Greek Tragedies

On the internet today, “Yahoo! News” gave some hints about the world’s economic difficulties:

1. Unclaimed cargo clogs Gujarat ports.
– The Times of India
Container Freight Stations (CFS) at two of Gujarat’s biggest ports, Kandla and Mundra, are spilling over with unwanted goods.

2. $ 3.7M loss for ports paints a dour picture.
– Daily Press
With dropping cargo volumes, “… 2009 is not going to be a good year,” a port spokesman says. The Virginia Port Authority reported on Friday an operating loss of $ 3.7 million for the first quarter of its fiscal 2009, sending a clear signal that the world’s deepening financial crisis is taking a toll on cargo movements.

3. Ports become parking lots as goods pile up.
– The Times of India
In the US, some ports now resemble parking lots, with vehicles lined up for miles, victims of the logjam in global trade. It’s a sight that could become depressingly familiar in India, with containers piling up as major ports register a drop in business.

4. Logjam in global trade: Ports become parking lots.
– The Economic Times
It is a sight that could become depressingly familiar in India, with containers piling up as major ports register a distinct drop in business. Fed tools against downturn.

5. Economic downturn affecting ports.
– Whittier Daily News
LONG BEACH – The nation’s deepening economic crisis is causing a backlog of imported cars in the nation’s largest seaport, providing a vivid glimpse of the economic malaise plaguing America.

6. Uptick in port traffic not likely a trend, says SPA.
– Charleston Regional Business News
The S. C. State Ports Authority reported a substantial uptick in container traffic for the month of October, but officials have called it an “aberration” and didn’t know what or whom to credit for the increased business.

7. Ports feel economy’s blues.
– Georgia Public Broadcasting News
There are signs that the global economic crisis is catching up to the ports of Savannah and Brunswick. After years of double-digit growth, the Georgia Ports Authority says, import-export activity is now more or less flat.

8. Port strike could paralyze North Island.
– Stuff
Ports of Auckland expects to lose significant revenue during a strike before Christmas over a pay battle which has raged for two years.

9. Weaker Seattle box exports.
– Journal of Commerce Online
SEATTLE – The Port of Seattle posted its second-highest container volume total of the year in October at 152,486 TEUs, but that was still off by 14 percent from the same month in 2007.

10. Brave Faces, Hard Times.
– New York Times
While grim prospects drained some of the usual optimism, there seemed to be little alarm on display at this year’s auto show in Los Angeles.

But the most disturbing word on “Yahoo! News” came from Elena Becatoros of the Associated Press. “Greek shipping hit by global financial crisis,” was the headline, and she began her story thus:

“PIRAEUS, Greece – In the sparkling blue waters off Greece’s bustling port of Piraeus, dozens of hulking carrier ships loom out of the haze of a retreating thunderstorm. After spending several boom years racing across the world’s oceans, they swing idly on their anchors, waiting for a cargo. The global financial crisis has hit the industry hard … and Greeks, who control nearly 20 percent of the world’s merchant fleet and whose shipping tycoons such as Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos gained near mythical status in the 1960s and 1970s, are feeling the pinch …

“Analysts and brokers say the scene outside the gritty port of Piraeus, with ships anchored and awaiting orders, is being replayed across the world … Broker Francois Savaricas says that about 25 percent of the world’s fleet is at anchor because it is uneconomical to trade. ‘The lack of liquidity in the banks means there’s no cargo moving, and so from one day to the other there’s been no volume, no cargos and no movement of ships,’ he said.

“It’s no small matter for Greece … The Greek-controlled fleet came to 4,173 ships and more than 154.5 million gross tons in February, Hellenic Union of Shipping figures show. Just a few months ago, the picture was completely different. Shipping had enjoyed four or five years of burgeoning trade that had seen companies ordering new ships while still keeping old vessels in service, reluctant to decommission and sell them for scrap. Now, companies with old vessels are selling them for scrap in India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan. Others are cancelling orders, forfeiting millions of dollars in down payments to shipyards …

“With orders for 24 new vessels in China, Japan and South Korea, the Vafias Group has the fourth largest order in Greece … but with banks unable to provide financing, or giving it only on very expensive terms, companies are forced to use a lot of their own money to take delivery of the ships.
‘The banks are virtually shut for new business,’ Mr. Vafias says.”

[Elena’s report pretty much says it all, and puzzled authorities can do nothing but wring their hands.]