Bottom of the Ninth

When we were reviewing some of the material we had gathered for yesterday’s Art. 38 commentary, a feeling came over us as though we had been down that road before. It was something like Yogi Berra’s “deja vu all over again” feeling.

We were reading how the experts were assuring us that the recession had “bottomed out” at the end of this year’s first half downturn, but the second half, the experts were saying, would be a different story. Everything would be coming up roses. Rate restoration, heavy consumer demand, and of course, the annual Christmas season upturn would bring all carriers and shippers back into the red. Everybody was sure of it. Well, almost everybody. Mr. Kolding, the CEO of Maersk, was swimming upstream – against the current. This strongest of swimmers, Mr. Kolding was going so far as to plead for drastic changes in the order of things. The industry was in dire need of “change now!”, is how he is presenting his case. This from a man who can afford to tell the truth because his giant company is one of the few that made any profit at all in the first few months of 2011.

Do you sense that you’ve seen reports like these before? They almost seemed routine. Business is lousy – shippers and carriers aren’t making any money because people aren’t buying – dozens and dozens of giant container ships are being ordered, even though newbuilds ordered in previous years, are being cancelled – existing overcapacity requires slow steaming so that some of the laid up vessels can be put back into service, etc., etc., – haven’t we heard all this before?

Yes, we have. We get this runaround from the experts every year about this time. The recession has “bottomed out”, they tell us, and we’re expected to believe that things are getting back to normal and that we’ll soon be singing, “Happy days are here again!” But these aren’t new developments. We covered this whole scenario before – and we were so sure of it that we decided to take a look.

Sure enough – two years ago to the day – we put together a 3-page article on the state of things, and it so resembled today’s situation that we decided to print it again yesterday. We were even tempted to issue it without revealing that it was a reprint – that’s how closely today’s situation resembles that of two years ago. But if we did that we wouldn’t be able to point out how deceptive and how misleading the economic pundits and the Washington elite are.

So, did it “bottom out” two years ago? Of course it didn’t. And it didn’t “bottom out” last year, and it won’t “bottom out” this year, either. Those giant container ships being ordered are nothing more than a smokescreen to give the appearance of a “bottoming out” – a recovery. So why the deception? It encourages the ignorant investors who support the maritime industry, that’s why.
We keep asking the question, “How?” How can we avoid plunging into the worst depression the world has ever seen? Things are collapsing all around us because the root cause of all our economic problems – unemployment – is being ignored by our illustrious leaders. Instead of creating millions of jobs by emulating FDR’s Emergency Shipbuilding initiatives, our elected leaders are looking for kickbacks from “infrastructure” and weapons programs. U.S. shipbuilders would pay them zilch.