A Visual History of Stowage Before Containerisation

A photographic trip down memory lane of what it used to be like getting cargo on and off ships.

Before containerisation, stowage was planned and instructed by the chief officer onboard the vessel, in close cooperation with the operational organisation ashore.

When the vessel was berthed, operational staff brought onboard a list with a description of cargo to be loaded in that particular port. That list contained information about the discharge port (e.g., Hamburg), type of cargo (e.g., hydraulic oil in steel drums), and weight and volume of cargo (e.g., 250 tonnes/300 cubic metres).

Grete Mærsk_Manila_1936

The chief officer kept in his office a handwritten and hand-coloured plan of the vessel. This plan shows the various cargo holds and compartments onboard, the items stowed in these compartments, and how much space was left open from the previous load port and can be used in subsequent ports. Open space was (of course) “hand-measured” by duty officers.

Based on his updated plan and listing of the booked cargo, the chief officer was now ready to prepare the stowage by compartment numbers and code. The drums described previously would be stowed depending on its weight and discharge port. This means that the chief officer would stow the drums in a way that the vessel is stable and can stay upright, and that the cargo can be discharged easily without having to shift other cargo.

Once all cargo has been assigned a compartment, it was time to calculate — again, by hand — the vessel stability and draught (the depth of the loaded vessel in the water). If the calculations proved a satisfactory departure condition, the chief officer would inform the land-based staff accordingly, share the load plan with them, and give them the go-ahead to load the cargo.

Planning stowage is one thing; stowing the actual cargo is another. Sometimes, the foreman and his people used more space than was planned. In these instances, they need to inform the chief officer for him to plan the loading in the next port. Duty officers again grab their measure-bands and determine compartments that were utilised fully or partially, and update the vessel’s chief officer.

Containerisation has completely changed the way we ship goods. And how!

Checkout all the photographs here

Reference & Image Credits: worldslargestship

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