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Concrete ship

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Concrete ships are ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

s built
Boat building
Boat building, one of the oldest branches of engineering, is concerned with constructing the hulls of boats and, for sailboats, the masts, spars and rigging.-Parts:* Bow - the front and generally sharp end of the hull...

 of steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 and ferrocement
Ferrocement
The term ferrocement is most commonly applied to a mixture of Portland cement and sand reinforced with layers of woven or expanded steel mesh and closely spaced small-diameter steel rods rebar. It can be used to form relatively thin, compound curved sheets to make hulls for boats, shell roofs,...

 (reinforced concrete
Reinforced concrete
Reinforced concrete is concrete in which reinforcement bars , reinforcement grids, plates or fibers have been incorporated to strengthen the concrete in tension. It was invented by French gardener Joseph Monier in 1849 and patented in 1867. The term Ferro Concrete refers only to concrete that is...

) instead of more traditional materials, such as steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 or wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

. The advantage of ferrocement construction is that materials are cheap and readily available, while the disadvantages are that construction labor costs are high, as are operating costs. (Ferrocement ships require thick hulls, which means extra mass to push and less space for cargo.) During the late 19th century, there were concrete river barges in Europe, and during both World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, steel shortages led the US military to order the construction of small fleets of ocean-going concrete ships, the largest of which was the SS Selma
SS Selma
SS Selma was an oil tanker built in 1919 by F.F. Ley and Company, Mobile, Alabama. President Woodrow Wilson approved the construction of 24 concrete vessels of which only 12 were actually completed....

. Few concrete ships were completed in time to see wartime service during World War I, but during 1944 and 1945, concrete ships and barges were used to support U.S. and British invasions in Europe and the Pacific. Since the late 1930s, there have also been ferrocement pleasure boats.

History



The oldest known ferrocement watercraft was a dinghy
Dinghy
A dinghy is a type of small boat, often carried or towed for use as a ship's boat by a larger vessel. It is a loanword from either Bengali or Urdu. The term can also refer to small racing yachts or recreational open sailing boats. Utility dinghies are usually rowboats or have an outboard motor,...

 built by Joseph-Louis Lambot
Joseph-Louis Lambot
Joseph-Louis Lambot , is the inventor of ferro-cement, which led to the development of what is now known as reinforced concrete...

 in Southern France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1848. Lambot's boat was featured in the Exposition Universelle
Exposition Universelle (1855)
The Exposition Universelle of 1855 was an International Exhibition held on the Champs-Elysées in Paris from May 15 to November 15, 1855. Its full official title was the Exposition Universelle des produits de l'Agriculture, de l'Industrie et des Beaux-Arts de Paris 1855.The exposition was a major...

 held in Paris in 1855.

Beginning in the 1860s, ferrocement barges were built in Europe for use on canals, and around 1896, an Italian engineer, Carlo Gabellini, began building small ships out of ferrocement. The most famous of his ships was the Liguria.

Between 1908 and 1914, larger ferrocement barges began to be made in Germany, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, and California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. The remains of a British ship of this type, the auxiliary coaster Violette (built 1919), can be seen at Hoo, Kent, England.

On August 2, 1917, Nicolay Fougner of Norway launched the first self-propelled ferrocement ship intended for ocean travel. This was an 84-foot vessel of 400 tons named Namsenfjord. With the success of this ship, additional ferrocement vessels were ordered, and in October 1917, the U.S. government invited Fougner to head a study into the feasibility of building ferrocement ships in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

About the same time, the California businessman W. Leslie Comyn
William Leslie Comyn
William Leslie Comyn was a Californian businessman, shipbuilder and builder of one of the first large Concrete ships.Comyn was the second son of Charles Comyn an English civil servant and was born at Shepherd's Bush, London. His great-uncle Stephen George Comyn had been naval chaplain to the...

 took the initiative to build ferrocement ships on his own. He formed the San Francisco Ship Building Company (in Oakland, California
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

), and hired Alan Macdonald and Victor Poss to design the first American ferrocement ship, a 6,125-ton steamer named the SS Faith
SS Faith
The SS Faith was the first concrete ship built in the United States. It was constructed by the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company in 1918 owned by William Leslie Comyn. It cost $750,000.- The construction :...

. Faith was launched March 18, 1918. She cost $750,000 to build. She was used to carry bulk cargo for trade until 1921, when she was sold and scrapped as a breakwater
Breakwater (structure)
Breakwaters are structures constructed on coasts as part of coastal defence or to protect an anchorage from the effects of weather and longshore drift.-Purposes of breakwaters:...

 in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

.

On April 12, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 approved the Emergency Fleet Corporation
United States Shipping Board Merchant Fleet Corporation
The Emergency Fleet Corporation was established by the United States Shipping Board, sometimes referred to as the War Shipping Board,http://www.gwpda.org/wwi-www/Hurley/bridgeTC.htm | The Bridge To France by Edward N. Hurley, Wartime Chairman of the U. S. Shipping Board 16 April 1917 pursuant to...

 program which oversaw the construction of 24 ferrocement ships for the war. However, when the war ended in November 1918, only 12 ferrocement ships were under construction and none of them had been completed. These 12 ships were eventually completed, but soon sold to private companies who used them for light-trading, storage, and scrap.

Other countries that looked into ferrocement ship construction during this period included Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

.

Between the world wars, there was little commercial or military interest in concrete ship construction. The reason was that other shipbuilding methods were cheaper and less labor intensive, and other kinds of ships were cheaper to operate. However, in 1942, after the U.S. entered World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the U.S. military found that its contractors had steel shortages. Consequently, the U.S. government contracted McCloskey & Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

 to build 24 self-propelled concrete ships. Construction started in July 1943. The shipyard was at Hookers Point in Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida. The population of Tampa in 2010 was 335,709....

, and at its peak, it employed 6,000 workers. The U.S. government also contracted with two companies in California for the construction of concrete barge ships
Concrete barge
A concrete barge is a type of barge that is made out of concrete.Concrete barges are used as a platform for:* floating homes* fish farm buildings* floating offshore structures for natural gas storage and loadingother historical uses include:...

. Barge ships were large vessels that lacked engines to propel them. Instead, they were towed by tugs.

In Europe, ferro cement barges (FCBs) played a crucial role in World War II operations, particularly in the D-Day Normandy landings, where they were used as part of the Mulberry harbour
Mulberry harbour
A Mulberry harbour was a British type of temporary harbour developed in World War II to offload cargo on the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy....

 defenses, for fuel and munitions transportation, and as floating pontoons. Some were fitted with engines and used as mobile canteens and troop carriers. Some of these vessels survive as abandoned wrecks in the Thames Estuary
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

; two remain in civil use as moorings at Westminster. One notable wartime FCB, previously beached at Canvey Island
Canvey Island
Canvey Island is a civil parish and reclaimed island in the Thames estuary in England. It is separated from the mainland of south Essex by a network of creeks...

, was destroyed by vandals on May 22, 2003.
Several FCBs remain beached on the banks of the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

 at Purton
Purton, Berkeley
Purton is a village on the east bank of the River Severn, 3 miles north of Berkeley, in Gloucestershire, England. The village is in the civil parish of Hinton. It lies opposite the hamlet of Purton on the west bank of the river....

 in Gloucestershire.

In 1944 a concrete firm in California purposed a submarine shaped freighter which they claimed could achieve speeds of 75 knots. The war ended any more research into the project. Many believe anyway that the claims were way over stated.

Concrete barges also served in the Pacific during 1944 and 1945. From the Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Mail, February 5, 1945:
One concrete barge under tow by USS Jicarilla (ATF-104) was lost off Saipan
Saipan
Saipan is the largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , a chain of 15 tropical islands belonging to the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean with a total area of . The 2000 census population was 62,392...

 during a typhoon, and another knocked out a light house in Brisbane
Brisbane
Brisbane is the capital and most populous city in the Australian state of Queensland and the third most populous city in Australia. Brisbane's metropolitan area has a population of over 2 million, and the South East Queensland urban conurbation, centred around Brisbane, encompasses a population of...

 but the rest served admirably.

Today



Surviving concrete ships are no longer in use as ships. Several live on in various forms, mostly as museums or breakwaters
Breakwater (structure)
Breakwaters are structures constructed on coasts as part of coastal defence or to protect an anchorage from the effects of weather and longshore drift.-Purposes of breakwaters:...

. For example, SS San Pasqual, a former oil tanker, lies off the coast of Cayo Las Brujas, Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, where it served as a hotel, then as a base for divers. Currently, the San Pasqual is abandoned.

The wreckage of SS Atlantus
SS Atlantus
SS Atlantus is the most famous of the twelve concrete ships built by the Liberty Ship Building Company in Brunswick, Georgia during and after World War I....

 (commissioned in 1919, sunk in 1926), is visible off Cape May
Cape May
Cape May is a peninsula and island ; the southern tip of the island is the southernmost point of the state of New Jersey, United States. It runs southwards from the New Jersey mainland, separating Delaware Bay from the Atlantic Ocean...

, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

. The tanker SS Selma
SS Selma
SS Selma was an oil tanker built in 1919 by F.F. Ley and Company, Mobile, Alabama. President Woodrow Wilson approved the construction of 24 concrete vessels of which only 12 were actually completed....

,29°20′40"N 94°47′10"W is located northwest of the fishing pier at Seawolf Park
Seawolf Park
Seawolf Park is a memorial to , a United States Navy Sargo-class submarine mistakenly sunk by U.S. Navy forces in 1944 during World War II. It is located on Pelican Island , just north of Galveston, Texas, in the United States....

 in Galveston. The ship was launched the same day Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles, ending the war, so it never saw wartime duty and instead was used as an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the few ships used in World War I, the SS Creteboom, lies abandoned in the River Moy, just outside the town of Ballina
Ballina, County Mayo
Ballina is a large town in north County Mayo in Ireland. It lies at the mouth of the River Moy near Killala Bay, in the Moy valley and Parish of Kilmoremoy, with the Ox Mountain range to the east and the Nephin Beg mountains to the west...

, County Mayo
County Mayo
County Mayo is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the village of Mayo, which is now generally known as Mayo Abbey. Mayo County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county is 130,552...

, Ireland and is considered of much interest to the area's many tourists. The largest collection, though, is doubtless at Powell River
Powell River, British Columbia
Powell River is a city on the northern Sunshine Coast of southwestern British Columbia, Canada. Most of its population lives near the eastern shores of Malaspina Strait, that part of the larger Georgia Strait between Texada Island and the Mainland...

, British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, where a lumber mill uses ten ships as a breakwater. The SS Palo Alto, a concrete tanker that was launched May 29, 1919, was purchased and turned into an amusement pier, and is still visible at Seacliff State Beach
Seacliff State Beach
Seacliff is a California State Beach located off Highway 1 in the town of Aptos about south of Santa Cruz, on State Park Drive. The beach is most known for the concrete ship SS Palo Alto lying in the water...

, near Aptos, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. The SS McKittrick, launched in 1921 in Wilmington, N.C. later became the SS Monte Carlo
SS Monte Carlo
The SS Monte Carlo was an oil tanker launched in 1921 as the SS McKittrick but later became a gambling and prostitution ship in 1936 off the coast of Coronado, California.- Grounding :...

, a gaming ship off Coronado, California that ran aground on December 31, 1936. The wreck is peroidically exposed with strong storm tides.

Modern hobbyists also build ferroboats. The reason is that construction methods do not require special tools, and materials are comparatively cheap. A pioneer in this movement is Hartley Boats, which has been selling plans for concrete boats since 1938. Meanwhile, since the 1960s, the American Society of Civil Engineers has sponsored the National Concrete Canoe
Concrete canoe
A concrete canoe is a canoe made of concrete, typically created for an engineering competition.In spirit, the event is similar to that of a cardboard boat race—make the seemingly unfloatable float...

 Competition.

In Europe, especially the Netherlands, concrete is still used to build some of the barges on which houseboat
Houseboat
A houseboat is a boat that has been designed or modified to be used primarily as a human dwelling. Some houseboats are not motorized, because they are usually moored, kept stationary at a fixed point and often tethered to land to provide utilities...

s are built.

External links