Steam Ship or Diesel Ship?
First there were steamboats. Steamships came into practical use during the early 1800’s with a greater mastery of steam technology. Steam engines were then mounted on larger ships and eventually ocean vessels.
Steamships usually use the prefix designation such as “PS” for paddle steamer and “FV” for fishing vessel.
“SS” stands for screw steamer (using a propeller or a screw.)
Although steamships became less common, “SS” is still assumed by many to stand for “steamship” – however ships powered by internal combustion engines use a prefix such as “MV” for motor vessel. Therefore it is not correct to use “SS” for most modern vessels.
So it’s not clear why we still commonly refer to these vessels as steamships today, but it’s a convention that’s stood the test of time.
We are only aware of one currently operating steamship larger than a tugboat or medium-sized lake steamer, and that’s the PS Waverley, an ocean-going steam-powered wheeler based in Glasgow, UK that just keeps chugging along. She was built in 1946, replacing another PS Waverley built in 1899, which served in the Second World War but sunk in 1940 while helping to evacuate troops from Dunkirk. The decline of the steamship began after WWII when diesel engines matured as an economical and viable alternative to steam.
Notable Steam Vessels
Each year, an estimated 10,000 shipping containers fall off container ships at sea. Although many of these containers float at the surface for months, most eventually sink to the seafloor. On average, that’s about one every hour falling overboard never to be seen again. That’s a lot of toys, electronics, construction supplies and furniture sitting on the ocean’s floors.
We hope you found that bit of trivia interesting!
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