary; or, in other words, there would be required to float them an extent of water sufficient to cover times the area of the city of London, while the whole population of Birmingham would be needed to man them. But, besides the and odd British, with their men, that are thus engaged in conveying the treasures of other lands to our own, there are upwards of foreign vessels, manned by hands, that annually visit the shores of this country.
Of the steam-vessels belonging to the United Kingdom in , there were . Their aggregate length was feet; their aggregate breadth, feet; their aggregate tonnage, ; and their aggregate of horse-power, . It may be added, that they are collectively of such dimensions, that by placing them stem to stern, after the other, they would reach to a distance of miles, or form continuous line from Dover to Calais; while, by placing them abreast, or alongside each other, they would occupy a space of miles wide.
According to the calculations of Mr. G. F. Young, the eminent shipbuilder, the entire value of the vessels belonging to the mercantile marine of the British empire is upward of sterling. The annual cost of the provisions and wages of the seamen employed in navigating them, The sum annually expended in the building and outfitting of new ships, as well as the repairing of the old ones, is , while the amount annually received for freight is
The value of the merchandise thus imported or exported has still to be set forth. By this we learn not only the vast extent of the international trade of Great , but the immense amount of property entrusted annually to the merchant-seaman. It would, perhaps, hardly be credited, that the value of the articles which our mercantile marine is engaged in transporting to and from the shores of this kingdom, amounts to upwards of million pounds sterling.
Such, then, is the extent of the external transit of this country. There is scarcely a corner of the earth that is not visited by our vessels, and the special gifts and benefits conferred upon the most distant countries thus diffused and shared among even the humblest members of our own. To show the connexion
|of the metropolis with this vast amount of trade, involving so many industrial interests, I shall conclude with stating, that the returns prove that - of the entire maritime commerce of this country is carried on at the port of London.
As a sad contrast, however, to all this splendour, I may here add, that the annual loss of property in British shipping wrecked or foundered at sea may be assumed as amounting to nearly million pounds sterling per annum. The annual loss of life occasioned by the wreck or foundering of British vessels may be fairly estimated at not less than souls in each year; so that it would appear, that the annual loss by shipwreck amongst the vessels belonging to the United Kingdom is, on an average, ship in every ; and the annual loss of property engaged therein in every ; while the average number of sailors drowned amounts to in every persons engaged in navigation.
I now come to speak of the means by which the vast amount of wealth thus brought to our shores is distributed throughout the country. I have already said that there are different modes of internal communication:—, to convey the several articles coastwise from port to another; , to carry them inland from town to town; and , to remove them from and to the different parts of the same town. I shall deal with the communication along the coast.
In , the coasting vessels employed in the intercourse between Great and Ireland made upwards of voyages, and the gross burden of the vessels thus engaged amounted to more than tons. The "coasters" engaged in the carrying trade between the different ports of Great in , made no less than voyages, and possessed collectively a capacity for carrying upwards of tons of goods. Of the steam-vessels employed coastwise in the United Kingdom, the number that entered inwards, including their repeated voyages, was , having an aggregate burden of upwards of tons, while and odd steam-vessels, of not quite the same amount of tonnage, were cleared outwards. This expresses the entire amount of the coasting trade in connexion with the several ports of Great . London, as I have before shown, has times the number of sailing vessels, and times the amount of tonnage, over and above any port in the kingdom, whilst of steam-impelled coasting vessels it has but little more than -, compared with Liverpool.