To mark the publication of Hindsight Perspectives Report
Local knowledge, global change: a study of Lloyd’s Register surveyors 1834-1860
Dr Elin Jones, Lecturer in Maritime History at the University of Exeter
How can the past inform our responses to contemporary maritime challenges?
The first decades of the nineteenth century saw enormous technological change in the maritime industry, with the development of steam-powered paddle ships, screw-steamers and iron-clad vessels gradually replacing the sailing ship. Decarbonisation is arguably the biggest shift the industry will undergo since the sail-to-steam transition, and it may test organisations and relationships along similar fault lines.
New forms of work developed onshore and offshore, and new dangers arose: maritime disasters involving multiple casualties were widely reported and discussed. This was a key period in the professionalisation of maritime roles and the concept of the “objective surveyor” was born.
There are important lessons for today in this response to change. Lloyd’s Register was increasingly concerned with whether their locally embedded agents could be relied on as impartial in this shifting technological and social landscape. Corporations and state actors alike must today deal with local experts on the ground around the world, who will be on the front line of the profound technological change that will underpin the transition to Net Zero.
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