The decline of UK merchant shipping, 1975-90: beyond the market view

Rowlinson, Mervyn (1995) The decline of UK merchant shipping, 1975-90: beyond the market view. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


This dissertation will provide explanation for the decline of UK merchant shipping, 1975-1990. This involves identifying and analysing a broad range of factors which have simultaneously affected the merchant fleet. In attaining this objective it has become apparent that prominent amongst the explanations is the market view. This leads to a belief that the merchant fleet has suffered because it has not been able to combat the economic pressures which exist in the international Shipping market. Whilst this work acknowledges that these economic forces are an important quantitative determinant of decline, it also presents the case for a broader analysis which includes qualitative factors.

The qualitative approach allows for the analysis of sectoral, organisational and business behaviour elements which have been identified as influential. By extending the scope of research to these three areas, the context in which decline has occurred becomes apparent, providing a more sensitive and detailed explanation why decline has occurred.

The nature of the literature considered here extends from the statistical evidence of decline in the major sectors of the fleet to works on the historical development of shipping organisation, to academic discourse, and evidence from both governmental (including inter-governmental) and shipping industry sources on the nature and issues of decline.

From the sectoral base, which identifies the pattern of decline throughout the main fleet sectors, the organisational and business behaviour elements will be analysed as key factors. Issues raised by the decline are identified as those of over-tonnaging, fiscal policy, industrial relations and maritime safety; analysis of these issues reveals a source of qualitative evidence within the sectoral, organisational and business behaviour context. The findings resulting from this approach are that decline is accurately explained by analysis of the organisational change and its impact on business behaviour within the context of the international shipping market.

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