Although government-owned ready reserve troop ships are specifically designed to transport troops for combat missions, the mission has changed significantly. Troops are generally airlifted to safe landing areas in locale of combat. Troop ships are used for movement of military troops to and from combat and safe areas where troops embark or debark military and commercial aircraft; passenger ships also serve for rest and recreation for troops during long periods of combat; these ships are generally foreign flag privately owned passenger vessels equipped with amenities not available in the traditional troop ship.
Ready reserve troop ships are generally converted state maritime academy training vessels that have been enhanced to enable the transport of troops for combat missions. These ships have limited cargo space; they carry between 480 to 800 troops. When the number of troops increases, the use of folding canvas cots, and berthing on deck and in designated holds is required. Commercial privately owned US and foreign flag passenger ships are traditional cruise or converted ferry vessels equipped with the necessary comforts; vessel capacity varying with the capability for messing and berthing.
In the United States, forebears of all but native Americans arrived by ship from colonial times until the advent and popularity of air travel. Speed was of the essence in the development of 19th-century steamship lines. The often manic efforts of the competing companies to gain and hold the record for the fastest transatlantic voyage captured the popular imagination in Europe and the United States throughout the 1800s. The vital time factor, however, was the steady decline in the length of sea travel. This was crucial to profits and a talisman of the 19th-century creed of progress.
It was not until the 19th century and the advent of mass emigration to North America, with a tremendous increase in trans-Atlantic passenger voyages, that the clamor arose for "something to be done" about ship safety. One reason for this, certainly, was the fact that for the first time ordinary people were sailing great distances in large numbers - and were exposed to the dangers of the sea.
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