THE IMPORTANCE OF COAL TO OUR MERCHANT AND WARSHIPS

{not as obvious as than you think - right type or wrong type?}!

 Please start your visit to this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Maitland_coalfields and read the first paragraph. Just two seconds of your time! You should have read that the coal mines in and around Maitland New South Wales in Aussieland suffered a severe slump in business in the 1960's. That's really all I want you to know at this stage. Mind you, now in 2011, were just a teeny weeny bit late 'cos the 1960's was a long time ago - approximately 50 years too late, and made more poignant because you will have noted that the mines started in 1801, four years before Trafalgar! Now, I want you to remember that dear old Oz is currently selling hundreds of millions of tons of coal to China, who burn it, cause dreadful pollution and cock a snook at the world's effort to cut down on greenhouse gases. She is the number one polluter producing millions of tons of atmospheric poison. It is necessary, or so she says, for her to compete in the world's produce race, and Oz couldn't care less, although on a bad day when the winds change, a great deal of mainland Asia pollution gets blown down south east towards the antipodes.  What the Aussies know, but the Chinese plus many others seemingly don't, is that Australian coal  is a great pollutant, far more that coal found mainly in Europe, Welsh coal being the finest of all, and pollutes less than other stocks. Why? Simple to relate really. We all know that coal is formed after thousands of years when trees [mainly] die and rot down forming the hard carbon called coal.  Trees grow in earth and for some inexplicable reason the earth stays with the wood producing "earthy coal" down under, whereas back in a more ancient cultivated and land managed Europe, for some inexplicable reason, the earth drops away leaving almost pure coal. Needless to say, European coal burns cleanly and Australian coal does not! More of importance in a moment.

Steam ship technology because of the foregoing, has two very clear burning methods to produce the necessary steam, and for the purposes of this important story, I am going to call them European [chiefly British and French] and the rest of the world [chiefly Australia]. Suffice to say at this moment that our steam ships wouldn't, and didn't work when fuelled with anything {?} other than British coal, but Welsh coal if it was readily available!

Now for my story.

Steam ships have been around for many a long year starting well inside the first half of the 19th century. Both the naval and the mercantile marine vessels were fitted with such machinery in addition to sails, which took a protracted period before ships were built without masts. Those built with masts, particularly naval vessels, used them on occasions even when the technology of steam was fully established and sails were an encumbrance and not an asset.  Today, a large part of the fleet are steam vessels providing a 'military punch' which out flanks the rest of the fleet propelled by diesel electric, or diesel systems.  They of course use nuclear technology.

1837 heralded in the Victorian period, and from that time Britain quickly moved to be the champions of what became known as the Industrial Revolution, part of which was the introduction of steam and steamers [sea going vessels]. The evolution or iron and even steel for ship building was also an early discovery in the Victorian period [1837-1901] but for many reasons the 1859-60 period is recognised as the building of the first ironclads, with HMS Warrior taking centre stage and HMS Black Prince not far behind. She was a steam vessel rigged as a sailing ship, with conventional broadside gunnery and in several ways, although smaller, not very dissimilar from ships like HMS Victory built in the 18th century, except for her main propulsion and advances in gunnery!

Ships with sails, whilst they can [and were] becalmed, have an almost limitless amount of free fuel no matter where it travelled or served, but a steam ship had to carry its own fuel, and just as important, had to know that somewhere up ahead there would be a port which could restock empty fuel bunkers. The British-led Industrial Revolution would demand merchant vessels to travel world wide to sell manufactured products [oh, and also slaves !]  whilst bringing back to the UK much needed raw materials. For those ships the stockpiles were either sourced locally [indigenous coal mines] or taken there from British mines by British ships on regular replenishing voyages bringing back on the return voyage, things like iron ore, copper ore and the like,  which would not be fouled to any degree by coal dust. Since it was the job of naval vessels to protect these trade-routes, naval vessels also needed access to the fuel stockpiles. The establishment of these replenishment ports dictated where and how we traded, and where our warships would not only replenish coal but also ammunition, food, water, lubrication oil etc. Merchant vessels are always routed to their destination on a strictly economic basis, direct on great circle or rhumb line sailings at modest speeds, and as such used relatively less fuel than did warships. Warships on the other hand get to their terra firma destination or deep-water rendezvous' via a series of evolutions, interrogations and prosecutions [of likely targets], mindful of their task to 'rule the waves', and unmindful of the fuel [within reason] used in that endeavour.  Coal dumps [or stockpiles] were open to piracy in the early days of steam, and for that reason stockpiles were established at naval ports, leaving merchant ships and shipping companies to their own resources in commercial ports often quite close to a naval port.

OK! Now we are ready to trade world wide but more importantly, to become the master of the sea, either being belligerent a la Rule Britannia or friendly a la Pax Britannic. British merchant vessels left UK ports with their bunkers crammed full of fine quality coal expediting their outward journeys.  However on long-haul journeys without a bunkering port offering good quality stockpiled coal, they had to source coal from local suppliers to complete outward journeys [e.g. UK to Sydney taking on local Australian coal in Adelaide to complete the journey] which was of inferior quality producing less steam but more smoke, dirt and soot. Unfortunately, they had to make [or at least start] their return journey using the same type of coal, often doubling the time of the return leg back to the UK. There is a well known UK saying about "taking coals to Newcastle". Newcastle upon Tyne was the biggest UK port handling coal products, so why would anybody take coal to Newcastle?  By sheer coincidence, Newcastle in New South Wales was the largest coal port in the World, many times larger that Newcastle upon Tyne, and it was not far from the major port of Sydney. Sydney could only supply coal mined in the New South Wales which was of inferior quality, and it would have been desirable for trading with Australia were there to be a stockpile of British quality coal available. It wasn't to be. Fortunately for the British, many bases and commercial ports were established in country areas where there was no local coal [Malta, Aden, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Ceylon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Halifax*, Simons Town**, Mombasa***, Pakistan****, India*****Egypt [Alexandria]******] or quite accessible nearby good coal was controlled by unfriendly countries e.g. Spain is Europe's largest coal producer and could easily have fulfilled the requirement of Gibraltar ergo the British in the Mediterranean and the Iberlant areas of the Atlantic, but she was a sworn enemy of the British. *Locally produced "boghead coal" at Stellarton Nova Scotia was a type of shale oil deposit suitable for burning but not suitable in boiler rooms of steamers; there were other coal mines in Nova Scotia chiefly at Donkin and Sydney. **South Africa is a major producer of coal of varying quality, but the coalfields are many miles north and east of the naval base at Simons Town but less so for the commercial ports of East London and Durban. British coal was stockpiled at Simons Town. ***Coal mining is a recent commercial undertaking. There was no coal mined in the area in the 19th and 20th centuries. ****Present day Pakistan [at that time the area it occupied was under British Rule] produced "brown coal" which is basically highly compressed peat [as hard and as unforgiving as ordinary coal] but most unsuitable for steamers. Today [2011] Pakistan [the former West Pakistan created in 1947 - East Pakistan became Bangladesh] is the 5th largest producer of brown coal. *****Although India has many coalfields much of its stock is of poor or low grade quality, having great quantities of carbon and ash. It is/was not suitable for steamers. The ports of Karachi, Bombay, Calcutta and others supplied stockpiled coal, although many of the visiting British ships still had a goodly amount of British coal still in their bunkers whilst others brought coal which was stockpiled for the sole use of British shipping companies. India of those times had a vested interest in British trade and naval support manifest in the omnipotence of the East India Company, and readily provided maritime service without reward. Although many many years later and  long after most steamers were things of history, the loyalty of the Indians, Hindus and Muslims, was rewarded and given formal recognition when in 1934 the Royal Indian Navy was formed. Come WW2 one of its officers was Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In 1948 Pakistan was honoured with the title of the Royal Pakistan Navy which was extant for eight years until the formalisation of Pakistan when it reverted to the Pakistan Navy. However, the Royal Indian Navy lasted for sixteen years until 1950 when it reverted to the Indian Navy. ******Egypt's single coalfield is in the north and has good reserves. It has been mined for centuries but the quality is not suitable for steamers but it is for power stations were they to be built and commissioned. Alexandria was the main naval Mediterranean port during WW2 [the second being Algiers] with Malta having very few seagoing vessels stationed there until well after the Italian surrender. In the 19th century Alexandria was a port and a stockpile of UK sourced coal. If I were also to mention that Penang on the Malacca Straits coast was also a naval stockpile, you can see that the Brit's had guaranteed and secure  stockpiles at regular intervals all the way to Hong Kong [and beyond] and back either via the Suez Canal or via the Cape. Moreover, when on the East Indies Station/China Station,  Australian coal, were it ever needed, was always a possible alternative. Our base in China at Wei hai wei, albeit temporary when compared with our foreign naval assets 1898-1930 [NE Corner not far from Peking],- was also a stockpile and replenishment/bunkering naval port. I have purposely left out the naval coaling ports in Great Britain and believe me, there are many of them! In those days, what is now Eire, belonged to the mother country, and Ireland provided many facilities around its coastline.

These two little maps are designed to show the major naval bunkering ports north of the Equator, and those south of the Equator.

Here you see seventeen ports considered to be the main ports. No 17 doesn't really belong but more of that in a moment.  1= Channel Isles; 2= Gibraltar; 3= Malta; 4= Alexandria; 5= Beirut Lebanon; 6= Aden; 7= Abadan Persia; 8= Bandar Abbas Persia; 9= Karachi; 10= Bombay; 11= Trincomalee Ceylon; 12= Calcutta; 13= Penang; 14= Singapore; 15= Hong Kong; 16= Wei hai wei or Weihaiwei China; 17= Palau Way Southwest Pacific. This was a coaling port for none British warships, although we could use it as a last resort, mainly Russian, German and French. Palau is an Island country made up of 250 separate Isles many populated which forms part of the Caroline Islands. It is part of the much larger group of Micronesia. Originally Palau Way was part of the Spanish East Indies in 1885. At the defeat of the Spaniards by the USA in 1898 it was sold by the USA to Germany. In 1915, Japan, at that time our ally, captured it from the Germans. During WW2, Japan, this time our enemy lost the Islands to the USA, but it wasn't until 1947 that the USA started to Govern the area. On its commencement as a coaling post, it was feared that Penang and Singapore would lose trade, but the worry proved to be ill founded. Just about all the coal in Palau Way came from the Island of Sumatra which in the late 19th century was called Dutch India.

On this map showing ports in the southern hemisphere, we see No 1 [which is of course north of the Equator] = Freetown Sierra Leone; 2= St Helena; 3= Simons Town; 4= Mombasa; 5= Falkland Islands; 6= Atlantic Ports in the West in the northern hemisphere i.e., Bermuda and Halifax, and in the Pacific, Esquimalt, Vancouver Canada.

A little later on at the very end of the 19th century other ports were used as coaling depots and two in particular were strategically important, one in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean. They were the Ascension Island and Mauritius.

Now it is obvious that British engineering [designers and builders of maritime steam plants] would use an iconic fuel to calibrate their machinery, which would have looked for a given performance for each ton burned. The build criteria for the boilers assumed that Welsh coal was used for best performance, but with other UK coal, giving a perfectly acceptable performance. Where other coal was of a comparable quality and the source was friendly, liaisons were established and British ships were routed to suitable ports in ballast ready to up load the coal subsequently to be taken to stockpiles of coal in our colonial ports, commercial and naval. Those build criteria took into account the smoke/soot emissions and the affect on the sails, rigging and upper deck furniture and the height of the funnels; the ability to make steam quickly and economically, maintaining good continuous pressures; the cleanliness and maintenance of the boilers; the amount of ash produced and the frequency of discarding it overboard into the sea; the disposition/layout of the boiler tubes and the bore sizes etc. There would also be a known coal quality criteria and what was acceptable or to be ignored and in what country these inadequacies were to be found. It would never have entered the heads of these design engineers that to use other types of coal would involve modifying the boilers, a re-train for the ships engineers and a heightening of the funnels by up to 6 feet!  Until there was a well guarded stockpile source of good coal liberally available to all British mariners, the expansion of the Empire could not proceed as desired nor could naval forces be deployed to protect trade routes and British possessions in foreign parts. In hindsight, the thought that our illustrious ironclads were only illustrious when the bunkers had British coal, but Welsh whenever possible, is disturbing.  Coal, across the board, was expensive, valued from best coal to slag. Welsh miners paid dearly in the extraction of its wonderful coal and on the 1st December 1860 with HMS Warrior, filled to the brim with Welsh coal, the biggest mine disaster ever, occurred at the Risca Black Vein Colliery in Wales, when 146 men and boys were killed in a massive underground explosion.  Eventually new coal faces were worked on in the Welsh mines, and these produced 'house coal', 'steam coal', 'iron stone' and 'fire clay'. Welsh coal in 1860 was valued as follows:- The following are some returns of the price of coal published by Mr. Hunt in the Mineral Statistics for 1860:—

  Description of Coal Price per Ton
    s. d.
Newcastle... House Coal... 9 0
  Steam... 8 0
  Gas, Coking, and Manufacturing 5 6
Derbyshire... Best Coal... 9 0
  Common... 6 6
  Cost of Getting...5s. to 5 6
North Staffordshire... Best... 9 2
  Common... 6 0
  Cost of Getting...2s. 6d. to 4 6
Lancashire... Best Coal... 6 3
  Lately... 5 6
South Wales and Monmouthshire... Large Coal... 6 6
  Small... 4 6
Scotland... Average... 4 0
  Cost of Getting... 2 8
The list includes an entry called "Cost of Getting". This represents the depth of the mine and the reach of the mine where some mines go under the sea.  The list is not comprehensive or even complete, and some areas include the getting cost in with the price - Newcastle being a good example. Note the definitions 'best', 'common' . 'large', 'small', 'lately', 'average', 'steam' etc, making it difficult to compare like with like. What is for certain is that the Admiralty would buy in bulk and collect it at source in its own ships, whether owned or leased. Otherwise, the North Sea [and other coastal areas] had hundreds of coal barges 'ploughing' up and down, transferring their cargoes into river and canal boats for transfer into the inland waterways for distribution to factories, houses and public buildings. Welsh coal is clearly not the most expensive although it is the most suitable for maritime boilers, especially those of warships.

Now a letter written on the 30th January 1862 by an Australian bemoaning that Britain mostly, but others too, are complaining that Australian coal is almost shunned even though they themselves use in their steamers to best advantage. The letter will act as a summary to this page and my story, and will help you to consolidate what has been outlined above. The original letter is now difficult to read when scanned so I have typed it verbatim for your ease of reading. The syntax and some words are of mid 19th century structure. All of the words he used are to be found in a good dictionary. The abbreviation 50l [50 lima] when referring to the cost to modify each ship ready for the use of Australian coal refers to 50 librae which is the old sign for £. The abbreviation 14s means 14 shillings. Read on, and whilst doing so, think of needing British ships in Australian waters and the possible need to have them modified with new boiler parts and new funnels! By the way, after nearly 150 years many of the names he gives have disappeared and cannot be found on the internet or in present day journals.

AUSTRALIAN COAL.

 TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

 PUBLISHED 10th FEBRUARY 1862.

 Sir, - I have read with care, the leading article in your journal of the 28th of October last, in which you have very forcibly set forth the difficulties which beset the subject of ocean steam navigation, and you state that, as in the case of the Australian colonies, those difficulties are increased in exact proportion to the distance from the supply of fuel. Of the general truth of those remarks, and of their important bearing on the commerce of Great Britain, there can be but one opinion; but when you proceed to suggest a remedy for the difficulties in question, and you speak of the so-called great discovery of coal in Tasmania, you have been unconsciously led into an error, and to the expression of an injustice, as affecting the extensive coalfields of New South Wales, which later, as I shall presently show, are not only adequate to supply all the steam fleets of the world for centuries to come, but that they have been for many years profitable supplying the very want which you have so ably expounded. Having for a long time been impressed deeply with a conviction of the importance of the great coalfields of Australia, I have endeavoured since my arrival in England to bring this subject fairly under the notice of Her Majesty's Government, and with this view I addressed a letter to His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary for the Colonies, detailing some of the facts and statistics which my investigation of the subject has afforded; and, if you will kindly grant me space in your valuable columns, I shall be glad of the opportunity of making the matter more generally known.
In the colony of New South Wales, 60 miles to the north of Sydney, the Newcastle and Maitland coalfields have been worked for many years past, and for the last few years on an extensive scale.  This field, extending westward from the sea-coast, up to the bed of the Hunter River beyond Singleton, is about 40 miles wide and by 60 miles in length, and contains no less than 11 seams of coal.
Mr. W. Keene, the Government examiner of coal mines, say that- "The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seams are worked in the Illawarra district, south of Sydney, at Mount Keira, Bellandia, and Bulli, the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th seams are worked at Newcastle and Wallsend, and the 9th, 10th and 11th at East and West Maitland further up the Hunter." As regards the capability of the colony to furnish coal, Mr Keene states that- "The present appliances of the collieries in work are equal to the production and shipment of 20,000 tons weekly, and this quantity can be readily increased so as to keep pace with any extent of demand. The average price for good screened coal is 14s per ton at the shipping rates.  Locomotive engines draw the coals along tramways from the collieries to the shipping wharfs, where steam cranes and other facilities are in action for the ready loading of vessels of large tonnage."The wharf at Newcastle is one-third of a mile in length, and the river there is often crowded with vessels of all sizes up to 1,200 tons, loading coal to all parts of the Southern hemisphere. Vessels going from the colonies to India, China, and the West Coast of America are now constantly loading with coal at Newcastle, which they take at low freight, instead of paying for stone ballast. The Illawarra coal seams are about 40 miles south of Sydney, and the seams now in progress of being worked are situated some distance up the sides of the mountains.  The mines readily drain themselves, while the trucks, in running out of the mines, are kept from getting too much way upon them by a horse fixed behind. The full trucks, in descending the side of the mountains, are used to draw up the empty ones.  The coal is shipped at present from Wollongong and Bellandia in small vessels, but large sums have been appropriated by Government to improve both the harbours and the works are making fast progress. The following table, extracted from the Statistical Register of New South Wales, will give an idea of the work done on these two coalfields in 1860;- 

In 1861 several new mines were being worked, and one company, the Wallsend, with a large capital and all modern appliances, commenced operations.  The old companies have also raised increased quantities of coal. See above to the Table of coal exports in 1859.

A small quantity of coal, as shown in the above figures is raised at Hartley, about 70 miles west of Sydney, and the indications are sufficient to denote the existence of a valuable coalfield.
South-west of Sydney there are indications of extensive coalfields - viz, at Mittagong [70 miles distant], at the Hanging Rock [80 miles] and at Arthursleigh [90 miles]. The seam at Hanging Rock, just beyond Berrina, promises to be very productive.
At Port Stephens, about 100 miles north of Sydney, and where there is a good harbour, there is a coalfield, lying between the Karumba and Manning Rivers, 25 miles in extent, in which there are no less than 18 seams, of which one, measured by the Rev W.B. Clarke, was 30 feet thick.
In the country immediately beyond the Newcastle and Maitland coalfields, seams of coal are found in beds of almost all the creeks and rivers extending over an area of nearly 100 miles; and five seams are known to exist in the localities near Maitland, at an enormous depth below the Newcastle field.
Coal seams are known to exist in many other parts of New South Wales, but sufficient information has not yet been obtained as to their extent or richness.
In Queensland, the northernmost of the Australia’s colonies, valuable coal seams exist on the banks of the Bretner and Brisbane rivers, about 30 miles above Brisbane, the capital town; indeed, coal from one of the seams is now being used by the river and coasting steamers. Like the coal mines of Illawarra the coal seams are accessible by adits and the steamers on the Brisbane can load literally at the mouth of the mines; and this same facility is afforded at Lake Macquarie, the southern part of the Newcastle coalfield. The best seams, however, are found to be those situated below the water level. There are indications of the existence of other extensive coalfields in various parts of this fine colony, extending over thousands of square miles. The Rev. W.H. Clarke says - "It is manifest that there is no country on the globe occupied to so large an extent by coal formations. America excepted, as Australia, and with trifling exceptions nearly all the enormous areas occupied by these carboniferous beds belong to New South Wales and Queensland." Coal is found in abundance in Tasmania, and the best seams are said to correspond with some of the Newcastle seams of New South Wales, but they have not been worked to any extent.

Complaints are made that Australian coal is of an inferior kind, but I feel certain that if its exact qualities be known, and if it be used with practical knowledge, it is a most serviceable fuel. In comparison with Welsh coal the Australian contains much earthy matter, which tends to choke the fire-pipes, and thus reduce the amount of steam. This defect is readily obviated in the steamers belonging to the Australian Steam Navigation Company by the removal of the English fire-pipes, and by the substitution of pipes of double the original size. A further slight alteration enables the engineer to clear the pipes by a jet of steam whenever they become clogged, and the funnel is generally lengthened five or six feet. The fire bars are also laid closer together than when English coal is used. The large percentage of earth in the Australian coal when compared with Welsh is obviously a defect; but on the other hand, it is more free from clinking. When the Australian coal is used in steamers which are not provided with the requisite alterations, and when the men in charge have no "colonial experience" the flue pipes soon become choked and the steam much reduced. The inexperienced stoker then resorts to raking the fire, by which much good coal is forced through the bars and thrown overboard with the ashes. The expense of the necessary alterations in the machinery is I believe not exceeding 50l per ship. The steamers of the Australian Steam Navigation Company have always beaten in speed all vessels that have been brought into competition with them, and I attribute much of their superiority to the adaptation of their machinery to the use of Australian coal, to their having men in charge who know how to use it. Ton per ton, it is equal when properly used to any coal except the best Welsh coal which becomes deteriorated by the passage and subsequent exposure, so by the time it is used, south of the Equator, it is too often found to be an inferior article.

The officers of vessels, unaccustomed to the use of colonial coal, dislike it because it gives out so much smoke, and consequently the ship cannot be kept clean as when the boat used Welsh coal. Captain R.G. Gilmore, who was five years in Australia - three in command of one of the Australian Steam Navigation Company's vessels, and during the remainder had the management of a large number of other steam vessels, writes to me as follows:- "My duties should give me a good insight into this subject, and I trust that my testimony may form a very small part of the evidence that can, and I trust will, be brought forward to overthrow the unjust prejudice that prevails against the coal of Australia. My first introduction to the colonial coal produced a most unfavourable impression on my mind, and it remained for a long time a strongly rooted prejudice. We had, in the instance I speak of, been using on our route from England to Australia nothing but the best Welsh coal, and we were compelled to purchase coal in Adelaide in order to complete our voyage to Sydney. The diminished speed of the vessel caused by the bad quality of this coal gave me great annoyance. Had I then known that the coal was the remaining of several cargoes which had been brought from New South Wales a long time before - originally a very bad sample and had I also known the great difference of treatment required in feeding and stoking the coal from New South Wales from that of Welsh coal, my first impressions of colonial coal would not have been so unfavourable; but others, no doubt, have been misled in a similar way. The best colonial coal at the time I speak of was not to be compared with the coal now obtained; in fact, I noticed during the time I was in Australia a gradual improvement, which I attributed to the surface seams being worked off. I considered the Australian Agriculture Company's the best, and I feel sure that, for steam purposes, it is equal to the north country coal used by the steamers on the east coast of England; the quantity of ash may be greater, but there is less clinker. Compared weight for weight, the Australian coal would prove slightly inferior to the Welsh in evaporating power; but, taking into consideration the expense of transport of the Welsh to Australia, and the great deterioration which takes place in it by exposure and age, I think that for consumption in any of the Australian waters the Welsh would prove much the more costly of the two. That the very best coal may be condemned, from the fact of its being improperly used by firemen unaccustomed to it, I remember a striking instance when I was in command of a steamer in Australia. All the New South Wales coal at our depot being exhausted, - foul winds having detained the colliers, - we purchased some very fine Welsh coal for the return trip, and my colonial stokers, from their ignorance of the way to fire with it, soon brought the vessel to a standstill, and, until I explained to them the way to fire with it, they were unanimous in declaring it the worst stuff that they had ever put shovel to; indeed, they began to doubt whether it was coal." Since Captain Gilmore's time the coal in consequence of the great competition and consumption leading to working the lower seams and better picking, has much improved in quality. The mail steam companies have always most perversely refused to use colonial coal in the Australian waters, and have imported Welsh coal from England at an enormous cost, for which the colonies and the British Government have had, and continue, to pay in the way of exorbitant subsidies. This has always caused great dissatisfaction to the people of New South Wales, who have not only to pay their share of these exorbitant subsidies, but have to see one of their own most valuable productions unjustly put aside. This injustice is the more severely felt in New South Wales, where there is a wealthy and prosperous company possessing a fleet of steamers excelling in speed, and successfully competing with all the English and American vessels which have been brought into opposition with them. In consequence of its coalfields and magnificent harbour, Sydney has always taken the lead in steam navigation, but now the other colonies are fast following her example, and each capital has its own small steamers for the harbour trade, larger for the coasting, and still larger for the inter-continental trade. These all now use the New South Wales coal. Along the coast of New South Wales, every river and every nook and corner of the coast where produce can be shipped or passengers landed are now visited by steamers, and the other colonies, including New Zealand, are but little behindhand. It is to the coal of Australia, more than any other of its valuable mineral products, that this great territory will owe its future advancement, and by which we may hope that its material and general interests will be more steadily and permanently promoted. It is by the coal that the rich mines of copper, lead, and iron, so abundantly distributed throughout the colony of New South Wales, will be made productive and to facilitate the working of which limestone of the purest quality and of unlimited quantity everywhere abounds. As coal comes to be raised in increased quantities, and the facilities of transport become greatly increased, an influx of labour will be promoted, and thus a mine of wealth for Australia will spring up far more lasting, and far more conducive to the moral welfare of the community, than all the boasted prosperity arising from the existing pursuits after gold. I think I have stated enough to show that the Tasmanian coalfields are not likely to be more available for maritime purposes than those of New South Wales and Queensland; and I trust that I have also shown that it is a waste of money, and unjust to the colonies, to import coal into Australia from England. That Tasmania may profit by her coal is my most ardent wish, but I also wish justice to be done to the Australian colonies. I agree entirely with you that Imperial interests are hardly less concerned than colonial in this question. In the promotion of rapid communications with India, China, America, and the mother country, as well as for naval purposes, the Australian coal will be found of incalculable value. As an Australian, although I have no direct interest in any of the coal mines, the question is all important to me, and I trust that the Imperial considerations involved will be deemed a sufficient excuse for my trespassing upon you and the English public at so great a length. I have the honour to be , Sir, your obedient servant.DANIEL COOPER20, Prince's Gardens W., Jan 30 1862. * The quantity of ash is less in Australian coal, as per experiments at Woolwich.

The early ironclads were never modified for they never ventured outside the sea area covered by their Welsh fed bunkers.However, British ships in great numbers did eventually frequent the waters off Australia, and they used Australian coal and non other. Clearly, that coal had not altered and was still considered "earthy coal" and not fit for boilers. From that we must assume that British engineering techniques for steam boilers had to alter to accommodate the inadequacies of colonial coal, and that stockpiles east of Ceylon originally created from British coal, were thereafter replenished and maintained from Australian mined coal resulting in a huge cost saving for all concerned. 

When heavy oil was first refined and made available to the maritime world as FFO [Furnace Fuel Oil] the major world coal producers suffered greatly from the decline in orders for their product. Many years have elapsed since those days which have done-down the coal industry and continue to do so; I cite the 'clean air act', banning of creating greenhouse gases, the advent of nuclear/gas/bio/wind/wave technologies/oil and petro products etc. However, during my research for this page, I note that the world of coal is coming back and at a pace!  More and more coal burning power stations are being built and not just in places like Africa, India, China but in the USA and Singapore just to mention a few. Can you imagine what 9 billion, yes 9 billion tons looks like, but whether you can or not, have a read of this tiny snippet

Quote......Chinese appetite for Australian coal is expected to keep growing at a steady pace with a new report predicting that while the pace of growth will slow, demand will continue to march higher with the help of a lower currency over the next five years, surpassing the 9-billion-tonne level by 2019. Unquote

Just think, we may yet get back those lovely streamlined coal-gusling railway engines [and the puffing billy's of course] of yesteryear, the ones I used to travel in when going home on leave, delighting us with noise, steam, dirt and sheer excitement.

Goodbye and good sailing - sorry, good  steaming.