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STATISTICS FOR THE YEAR.
On June 30, 1894, the merchant marine of the United States, including all kinds of documented shipping, comprised 23,586 vessels, of 4,684,029 gross tons. On June 30, 1893, it comprised 24,512 vessels, of 4,825,071 gross tons. This tonnage for the two years was distributed geographically as follows:
During the fiscal year there has thus been a decrease of 926 vessels of 141,042 gross tons. This decrease, however, is more apparent than real. The last six months of the fiscal year were in part devoted by the clerks in charge of the work and by customs officers to a more thorough revision of the list of vessels than has been made in several years, for the purpose of removing from it vessels which, through wreck, abandonment, or other causes, have had no claim to a position thereon for several years. Through this revision about 350 barges and canal boats of 50,000 gross tons and about 100 other vessels of upward of 40,000 tons have been removed from the lists. For various reasons it is not always possible at the custom-houses to obtain immediate reports of vessels which are no longer entitled to place in the documented list, and thus vessels have been carried forward from year to year on the books of this Bureau which have gone out of trade or have wholly disappeared. Diligent inquiry has brought the books this year, it is believed, into closer conformity to the facts than usual.
While the tonnage of the Great Lakes shows an apparent decrease of nearly 34,000 tons, more than this tonnage of barges and canal boats documented for trade with Canada some years ago has been dropped from the lists, the vessels aggregating this tonnage not having been reported in Canadian trade for the past three years. These vessels have doubtless from time to time during the past few years gone into ordinary domestic navigation, for which, under act of Congress, no documents are required of vessels of their build. In point of fact, therefore, the actual tonnage of the Great Lakes for 1894, compared with 1893, has not decreased.
The tonnage on Western rivers for some years has slightly diminished, as railroads perform the work formerly done on the rivers, and the decline this year requires no further comment.
The tonnage of the Pacific coast has been virtually stationary compared with the tonnage of 1893.
More than half of the reduction of 95,000 tons on the Atlantic and Gulf coast may be attributed to the revision of the lists referred to, but construction for the year also failed to compensate for the tonnage withdrawn from trade.
While the number of steam vessels in the merchant service is 35 less than on June 30, 1893, the gross tonnage is 6,000 tons greater, steam vessels of iron and steel having increased 32 in number and 28,000 in gross tons, while wooden steam vessels have decreased 67 in number and 22,000 in gross tonnage.
Sailing vessels, with which in the general summary are included canal boats and barges, show a decrease of nearly 900 vessels and nearly 150,000 tons. The revision referred to affected almost wholly these classes of vessels, and one-half of the reduction may be attributed to that scrutiny. There has been an increase of about 6,000 tons in iron and steel sailing vessels, one-half of which is due to the addition of our first steel ship, the Dirigo, to our merchant fleet.
The registered tonnage shows an increase of 16,000 tons compared with 1893, which though small is gratifying. It should be the beginning of a continuous increase in our shipping registered for foreign trade. Whatever their effects in other directions may be, high tariffs, designed to check or diminish international intercourse, necessarily restrict over-sea navigation, and have undoubtedly been one potent cause of the reduction of our registered tonnage for the past third of a century. It is reasonable to expect that a change in the country's tariff policy, looking to an increase in the volume of international trade, should be followed by an increase in the means for carrying that trade. The various items of decreased tonnage, already alluded to, in the main, are included in the enrolled or licensed tonnage for domestic trade or trade with Canada on the lakes.
The total number of vessels built and documented during the year was 838, of 131,195 gross tons, as against 956 of 211,639 gross tons for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1893. The construction for the last fiscal year was thus 80,000 tons, or 38 per cent, less than during the year ended June 30, 1893. While this decrease in production is to be regretted, it is to be borne in mind that the world's marine construction, outside of war ships, during the calendar year 1893 was considerably less than during any corresponding twelve months for a number of years. Statistics given in Appendix O show, according to Lloyd's record, that the marine construction of the world for 1893 was 20 per cent less than for 1892, while construction in British yards was 25 per cent less than in 1892, and only two-thirds of the capacity of British yards. It must also be borne in mind that the construction of the St. Louis and St. Paul, the largest contract for the merchant service ever made in this country, aggregating 22,000 tons, has been in progress through the year, although these vessels have not been completed and documented. All things considered, the decrease in the production of American yards during the year has been no greater, therefore, than the decrease in foreign yards, and both may be attributed to the general depression of the world's productive forces.
The following summaries show changes in the totals, geographical distribution, power and material, and occupation of our merchant fleet on June 30, 1894, compared with June 30, 1893:
The total number of American vessels of all descriptions documented on June 30, 1894, was 23,586, of 4,684,029, gross tons. The total number on June 30, 1884, was 24,082 vessels, of 4,271,229 gross tons. The tendency of shipbuilding the world round is toward the substitution of larger for smaller vessels, so that the decrease of 500 in the number of vessels is of relatively minor consequence; the increase over 400,000 gross tons in total tonnage being the evidence of the nation's commercial growth. In other lines of trade and in manufacture the growth of large establishments at the expense of smaller ones is a recognized industrial fact, and navigation forms no exception to the world-wide rule of concentra
tion of capital and subdivision of labor. Besides the evident economical effects of this change, it has doubtless its sociological results. The marked decrease in the number of American sailors beyond question may be attributed in part to the fact that the American desires to be his own master in the narrow sense of the word known to the navigation laws as well as in the broader sense, and where one steamer does the work formerly done by four or five ships, the opportunities for command are proportionately lessened.
Including all descriptions, the average tonnage of our vessels in 1884 was 177 gross tons, while in 1894 the average tonnage was 198 tons.
In Appendix P are grouped facts, taken from the first annual report of this Bureau, for the fiscal year 1884, compared with facts from the current report, to illustrate the various phases of the progress and changes in American shipping during the decade.
Speed is another evidence of progress in navigation. For trade purposes, based on speed, 1,000 tons of steam tonnage is reckoned as equivalent to 3,500 tons of sail tonnage. In 1884 the steam tonnage of the United States comprised 5,401 vessels, of 1,465,909 gross tons. In 1894 the steam tonnage comprised 6,526 vessels, of 2,189,430 tons. In 1884 our steam tonnage was one-third of the total tonnage of the country, while in 1894 it was nearly one-half. Considering the efficiency of steam tonnage compared with sailing tonnage, if the total potential tonnage of 1884 be reckoned at 8,000.000 tons, that of 1894 will be reckoned at 10,000,000 tons; an increase of 25 per cent in carrying power for the decade. The average size of steam vessels in 1884 was 271 tons; in 1894 it was 335 tons.
The increase in the size of vessels, increasing both carrying power and earning capacity, rests on the larger durable construction possible with iron and steel than with wood, and for reasons perfectly obvious to every one who has noted a like change of materials in construction on the land. In 1884 the iron and steel vessels of the United States (barely half a dozen of steel) numbered 428, of 386,618 gross tons, or less than 9 per cent of our total tonnage. In 1894 our iron and steel vessels numbered 854, of 929,539 tons, or 20 per cent of the total tonnage. The average tonnage of our iron and steel vessels in 1884 was 903 tons, and in 1894 was 1,088 tons.
Steel construction in our total tonnage has increased from less than 5,000 tons in 1885, an inappreciable fraction of our merchant fleet, to about 350,000 tons in 1894, or nearly 8 per cent of our total tonnage; a percentage nearly as great as that of iron tonnage ten years ago. The territorial expansion of the industry of steel shipbuilding is as remarkable as the increase in the product. In 1884 it was carried on at but four points, while in 1894 sixteen ports make returns of vessels of this description built.
The sailing tonnage of the United States (excluding documented barges and canal boats) has fallen from 2,414,008 gross tons in 1884 to 2,022,899 gross tons in 1894. While this decrease is great, it is relatively not so great as the decline in the world's sailing tonnage. In 1885 the Répertoire Général of the Bureau Veritas noted 45,692 sailing vessels over 50 tons, aggregating 12,867,375 tons, while the issue for 1893-'94 notes only 29,756 sailing vessels of 9,829,063 gross tons. The State of Maine alone has lost 230,000 tons of sailing vessels during the decade, while Massachusetts and New York return a loss of over 100,000 tons each. Michigan and California, on the other hand, show a gain of 50,000 tons each.
Owing to the general depression already referred to, the year 1894 does not afford a fair basis to measure the increase in the annual product of our yards. During 1884 there were built and documented in the United States 1,190 vessels of 225,514 gross tons, while during 1894 there were built and documented only 838 vessels of 131,156 gross tons. The iron and steel vessels built in 1884 amounted to only 34, of 35,632 gross tons, while in 1894 the product was 39 vessels of 51,470 gross tons. Wooden shipbuilding, accordingly, has decreased, in round numbers, from 190,000 gross tons in 1884 to 80,000 gross tons during 1894.
While the increase in the amount and quality of our merchant marine is satisfactory, the distribution of it in foreign and domestic trade can not be viewed with equanimity by those who wish to see the United States do the over-sea carrying trade and hold the maritime rank they formerly held. This report has been devoted almost wholly to a consideration of our foreign trade in the belief that the attention of the lawmaking power should be directed to those forms of navigation which, through the operation of old laws, have become weakest and are thus first entitled to consideration. There is cause for national congratulation upon the development of our inland and coastwise steam navigation, especially upon its growth on the Great Lakes, but more useful than such self-congratulation will be consideration and possibly correction of the weaker portions of our marine structure.
The portion of our tonnage registered for foreign trade and the total tonnage at ten-year intervals for the past forty years have been as follows:
The increase in our steam tonnage in foreign trade, as well as in the total, has been steady, while the decrease in sailing tonnage in the foreign trade and in the total has been equally steady.
In 1854, 59 per cent of our sailing tonnage was registered for foreign trade. In 1864 the percentage had fallen to 37; in 1874 it fell to 34 per cent; in 1884 it rose to 40 per cent, and at the close of the last fiscal year it had fallen to 26 per cent. Relatively the disappearance of our sailing tonnage from foreign trade during the last decade has been nearly as great in extent as during the decade which ended with the close of the civil war. In fact, the latter would doubtless have been the less had not the act of 1866 prohibited the return to the American flag of about 800,000 tons of American shipping which went under foreign colors between 1861 and 1865 to escape capture by the Union or Confederate navies. The actual destruction of our merchant marine wrought by the war was much less than the loss subsequently occurring through the operation of industrial forces which have changed motive power and material of marine construction. The propriety of the act of 1866 is not called in question, but its effects merely are noted. There seems to be no reason to doubt that had equal freedom of action been possible, our over-sea navigation would have recovered as rapidly