Once upon the tide : the English coastal motor barge reaches its zenith

Golding, John Cristopher

October 2007

Thesis or dissertation

© 2007 John Cristopher Golding. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The English coastal motor barge (ECMB) was an estuarial vessel with a limited sea-going capacity. It represented a unique line of maritime evolution carrying the small initial capital cost, minimal manning, and low operating costs of the spritsail barge (which had come to dominate lower North Sea cargo carrying under sail) directly into the second half of the 20th century. It avoided transition through the era of the steam engine and the crewing, costs and unionisation associated with it.

This thesis is essentially a case study of a distinct class of tonnage. It aims to
(a) record the development, growth and decline in use of the ECMB;
(b) determine, set down, and quantify, those factors which allowed the ECMB to thrive as a distinct line of maritime development;
(c) establish which environmental and financial factors gave rise to growth and success in an era when British - and Western European - shipping generally was in rapid decline;
(d) set the extent of ECMB use in the context of
(1) UK foreign trade,
(2) the 'British' merchant fleet,
(3) Continental competition; before much existing, unpublished, documentary evidence is lost for ever. It considers the end of Empire and changing patterns of trade, voyages, cargoes, freight rates, technical change, the cost of money in Britain, UK Inflation, and taxation, but also the contribution of increased regulation and changed UK government attitudes in the recent decline of the ECMB.

It suggests that when the operation of the UK National Dock Labour Scheme acted to disadvantage major UK ports in competition with near-Continental rivals in loading and discharging ocean-going vessels, the ECMB had reached a stage of maturity and availability which facilitated the conversion of much UK trade into transhipment traffic moving via Continental ports. On entry of the UK into the EEC, a means of cheap short-sea bulk carriage was available.

Department of History, The University of Hull
Starkey, David J. (David John), 1954-
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