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Home > CRUISING THE PAST > End Of An Era – The merchant fleets, passenger liners, diminished after the 1950s and 1960s.

End Of An Era – The merchant fleets, passenger liners, diminished after the 1950s and 1960s.

End Of An Era – The merchant fleets – passenger liners – diminished after the 1950s and 1960s.

Passenger ships, flying European and American flags, such as the United States, France, QE 2, Rotterdam, Lurline, would soon be under foreign flags and served by foreign nationals.  Stewards were no longer young Brits or Italians or French – but from Indonesia or the Philippines.

Lines such as American Export, Union-Castle, Orient, Italian Line, Swedish America – would be gone.

The once great merchant marine of Britain, America, France, Germany and Italy was over.

These are photos of British seamen taken during the heyday when the British merchant marine sailed the world.

The 1950’s and 60’s arguably saw the heyday of the world’s merchant fleets.

Although those serving in the merchant fleets of early 1970’s didn’t realize it at the time, technology was eating into our world producing bigger and bigger ships needing fewer and fewer crew.

Sailors from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia and the Netherlands (and no doubt other countries) felt the economics of cheaper labour costs from smaller European countries, and gradually, those men who did find jobs discovered that the days of working on ships from their own country, with crews made up of their own countrymen, were fast disappearing.

American flagged passenger ships such as those belonging to the United States Line, American Export, Matson, APL, Grace, Delta, Alaska Line would end their careers under the US flag during the 50s and 60s. Cargo ships, formerly under the American flag, would be transferred to Panama and Liberia.

Stewards and waiters who worked on passenger liners, from Europe and America, would soon be replaced by cheaper labor from the Far East.

Regardless of the flag flown, passenger ship crews are now just civilians, working on ten month contracts, generally out of Miami, and even though Cunard still flies the Red Ensign, the company is owned by Americans and staffed, except for the officers, by non Brits.

Sailors from other countries around the world have felt the same vice like grip on their chosen profession.

All that is left now are the memories we cherish of the best times of the sailor’s lives; when they were young and bullet-proof, “money was made round to go ‘round” and they could always count on our shipmates.

The (above and below) young stewards and seamen out of uniform – ashore, sunning or just in the crew quarters: