Although Latin America had a substantial merchant fleet by the 1950s, at the end of the century most of the major shipping companies have disappeared from the continent. Continuing to grow through protectionist efforts during the 1960s and 1970s, the industry began to decline when container technology, requiring large capital investments, shifted competition to access capital. This book shows how technology undermined and finally shattered the nationalist efforts to create a significant Latin American merchant shipping industry. Written in a clear and concise style, it provides the first authoritative survey of Latin American shipping during the second half of the century.
The book opens with a discussion of cargo preference—a form of protectionism—in Chile and shows how Latin American merchant fleets expanded under cargo preference. Most countries witnessed a dramatic expansion in their national fleets. In the 1970s, the impact of containers, a new technology, began to be felt. As the book shows, the large capital outlays needed to adopt containers undermined the foundations of Latin American shipping companies, and most of the merchant shipping companies in the region gradually collapsed. The book also examines the non-commercial role of merchant shipping, particularly in international clashes such as the Cuban Revolution.