German Merchant shipping?

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Paul Lakowski
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German Merchant shipping?

Post by Paul Lakowski » 12 Feb 2005 21:21

I have a confused impression of the state of german merchant shipping. Several english text dismiss them out of had as being 'sweep aside' in a matter of months of the out break of war. And yet the record of Iron ore deliveries from scandinavia show millions of tons delivered per year through out the war. Additionally millions of tons of coal were exported out over seas at the same time. Pre war, 1/3 of iron ore deliveries were imported , while the general increase in steel production meant that by mid war this slipped to 1/4 imported. If the germans had little or no merchant fleets, how did they get delivered?

In the Med mid war period the Africa Korps got only a trickle of the much needed fuel and ammo and according to text on the Luftwaffa most of those were due to transport airbridge flown by Ju-52 and Me- large transports?

Yet I read the USSBS and it reports that as late as 1944/45 germany was building merchant ships to the tune of about 200,000 tons per year! Given that average merchant ships were only a few thousand tons each thants roughly 50-100 ships per year!

Can any one give a more complete account of german merchant shipping?

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Karl234
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Re: German Merchant shipping?

Post by Karl234 » 12 Feb 2005 21:38

In the Med sea the merchant ships were used were most italian.

Total merchant ship production Allied forces = 44,431,300 tons
Total merchant ship production Axis forces = 3,792,000 tons
Germany produced very few surface vessels between 1940 and 1945

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Re: German Merchant shipping?

Post by Paul Lakowski » 12 Feb 2005 22:14

Karl234 wrote:In the Med sea the merchant ships were used were most italian.

Total merchant ship production Allied forces = 44,431,300 tons
Total merchant ship production Axis forces = 3,792,000 tons
Germany produced very few surface vessels between 1940 and 1945


Thanks Karl, but I think it would be the other way around...that allied shipping yards produced hugh amounts of merchant marines?

Given an average weight of around ~5000 tons thats about ~760 german merchant ships [?]over the 6 years of war! That is compared to roughly ~8900 Allied equivillent merchant ships production?

Is there any record of allied tonnage claims against german merchant ships?

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Re: German Merchant shipping?

Post by Tiornu » 13 Feb 2005 01:52

You can try taking a look at Merchant Fleets 1939 by Jordan. The listings for German merchant ships is 32 pages long. For Sweden, 14 pages, and for Norway 51 pages.

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Post by varjag » 13 Feb 2005 04:19

A lot of the Swedish iron ore imported by Germany was shipped on Swedish, Finnish and Danish keels - and through the Baltic, which was more or less a 'German lake' 09/39 - 12/44. These ships had to be employed - they could not reach the Atlantic - were dependant on German coal to turn a profit and willingly or not - had to help the German war effort which eased the load on German merchantmen. As an aside - German ore-ships in the Baltic were mostly travelling at 'most economical speed' to conserve coal and I believe the others also had to at times.

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Post by panzerkrieg » 13 Feb 2005 05:28

Did the sweedish navy escort the ore barges destined for germany?

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 13 Feb 2005 08:17

I've been doing some internet searches for the time being. I have access to JANES books at the university where I work. I bet they have shipping editions dating back to the start of the 20 century!

On the internet there is squat about german merchant ships but plenty about allied merchant shipping, especially American shipping. Heres what I've uncovered so far.

Norway had 1081 merchant ships and lost 570 during the war . Did the norwegians flee to allied ports after the invasion?

Canada lost 89 merchant ships during the convoys.

USA built 6236 merchant ships during their war effort mostly for to supply the european war effort. The made ~ 6500 crossings in that time and moved 65 million tons of material for the war effort [troops tanks planes weapons ammo fuel foods etc etc]. They estimated it the required between 8-17 tons of material per person per year of war. I guess the difference is between the build up phase and the actual war phase?
The built
~ 500 Cargo ships
2651 Liberty boats [9000 ton capacity]
534 Victory boats [~ 8000 ton capacity]
481 T2-Se A1 tankers [~ 11,000 ton capacity]
~ 700 minor ships [Harbor ships & coast guard cutters over 200 tons etc?]

One source estimated UK shipping at 1.25 million tons while USA shipping reached about 4700 ships by the end of the war they built 750 in 1942 and 1500 in 1943. That leaves ~ 4000 in 1944/45.

[snipit] It took 250 depth charges to sink the average UBoat.

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Post by varjag » 13 Feb 2005 11:18

Norway had, from memory, in 1939 the third biggest merchant fleet in the world.Little Norway could not support this shipping empire - so most of her tonnage was continually employed in international and intercontinental trade. Hence most of the norwegian merchant fleet was away from Norway when Germany occupied her - and was promptly absorbed in the Allied war effort. There was even a norwegian Shipping Office established in London in 1940 to administer this collossal allied resource. Those ships that c o u l d, fled from Norway in April 1940 but most stayed. Some were interned in the Swedish port of Gothenburg and tried a (failed) breakout to Britain in 1943.

To Panzerkrieg's question; The Swedish navy did perform some 'neutrality guard-work' in the southern Baltic but I believe it was sporadic. North of the narrows between the Aaland Islands and the Gulf of Bothnia there was no need for escorts as the narrows were mined. The only threat, south thereof was from the occasional Soviet submarine that managed to get through the mine-barriers in the Gulf of Finland - I belive one or two ships were lost to them in 1942. The Swedish navy was badly equipped for AS work (no ASDIC, only hydrophones) and mostly contributed by 'a presence'.

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 13 Feb 2005 16:35

Norway had, from memory, in 1939 the third biggest merchant fleet in the world.Little Norway could not support this shipping empire - so most of her tonnage was continually employed in international and intercontinental trade. Hence most of the norwegian merchant fleet was away from Norway when Germany occupied her - and was promptly absorbed in the Allied war effort. There was even a norwegian Shipping Office established in London in 1940 to administer this collossal allied resource. Those ships that c o u l d, fled from Norway in April 1940 but most stayed. Some were interned in the Swedish port of Gothenburg and tried a (failed) breakout to Britain in 1943


Hi being away from home I haven't access to all my books etc, but I think that Norway had the 3rd biggest Tanker fleet, whilst its overall Merchant fleet was a little bit further down than 3rd-maybe 5th. I have posted about this before but can't find it :x

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 13 Feb 2005 21:52

Andy H wrote:
Norway had, from memory, in 1939 the third biggest merchant fleet in the world.Little Norway could not support this shipping empire - so most of her tonnage was continually employed in international and intercontinental trade. Hence most of the norwegian merchant fleet was away from Norway when Germany occupied her - and was promptly absorbed in the Allied war effort. There was even a norwegian Shipping Office established in London in 1940 to administer this collossal allied resource. Those ships that c o u l d, fled from Norway in April 1940 but most stayed. Some were interned in the Swedish port of Gothenburg and tried a (failed) breakout to Britain in 1943


Hi being away from home I haven't access to all my books etc, but I think that Norway had the 3rd biggest Tanker fleet, whilst its overall Merchant fleet was a little bit further down than 3rd-maybe 5th. I have posted about this before but can't find it :x

Andy H

Thanks guys very help full information and Andy if you can find that list I'd appreciate it!

I did find an old 1964 book on shipping that covered registered shipping , as a matter of interest heres what they had. [some ships were WW-II era or prewar , but most were late 40s-late 50s and the tonnage is generaly about 50% more than typical WW-II freighters.These are the ships ranging from 3000 tons and up to well over 50,000 tons.


Belgium had 186 ships
French had 110 ships
Dutch 247 ships
Denmark had 118 ships
Italy 88 ships
Finland had 3 listed and Poland also had 3 listed

Any one know what happened to these countries merchant ships, when those countries were occupied?

UK had 1105 ships
Canada 53 ships
Spain had 50 ships
Portugal had 32 ships
Norway 145 ships
Argentine 51 ships
Iceland 10 ships
Sweden had 179 ships
South Africa had 10 listed.

Germany had 175 merchant ships listed.

THe shell oil company had 161 ships by itself. Shell Co is Belgian isn't it? .Any one know if the massive Shell fleet of Oil tankers was a post war development ?

At first I thought this was just an interesting snipit , since a portion of the ships are actually war vintage or even prewar [some are even pre WW-I Ships!] . But then thought that , while the ships and tonnage would change , the number of berths in their ports would not change much in the 20 years since the war. That got me to thinking if it was in indicator of the number of European Merchant ships during the war?

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Post by Andy H » 14 Feb 2005 05:30

Well whilst reading about Swiss neutrality, I learn't that the Swiss took over some 60,000tons of Greek shipping which they used to export goods to various counties inc. Britian and the USA via N.Africa & Portugal

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Post by Andy H » 14 Feb 2005 05:32

THe shell oil company had 161 ships by itself. Shell Co is Belgian isn't it?


Shell Oil is/was a Anglo/Dutch venture

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German Merchant Shipping

Post by PJF » 14 Feb 2005 18:36

While there isn't much english language material about German merchant shipping on the web there are some german language info available.

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/seekrieg/chronik.htm#Z

Provides a COMPREHENSIVE day by day summary of naval events during WWII. It contains a lot of info about merchant losses - from interceptions of ships trying to make it back to Germany in 39/40 to losses to soviet air attacks on evacuation convoys in 1945.

the site

http://www.wwiidaybyday.com

has a subsection named "Verluste der Deutschen Handelsmarine 1939 - 1945" which lists german merchant losses alphabetically...the tables also provide owner, year built, tonnage and fate... albeit in german.

My german is VERY poor but after some effort and with the aid of a german/english dictionary I can make sense of the info provided... forget altavista translations... it mangles the translation worse than I can do on my own.

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Post by Erik E » 14 Feb 2005 20:31

This exellent page has the history of nearly all Norwegian merchantships during ww2, serving for both Axis and allies!

http://www.warsailors.com/freefleet/index.html

Also lots of statistics for sunken Norwegian ships here:

http://www.warsailors.com/freefleet/shipstats.html

EE

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 15 Feb 2005 05:17

Thanks very much for the links , I will get to them when I can and translate and see what I can find.

In the meantime I came across these converted merchant ships called Sperrbrecher. Heres what I got so far.

Highly specialized converted merchant marine ships designed to breech mine fields by force rather than time consuming mine hunting [which was conducted by ~ 200 x mine sweeper ships]. These ships were reinforced with armor and several flak and dual purpose guns and mounted a special Magnetic field generator “ VES” that exploded magnetic mines at a distance from the ships. About 100 were converted as the war progress and while ½ where destroyed , about 13 remained operational at the end of the war.


Can any one tell me more about these? Where they the ships that allowed the channel mine fields to be breeched allowing breakouts? Or where they just for harbour defence?

I must admitt that I was staggered to read they converted 100 merchant ships to this role. That must have cost a bundle? I was wondering if these could have been used in Norway to clear minepaths to beaches? Where they planned for "Sealion" ?

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