Ship construction, complex of activities concerned with the design and fabrication of all marine vehicles. Ship construction today is a complicated compound of art and science. In the great days of sail, vessels were designed and built on the basis of practical experience; ship construction was predominantly a skill.
With the rapid growth and development of the physical sciences, beginning in the early 19th century, it was inevitable that hydrokinetics (the study of fluids in motion), hydrostatics (the study of fluids at rest), and the science of materials and structures should augment the shipbuilder’s skill. The consequence of this was a rapid increase in the size, speed, commercial value, and safety of ships.