“Put it back!”

What should have been front page stuff on Friday, the 13th, wasn’t even mentioned on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN or FOX news. Only “terrorist” actions – real or imagined – are dealt with in the controlled media. That’s the kind of a diversion a successful pickpocket would use. You know, like the infamous pickpockets on “Wall Street”. For instance, did you know that:

• “Hong Kong’s Great Ocean Container Lines (GOCL) has withdrawn Asia-Europe services as the 9-month-old start-up goes out of business, according to its recently resigned managing director Chris Bauermeister. ‘Obviously nobody within our industry had expected such dramatic declines in revenues and earnings, which has already caused the collapse or withdrawal of various operators,’ he said.”

• “Long Beach January throughput drops 23% – Port of Long Beach throughput figures for January add to the mountain of woeful statistics for the container sector, with a year-on-year fall of 23% for inbound containers. Loaded inbound containers fell to 200,588 TEUs – the lowest in five years – while loaded outbound containers dropped 27% to 88,510 TEUs.”

• “Marseilles January traffic plunges 24% – Leading French cargo port Marseilles took the full brunt of the economic turndown in January as its traffic plummeted 24% to 6.5m tonnes. All major cargo categories were affected. Bulk traffic, which enabled the port to maintain overall traffic volume last year despite a sharp drop in general cargo traffic, showed double figure reductions.”

• “Almost 10% of global box fleet lies idle – Close to 10% of the world’s container vessels are currently unemployed as owners and operators take drastic steps too bring supply into line with shrinking cargo demand, writes Janet Porter. New Lloyd’s MIU figures updated yesterday show that 427 boxships are idle, representing 9.1% of the number of vessels in the world fleet.”

• “Yards rebuff boxship owners – South Korean shipyards are refusing to bow to pressure from hardpressed containership owners to cancel orders or reduce prices, and are only very reluctantly agreeing to postpone some deliveries. This is the message emerging after several weeks of hectic negotiations between owners and operators, on one side, and some of the world’s biggest shipbuilders on the other. The yards, with their legally binding contracts in place, are in no rush to meet the increasingly desperate pleas from their customers to help them out as banks try to cut their exposure to the rapidly weakening container trades.”

• “European yards face collapse in credit crisis – Europe’s yards and marine equipment industries face being wiped out if credit markets do not ease ‘soon’, the European Commission warned. The large capital requirements of the shipbuilding industry and the lack of affordable finance have combined to ‘jeopardize the economic survival’ of the European Union industry, said Brussels Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen.”

• “OOIL to cut capacity – Container traffic for Orient Overseas International Ltd. is expected to decline 20-30 percent in January and February, as the effects of the global downturn hit trade, Chairman Tung Chee-chen said on Tuesday. The Hong Kong-based parent of Orient Overseas Container Line will reduce its shipping capacity by up to 25 percent in the first three months of the year, Tung said in an interview with Reuters. ‘Taking into consideration the figures for January and February, 2009 will be a very difficult year,’ he said.”

• “NOL’s net profit plummets by 84% in 2008 – The Singapore-based NOL Group, which owns the APL brand, has posted meagre financial results for 2008. Although the company’s turnover at corporate level increased by 14% to USD 9.2 billion in 2008, compared with 2007, profits of EBIT decreased by 74% to USD 160 million.”

• “G-7 Says ‘Severe’ Downturn to Persist – Group of Seven finance chiefs vowed to tackle a ‘severe’ economic downturn that will persist for most of 2009 without spelling out new steps to do so … The authorities are still at a loss on the best course of action 18 months after the crisis broke out. That’s left them pursuing a disjointed approach as the global economy deteriorates further and companies from Microsoft Corp. to Nissan Motor Co. cut jobs.”

For starters, Chris Bauermeister wasn’t being accurate when he said that “nobody in our industry had expected such dramatic declines …”. He should have said that hardly anyone in our industry was paying attention because a number of alert individuals were actually waving caution flags.

We quoted several of those knowledgeable authorities in our Vol. VI, Art. 20 commentary. We printed that column back in mid-February of 2006 – just about three years ago. We cited the questions being raised back then by Commander Jon S. Helmick, Don Cameron, Jim Reese, Nolan Gimpel, Neil Davidson and Jean Godwin, but the carrier powers-that-be were determined to spend money like a bunch of drunken sailors.

The “morning after” is never as fun-filled as the night before, however, and now it’s beginning to hurt.

As for the “Group of Seven finance chiefs” – maybe they should begin referring to themselves as the “Group of Seven Dwarfs”. It wasn’t 18 months ago that the crisis broke out. We amateurs saw it coming more than four years ago, yet these financial wizards are “still at a loss on the best course of action”. Remember the “best course of action” George Burns gave to his business partner who informed George about a large sum of money missing from the till? George said, “Put it back!”

And that’s exactly what we should be demanding of the financial geniuses who got us into this mess.

Eventually, someone will notice the similarities between today’s depression and the so-called Great Depression. Eventually, he (or she) will recall that jobs had to be created in order to produce what was needed for the Great War, and eventually, that someone will learn that a collateral benefit came about because of the jobs that were created. That’s right. Those jobs were the collateral benefit, and when the masses went back to work, the Great Depression came to an abrupt end. Eventually.