Ocean Liners

The golden age of ocean travel

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An exhibition in 2018 at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum explored how the world’s greatest ocean liners, and the journeys they made, have helped shape the modern world.

From the middle of the 19th Century until the end of the 20th, ocean liners were emblems of human progress and modernity. Their design was sumptuous, their engineering was ground-breaking, and they forever romanticised our ideas of travel and leisure. At the height of their popularity they became floating symbols of the nations that launched them.

The world of ocean liners has changed enormously since the Titanic sailed over 100 years ago. Back then, these enormous vessels were used to transport people, mail and cargo from A to B. Many of those functions have now been taken over by aeroplanes or container vessels.

More change is coming to the world of shipping. Technology will provide us with more information about the climate at sea, and will eventually lead to unmanned vessels. The big losses of the past, including the Titanic’s iceberg disaster, were down to human error. So what happens if there is no human involvement in shipping at all?

It will lead to a very different way of looking at risk, and a different definition of safety. What won’t be different, however, is the role of insurance underwriters. They will be doing the same as they did a century ago: assessing the risk, placing a price on it, and hoping nothing bad happens.

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