VOYAGE DATABASE, 1900-1914: Key Findings

1. Capacity utilization.

This was crucial to early 20th century transatlantic passenger shipping companies, because their costs (capital and operating) were nearly all fixed (did not adjust up and down with fluctuations in revenues), and because those revenue fluctuations could be extreme (especially for the migrant traffic which was the companie's core revenue source. Because the Voyage Database has complete passenger traffic and passenger capacity data for every voyage, capacity utilization rates can be calculated very specifically and accurately.


a) In contrast to early 21st century airlines, the North Atlantic passenger steamship companies during 1900-1914 averaged only about a 40% capacity utilization [Keeling, "Capacity," p. 226]. This was after taking into account nearly 30% of overall capacity tied in reserve vessels, vessels loaned out to other routes, or undergoing maintenance, repair, or retrofitting [Keeling, "Capacity," p. 236].


b) There is something of a mystery in the migration and shipping history literature as to why steerage class passengers were overcharged relative to second class passengers. The seeming oddity of this is heightened by the knowledge (shown by calculations based in part of the Voyage Database) that second class traffic was mostly made up of migrant passengers, though less overwhelmingly so than in steerage [Keeling, Business of Transatlantic Migration, p. 286]. One reason why 2nd class fares were priced at a lower margin over cost, compared to steerage, however, is that second class (the Voyage Database results show) had a much higher capacity utilization than steerage [Keeling, "Capacity," p. 237].


2. Ship funnels :  go here


3. Migration flows


For other key findings, see book, especially tables and graphs.