Moguls and Other Hurdles

November’s edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News carried an article by Peter Pospiech that perpetuates the hoax – the scam – of “Slow Steaming.” Here’s how he began his spinnage:

“Out of the total operational costs of a vessel, fuel costs account for, by far, the highest proportion.

“When fuel prices soared, the technical experts of one of the world’s biggest shipping companies set about to solve the problem, and slowing down was the solution they devised.

“By 2009 significant fuel savings resulted from sailing its ships at 12 knots instead of 24, and ‘Slow Steaming’ officially became the standard operating procedure in their fleet. Meanwhile, today, it is standard in almost all existing shipping companies, as shipowners for the past five years have simultaneously battled reduced freight rates and rising fuel costs.

“In addition to the fuel benefits, there is also reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, absorption of excess fleet capacity and increased schedule reliability …

“Slow steaming refers to the practice of operating transoceanic cargo vessels, especially container vessels, at significantly less than their maximum speed. According to Maersk Line, which introduced the practice in 2009 because of the worldwide financial crisis in 2008 …”

Shame on MR&E News for printing this rubbish. It’s nothing more than a smokescreen – a coverup for what’s really going on in the containership/shipbuilding racket. Let’s take a closer look at things.

“When fuel prices soared …” What hogwash. Fuel prices soared back in 1973! We were there.

So the first questions that should be asked are: “Why do “almost all shipping companies” resort to slow steaming? Why don’t all shipping companies resort to this deceptive practice?” There’s a simple answer. Only those companies that are stuck with the problems of overcapacity are now relying on this charade. It wasn’t the “worldwide financial crisis in 2008” that brought on their woes, it was their own greedy attempts to corner the market with those super megaships that did them in.
They jumped the gun. Poor planning and pompous “corporate fanning of feathers” led “almost all existing shipping companies” to order, prematurely, enormous containerships in the years prior to the “worldwide financial crisis in 2008” – and then the roof fell in. With the inevitable overcapacity, those maritime moguls had no choice but to lay up several hundred thousands of TEU capacity, but to avoid this crunch those “technical experts” decided that cutting the speed of their vessels would also cut down the numbers of vessels to be mothballed. Clever. And deceptive.

And “increased schedule reliability”? Baloney. It was the resulting scheduling and delivery delays that brought about the many freight rate increases, as well as the asinine Vessel Sharing Agreements, that are haunting those greedy carriers today. Serves ’em right.

Logically then, the next question that should be asked is: “Why would any CEO, responsible to shareholders, insist upon throwing good money after bad?”

Think about it. If you were in a business that was losing money because you had stocked up on goods that were “not moving” – and resulted in a costly “overcapacity” situation for your firm – would you stash those losers in a warehouse and replace them with even more expensive facsimiles?

Forget about it. Such irresponsible management would get you canned. But isn’t that exactly what those CEOs are doing when they lay up unneeded capacity and replace those vessels with larger, more expensive container ships? Sounds crazy.

There’s got to be a reason why those carriers operate that way – maybe more than one reason. And if you’re not convinced by this time that “slow steaming” is just another hoax – just another sure-fire way to bleed the taxpayer/consumer – read the Lloyd’s Register warning to carriers we printed out in our June 6th, 2011 (Vol. XXVII, Art. 29) commentary. In dismissing the “slow steaming” concept as costly and harmful to the environment, the marine classification society told Marine Biz TV:

“Containerships are built to operate at higher outputs and will need to be more closely monitored when slow steaming to avoid loss of engine performance, fuel quality, and lubrication oil consumption when moving below 20 knots. The large containership is designed for 25 knots at 70,000kw main engine power and will require just 50 percent power when reduced to 20 knots. As voyage times increase, fuel savings will be less, and at slower speeds, NOx emissions also increase, resulting in waste engine capacity, higher capital costs from unused power potential, losses in heat recovery systems, turbocharger and propeller efficiency as well as increased fouling of hulls and propellers. Lloyd’s Register also warned of increased compensatory fuel consumption and possible increased vibration levels risking safe, reliable ship operations.” –

That’s what Lloyd’s Register had to say – and what Peter Pospiech ignores. Here’s what we wrote: “Carriers should quit lying to us. There are no ‘benefits’ or profits to pass on. The only things being passed on are the extra costs incurred by the arrogant ‘slow steaming’ stratagem. The real reason for ‘slow steaming’ is to avoid scrapping the overcapacity which resulted from mismanagement and the ‘corporate fanning of feathers’. Let’s call a spade a spade. ‘Slow stealing’ is what it is.” –

Sounds crazy, alright – crazy like a fox. Let’s look at it another way. If an unscrupulous individual could spend money where it could not be audited, isn’t it quite possible that such an individual would choose to spend that money somewhere overseas, where auditing (accountability) would be impossible? (Think Offshore Tax Havens – Kickbacks – Money Laundering.)

Could any, or all, of those initiatives be the reasons carriers order such massive, superfluous and expensive vessels from overseas shipyards rather than from shipyards in their own countries? Wouldn’t there be positive ‘benefits’ and profits to be passed on to taxpayers and the unemployed if the money for those vessels was used to create jobs and revitalize foundering local economies?

Think Madoff, think Enron, think Wall Street banksters – think anything you like – but don’t for a minute think that moguls are stupid or crazy. They’re unaccountable – and irresponsible.