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A collier is a bulk cargo ship designed or used to carry coal. Early evidence of coal being transported by sea includes use of coal in London in 1306. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, coal was shipped from the River Tyne to London and other destinations. Other ports also exported coal – for instance the Old Quay in Whitehaven harbour was built in 1634 for the loading of coal. London became highly reliant on the delivery of coal by sea – Samuel Pepys expressed concern in the winter of 1666–67 that war with the Dutch would prevent a fleet of 200 colliers getting through. In 1795, 4,395 cargoes of coal were delivered to London. By 1824, this number had risen to about 7,000; by 1839, it was over 9,000. The trade continued to the end of the twentieth century, with the last cargo of coal leaving the Port of Tyne in February, 2021.: 8 Dec 1666 : 49
The earliest type of collier on which there is detailed information is the Whitby-built cat. These were bluff-bowed, round-sterned, strongly-built ships that were in common use from the ports of Northeast England in the second half of the eighteenth century. Examples were used as research and exploration ships by the Royal Navy – the best known being HMS Endeavour.: 57–59 In the first half of the nineteenth century, collier brigs were the most common type and remained popular with Northeast coast shipowners. Elsewhere, sailing competition in the latter part of the century was from schooners and other vessels with fore and aft rig.: 49-51 The first steam collier, John Bowes, was launched in 1852 and proved successful, with many others being built as a result. Sailing and steam colliers co-existed for the remainder of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, with coal being carried by sailing vessels at the time of the First World War.