Pre-colonial Ship Building Industry of India
The developed condition of textile manufacturing and other industries in United India before the colonial era is a well-known fact. However, many will be surprised to know that, people of United India were one of the best in making ships.
Before the advent of the colonizers of the East India company, the shipping industry was in full bloom. However, like all other indigenous industries, ship building was also systematically crippled by the British colonial administrators.
Mr. William Digby’s account is a testament to the fact that at the port of Calcutta, the shipbuilding industry was already at its zenith when the colonizers began to exercise their control over this area. He mentions that, “In 1800, Governor General Lord Wellesley reports to his masters in London Plan Hall that 10,000 new ships are present on the port of Calcutta, which were built on the same place…. Abundance of wood here will lead to further development in it very soon. It makes clear that in this part as many ships could be built as required by the private English merchants to transport the merchandise”.
Mr. Mukherjee writes, “On 16th December 1670, a Ballasorian English resident wrote in his letter to the Directors of Company of London that ships of many English merchants are built here every year. Old and best type of Teak (a type of wood) is available here. Finest quality of iron is also available here in surplus. All sorts of craftsmanship: work such as bolting, pintle-work, nailing, anchor-work, etc are perfectly done by the blacksmith here.”
Since there was a good system of governance in place, that is why the resources that were available nearby were utilized and workers facilitated to ensure development of this vital industry. According to an account, in Bombay two transportation ships or naval warfare ships could be built just in 18 months time. Wood from forests of Gujarat and Malabar were utilized for the purpose of ship building. Iron was also produced within India which was utilized in ships that were made here.
Ships made in India surpassed ships made in Europe. Teak wood ships remained strong even after 50 years of their production.