War

Naval technology and warships have been a part of warfare for centuries, with some of the first instances of ships used for combat starting in ancient Mesopotamia. Although the early warships would not be recognisable as such when compared to modern ships, there were highly effective at the time and gave any empire an advantage over their enemy if they could not defend their territorial waters.

During the Ancient Greek and Roman empires, all warships were galleys, which were long, narrow vessels powered by rows of oarsmen. The ships were typically designed to ram into other vessels in order to attempt to sink them, although bow technology was deployed on a number of them. When catapult technology was developed during the 4th century B.C., it was soon adapted for use on boats, allowing for the targetting of both other vessels as well as land-based targets. This had the knock-on effect of reducing the viability of ramming, as any vessel coming in close would make for a far easier target for enemy catapult fire.

Naval warfare began to change again in Europe during the 14th century with cannons first being added to ship’s arsenals, although due to their difficult to reload, aim, and fire, they were not as popular on ships until later centuries. The addition of cannons on a ship greatly increased the weight of the ship, although this was not a problem in terms of the ships ability to stay afloat, it did make propulsion using oarsmen impossible, leading to warships making exclusing use of sails for propulsion.

The middle of the 17th century saw the design for warships begin to stabalise across Europe, with certain standard features being expected during construction. Warships began to store increasing numbers of cannons across a ship’s broadsides, necessitating the invention of different tactics that could accommodate the limitations of a ship’s cannons.

The 19th century again saw a revolution in the design of ships as steam power began to be implemented as a method of propulsion for vessels. At first, due to the cost and difficult in constructing steam ships, they were generally only used as reserve ships that were designed to give support to a main fleet, rather than lead the fleet. As production methods advanced this soon changed, and steam-powered ships were the most common warships for decades until the invention and implementation of the internal combustion engine on boats.

Fishing

One of the oldest human activities that we are aware of is fishing, with specialised fishing vessels being used for almost all commercial fishing that currently takes place around the world. Although any boat can be used for fishing, catching greater amounts of fish typically requires larger boats that are suitable for carring heavy amounts of cargo. There are an estimated 4.6 million commercial fishing vessels around the world, with 75% of them estimated to be in Asia along. Although attempts have been made to calculate the number of non-commercial fishing vessels, due to the nature of smaller boats to be able to be used for numerous purposes, it has been impossible to even obtain a rough estimate of how many boats are used primarily for fishing in a non-commercial context.

Some of the earliest fishing vessels were little more than rafts or canoes, many of which would likely never have been designed for use in open ocean, but rather for lakes and rivers in-land, with many canoes having been designed for use in slim jungle rivers. These early boats were almost exclusively made from wood and covered in bark or animal hide to create a water-resistant coating for the craft. Some of the earliest archaeological boat finds have been dated back to the Neolithic preiod of around 7,000 – 9,000 years ago.

Boat technologies have typically evolved in tandem with one another, with the technology for fishing vessels being developed at roughly the same rate as technology for boats used in war or exploration all progressing at the same pace. It is unknown when the first sails began to be used in boat construction, but it likely pre-dates the invention of textiles, with some of the earliest boat sails being constructed entirely out of animal skin.

The Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilisations to make use of the boats as a major part of their economy. Around 4,000 B.C. the Egyptians were building narrow boats there were designed to be rowed by several oarsmen. They continued to develop boat technology and made a number of advances to boat design that rapidly spread around both the Egyptian empire and the world at large. With the invention of cotton, the Egyptians were able to create sails that reduced the need for oarsmen in many circumstances, although many were still needed. These early sail-boats were large enough and sturdy enough to be able to cross oceans and were extensively used for trading purposes.

The vikings made a number of advances in boat construction and were one of the first peoples to began to make use of metal during boat construction, this allowed their boats to be far more durable and less prone to damage when striking ground.

Transport

The history of ship transport dates back centuries and has changed numerous times throughout maritime history. Although ships have always had to carry some form of cargo on long voyages, they were generally not specialised for this and it was not until the 1950s that highly specialised cargo ships came into existance. The main change in the shipping industry came in the form of standardised shipping crates that ships became far more specialised at carrying cargo.

The transportation of bulk cargo has not changed too much, as it can often be counter-productive to store substances such as coal or gain in seperate containers rather than storing them unpackaged in the hull of a ship. But smaller commodities, such as cars or furniture, are nearly exclusively shipped in ISO containers. In 2001 it was estimated that more than 90% of global trade for non-bulk goods was carried out using ISO containers, although many of this takes place over land as well as over the sea.

Some of the earliest container ships were oil tankers that were refitted after no long being required for use at the end of World War II, given that there was a large supply of the ships at that time. During the 1950s ships started to be manufactured purpose-built for holding large numbers of shipping containers, Although the transition to exclusively using ISO containers was not a smooth one, as a number of dockyards and unions voiced their concerns that the containers would cause job losses that may lead to lawsuits.

Racing

Since the invention of maritime sports, boat racing remains one of the most popular. Both an olympic and independant sport, boat racing consists of either two or more boats racing against each other in a body of water. There are types of boat races that take place in both still water and out on the open ocean, although both necessitate the use of different vessels.

Boat races can broadly be split into two seperate categories: human-powered and engined. Human-powered boat races are typically rowing events, numerous of which take place over the world all-year round. One of the most notable rowing events is the Oxford University vs Cambridge University boat race, a race that stretches back for decades and is viewed by large audiences.

Olympic boat races feature both rowing and motor engine boats, although engine powered boat racing events take place on the ocean. The ocean events are not always straight-line races like rowing events, and may involve having to complete a set course within a specific period of time, with contestants starting the course one after another in order to compete to get the best time within the limitations of the course.