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Owning and building ships

So quickly did the fleet expand, that in 1888 Ropner bought a shipyard at Stockton-on-Tees. This yard was to build its own special type of tramp ship, the trunk deck ship. The hatches were placed on a narrow trunk, extending almost the full length of the ship. Because of the way ships were measured, this method of construction gave a tonnage figure that was low for the ship`s carrying capacity. As various dues, such as that for using the Suez Canal, were based on the tonnage figure, this reduced costs dramatically. Like other tramp owners, Ropner always looked for ways of reducing his overheads and making his ships more profitable.

Ropner`s fleet survived both World Wars, although losses were heavy: 28 ships in the First World War and 33 in the Second. In 1946, the company diversified, and began operating a regular cargo liner service to the southern US ports in the Gulf of Mexico. To replace their conventional tramp ships, they began to build much larger bulk carriers and ore carriers. Some of these were specially built to carry iron ore to British steel works. Ropners also owned roll-on, roll-off ferries operating from the Thames to near-European ports.

In recent years, Ropners and many other British companies have found competition so intense that they have left shipping, investing their wealth in other industries.


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