by Jon Malings

Transcribed from The Argus, Melbourne, Saturday, 26th Feb 1921

Shipping Depression

Worst in History

Sir H. Samman’s Views 

“I know Australia; it is God’s own country; but if this policy of industrial extension is continued, Australia will find herself in a more serious plight than the countries of the old world, where industry has been plunged into chaos.” This note of warning was sounded yesterday by Sir Henry Samman, a former English ship-owner, at present on a holiday visit to Australia,  With the exception of Sir Charles Harrie, Sir Henry is the oldest member of the committee of management of Lloyds’s Register of Shipping, having been a committee member for 26 years.  Sir Henry, who reached Melbourne on Thursday from London by the Orient steamer Osterley, is also senior vice-president of the Hull Chamber of Commerce and Shipping. 

The position in England, Sir Henry added, was as black as it could be.  Shipping was idle everywhere, and it would be only with difficulty that companies would survive.  The cost of ship construction had increased from £18 and £20 per ton to £40, seaman’s wages had been quadrupled, and the expenses of running steamers increased out of all proportion to receipts.  There were now 400 or 500 steamers idle in England, and others were running with their holds half full, and at an enormous loss.  

Referring to the effects of the coal strike in England, Sir Henry said that many industries have been obliged to close, because of the fact that, while Mr. Smillie, the miners’ leader, was driving for the last shilling, America had obtained England’s coal markets on the Continent, and this had reacted disastrously on the miners and industry generally. The men, he believed, had been taught their lesson. And an extreme and suicidal industrial policy would be less popular in the future.  

Sir Henry Samman is of the opinion that the shipping depression will be felt most keenly in America, where large numbers of ships were built during the war at enormous cost, and where the surplus tonnage is greater than in any other country.  “I do not see any prospect of improved conditions for years to come,” said Sir Henry.  “Bad times are ahead and the only salvation for a young country like Australia is to work. History will repeat itself, and it will be the survival of the fittest.”