Shipping: Tankers on Tyne

From shipyards along the lower Tyne and Glasgow's narrow Clyde came forth the proud ships that once ruled the waves. Until World War II, Great Britain built nearly half of the world's vessels. But for at least a decade the British shipbuilding industry has been badly ailing: last year it launched 1,000,000 tons of merchant ships, less than in 1947, while the Japanese alone produced six times that amount, carving out 47% of the total world production.

There are signs that the tide may be turning now, thanks in part to a $103.5 million government loan fund for modernization and $600...

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