Since ancient times, sea and life on sea are in close connection with humankind. Ships were used for traveling in far, unknown regions. Human need for trading is reason why we can find goods and product from all Mediterranean regions on Croatian coast, even in old days of life on Adriatic Sea. The more so, the oldest drawing of vessel in Europe came of Croatian coast, of Grapceva cave on island Hvar.
Hundred thousands vessels of all types and shapes were built by inhabitants of Croatian coast from times immemorial until nowadays. They used them for traveling, trading and to protect and defend their home.
Croatians came to Adriatic coast at the end of 6th century and beginning of 7th century. Very soon, they adopt themselves to, for them new element, the sea. At first, they begin to use naval inheritance left on eastern Adriatic coast from Illyrian tribes, Greeks and Romans.
Numerous records exist from that period telling of actions of Slavic, mainly Croatian naval forces in the Adriatic. The first record dates back to 642. and was written by Langoboard chronicler from the 8th century, Paul Diakon , who reports that the Slavs with a fleet of ships came to the Italian shore and set up camp below the city of Sepont (present Manfredonia). The Emperor of Byzantium, Constantine Porphyrognet (about 950.) recorded the information about the naval power of Croatians numbering 80 saginas (oared ships) with 40 fighters in addition to the crew and 100 konduras (oared ships smaller than saginas) with 10 to 20 fighters in addition to the crew. This was a force of about 5000 fighters, very respectable for that period.
Venetian chronicler Romanin recorded that at the time of the rule of Duke Felice Cornicola, master builders from Schiavonia (Croatia) were summoned to build ships in Venice.
Period of progressive maritime development was stopped at the beginning of 11th century when Venice conquered most part of east Adriatic coast. Although Croatian maritime force was reconstructed in second half of 11th century, Croatians had lost their independent state and their navy together with it.
Great development of maritime affairs and sea-born trade in Mediterranean area from 12th to 15th century did not pass over east Adriatic coast.
The Croato-Hungarian era offered to cities on east Adriatic coast considerable leeway for unhindered trade and positive results did not fail to materialize. This was not to the liking of Venice so she attempted with all her might to conquer Split and other cities on east Adriatic coast. Finally, Venice made it. This was the most difficult period for Croatian cities, for Venice completely restricted trade, excepting by way of Venice, with few insignificant exceptions. In terms of shipbuilding, Venice restricted construction and sale of vessels, so that the decline of Croatian cities under Venice reached unenviable proportions.
At that time, independent Republic of Dubrovnik built big fleet of sailing ships. In 16th century, years of biggest prosperity of Republic of Dubrovnik, their mercantile marine had 170-200 ships. Besides that, Dubrovnik had big armament navy.
After decay of Venetian Republic, east Adriatic coast felt to Austrian share. Austria immediately developed Trieste as main harbor. However, in the middle of 19th century new centers for building of sailing ships were developed in Losinj, Dubrovnik and on peninsula Peljesac. In second half of 19th century, steam-ships replaced sailing ships.
Together with maritime affairs, shipbuilding growths on east Adriatic coast as part of Croatian culture. South Slavs first built monosyll ships. After that they began to build other types of vessels but unfortunately we do not have to many records of their size and shape. Since beginning of 12th century, we have better records of shipbuilding in this part of the world. In 15th century, Croatian shipbuilders built great galleys but we have to point out karaka from Dubrovnik.
18th century was revival of shipbuilding in this region. In 1818. first steam-ship on Adriatic Sea was built, although our old maritime centers stayed loyal to sailing ships. At the end of 19th century era of steam-ships began.
Nowadays Croatian shipbuilding industry produces all types of modern vessels. Croatia builds passenger ships, bulk carriers, ore carriers, OBO ships all types of tankers, refrigerated cargo vessels, general cargo ships, small units such as tugs, dredgers, ferry boats etc.