Deck 6 – Modern shipping: Merchant and passenger shipping

Guide to deck 6: Modern shipping

Die moderne Seefart auf Deck 6 des Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg. Handelsschiffe. Deck 6: Modern Shipping.

60 – Introduction: Deck 6, Modern shipping


Exhibition deck 6 is dedicated to the development of merchant and passenger shipping since the middle of the 19th century.

Sailing ships, built of wood, were able to maintain their position as the most important means of sea transport until the 1880s. However, when reliable steam engines and iron and steel became available as shipbuilding materials, steamships dominated the market on most shipping routes: Sailors could not compete with the lower freight rates due to on-time transport and a multiple of transport capacity.

In the 1960s, the standardised 20-foot container revolutionised maritime freight transport once again. The six-metre long, two-and-a-half-metre wide and high box has completely changed maritime trade in recent decades through standardisation.

A central area of the exhibition is also devoted to passenger shipping. It was mainly emigrants to the USA and business travellers who used the ship as a means of transport in the 19th and 20th centuries. Until the introduction of scheduled services with fast passenger jets, sea travel was the only connection between the continents. Today, travelling by sea is experiencing a renaissance. Caribbean, sun deck, deck chair and cocktail – the number of cruise passengers is steadily increasing.

61 – The Merchant Navy


The Industrial Revolution also changed merchant shipping. From the second half of the 19th century, the era of the wooden sailing ship came to an end – steamships made of iron and steel now dominated the transport of goods at sea.

Steamships operated according to a timetable because they were independent of the wind. They could also transport significantly more goods. The higher cargo volume increased the profit margins of the ship owners. The introduction of the marine diesel engine at the beginning of the 20th century, in turn, made maritime transport even more economical: diesel engines require few personnel for servicing and maintenance and save the costly coal.

The construction and operation of steam and motor ships was and is capital-intensive. The traditional sailing ship owner, usually a one-man operation, was usually unable to raise the funds to buy steamers. Small-scale shipowners were increasingly replaced by joint-stock companies. From then on, the shareholders financed a ship jointly. The high entrepreneurial risk of maritime shipping was mitigated by newly founded insurance and classification societies such as Lloyd’s of London or Germanischer Lloyd.

In merchant shipping, the ship operator has to pay dues. Canal, port or pilotage dues must be paid. The amount of the tariffs was always based on the volume of the actual cargo space – the net tonnage: crew and engine rooms were not taken into account.

To save fees, shipowners used crates as additional stowage space for deck cargo. These „open spaces“ through hatches were considered as non-measured cargo space and were exempt from the payment of dues.

Since 1969, the volume of a ship’s hull has been calculated without exception according to the new gross tonnage system. In this way, trickery is prevented and a clear measure of size is obtained when measuring the ship.

62 – The Container, Part 1


Boxes, sacks and pallets – until the introduction of the container, chartering, loading and transport were labour-intensive and time-consuming.

General cargo is goods with different dimensions and weights. Due to the uneven dimensions, loading a general cargo ship is complicated. Special stowage plans are drawn up to make the best possible use of the cargo space. For loading and unloading, general cargo ships have onboard winches, derricks and cranes.

Since the 1960s, container ships have replaced the traditional general cargo ship. Today, the standardised, stackable cargo box accounts for over 90 percent of all general cargo transport. Container transport required high initial investments. New cargo ships and changed port logistics became necessary. At the same time, the container rationalised the transport of goods. Shorter lay times in the port and a significant increase in transport volume resulted in cost savings.

At the beginning of the new transport era, converted general cargo freighters were used to transport stackable boxes. However, as early as the end of the 1960s, the construction of ships specialised in container transport began.

The profitability of a ship depends on the cargo volume. The more boxes a ship carries, the cheaper the transport becomes. Accordingly, the trend over time has been towards ever larger container ships.

You can find out more about the development of container transport in the next exhibition room. The way there leads you through an original 20-foot container – a TEU.

Not on display:

63 – The Container, Part 2


The container is the foundation of today’s maritime goods trade. Currently, over 8,000 container ships transport more than 20 million steel boxes across the world’s oceans every year.

The loading capacity of a ship is expressed in TEU. This abbreviation stands for „Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit“. It denotes the dimensions of a standard container measured in feet.

The container trade began in the USA in 1956. The standardised steel box shortened the handling of goods and simplified the transport of goods considerably. A container protects the cargo from damage, is stable and has a low tare weight.

One of the first container ships – the „Bell Vanguard“ of 1966 – carried just 75 units of the new type of transport box. However, the cargo volume of cargo ships increased rapidly. In 1996, the Danish container ship „Regina Maersk“ was launched. With a capacity of 6,500 TEU, it was the largest container ship in the world at the time. Over 300 metres long and 42 metres wide, the „Regina Maersk“ stowed 19 rows of containers side by side.

The latest generation of container ships has a transport capacity of about 14,000 standard boxes. In comparison, it would take 7,500 trucks or 1,000 Airbus A380 aircraft to transport the amount of goods contained in these boxes.

However, as the volume of cargo increases, problems also arise. Some port facilities are now too small for the huge container ships. Also, due to the large draught of the ships, the fairways of rivers and in ports sometimes have to be deepened.

Container ships are usually financed by fund companies. In this way, risks and dividends are widely spread.

On the tween deck we have selected models of the most important types of merchant ships on display for you. In addition to traditional general cargo ships and modern container giants, you will also discover bulk carriers for the transport of bulk goods, tankers for the transport of liquid substances and refrigerated ships for the transport of perishable goods.

– Safety at Sea:

It was not until the age of humanism that the rescue of shipwrecked people was understood as a task and a demand. Many of today’s worldwide sea rescue societies owe their foundation to charitable associations or the initiative of doctors, members of church organisations or people closely associated with seafaring.

Newspaper reports about serious shipwrecks with numerous fatalities due to failure to provide help were usually the immediate reason why people regarded rescue from distress at sea as a vocation or provided donations. Most of these rescue initiatives, which were often of local significance in the beginning, were consolidated under state supervision.

At the end of the 18th to the middle of the 19th century, three of the most important national organisations for sea rescue emerged in the United States („Massachusetts Humane Society“, 1787, today „U.S. Coast Guard“), Great Britain („Royal National Lifeboat Institution“, RNLI 1824) and Germany („Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger“, DGzRS 1865). They are responsible for the respective coastal waters in case of emergencies.

They jointly coordinate the rescue and recovery of shipwrecked persons on the high seas. Today, they have an important intergovernmental forum in the IMO (International Maritime Organization), which was founded in 1948.

– Reefer shipping:

– Models tweendeck West:

General cargo ships:

Ro-Ro ships:

Bulk cargo carriers:

Heavy duty and specialized ships:

Models in other decks:

Currently not on display:

– Tanker / Liquid Bulk shipping

Tankers on other decks:

Currently not on display:

64 – Passengers Shipping


From the middle of the 19th century, steamships and then motor ships replaced sailing. The triumphant advance of technology permanently changed passenger traffic at sea. Soon ships were sailing on fixed routes and according to binding timetables.

In the early days of regular steamship connections, passengers mainly used mail ships to go overseas. Soon, however, large fast steamers were operating weekly on the transatlantic route between Europe and North America. There was a special reason for this: while at first it was mainly business travellers who used the liner service, in the course of the 19th century millions of emigrants sought their way seawards to the New World.

Travelling on sailing ships was arduous. Cramped quarters, long journeys and a lack of hygiene facilities made travelling a torture. With the advent of steamships, sea travel became more pleasant. International shipping companies competed for the favour of passengers. Competition between shipping companies led to ever faster ships that offered first-class luxury to travellers and bearable crossings to emigrants.

In the 1960s, air travel took over passenger transport. The emergence of mass tourism, however, brought about a rebirth of sea travel. From then on, passenger ships were increasingly used for pleasure trips. Instead of getting from A to B as quickly as possible, the journey is now the destination.

Our exhibition documents the history of passenger shipping with ship models, paintings, table decorations and two passenger cabins. Megayachts represent a special kind of luxurious travel. A special section on deck 6 is dedicated to them.

Models in other decks:

– Ferries:

Models in other decks:

Logo der Joachim Herz Stiftung.

The online exhibition guide is funded by: