THIS year the United States expects to build over four times as many ships as were launched by all the countries of the world in 1938, when shipbuilding was at a 17-year peak. By the end of the war the United States is almost certain to have the largest merchant fleet in the world, with considerably more tonnage than when the war broke out. When the immediate postwar tasks are completed, when the American troops have returned home and world reconstruction is well under way, should this country try to maintain itself as the dominant shipping nation of the world? If we do not seek shipping predominance, what ought to be our goal?
When Germany invaded Poland, the world had about 59 million gross tons of seagoing merchant shipping, counting both tankers and dry cargo vessels.[i] Probably about 25 million tons of shipping had been sunk by the end of 1942 and just under 15 million tons of new shipping launched.[ii] During 1943 launchings will probably come to about 16 million tons for the world as a whole; in 1944 they may be 20 million or more. Sinkings are likely to be anything from 5 to 15 million tons a year. On this basis, the world's merchant fleet at the end of 1943 would be between 50 and 60 million tons, and at the end of 1944 between 55 and 75 million. Therefore, if the war should end during these two years the world might have anywhere from 85 to 125 percent of the shipping it had in 1939. The carrying capacity of this fleet would be smaller than the figures indicate, because many of the ships counted here as merchantmen are being used as transports, naval auxiliaries and aircraft carriers. Ship production would be at such a level that merchant tonnage would increase rapidly once sinkings were stopped.
The United States is rapidly becoming the dominant shipping nation of the world. While the published figures do not permit an accurate calculation of the present size of our merchant fleet, Admiral Vickery of the Maritime Commission said in March 1943: "In not
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