Recovery Room

For about five or six years or so, renowned economists have been feeding us reports about a “recession”. Other renowned economists have been referring to this economic free fall as the Second Great Depression. And still other renowned economists have insisted that no such downturn has occurred. Not exactly what you’d call an exact science, is it – because they can’t all be correct.

Now, however, they’ve all agreed that a “recovery” is in progress, and on this point none of them are correct.

In good times the most thriving industry on the planet is the maritime industry. So in this period of “recovery”, let’s take a look at what’s developing among the leaders in international shipping.

1. CMA CGM, the world’s third largest ocean carrier, had debts that were estimated at $ 5.7 billion at the end of 2012. That’s a lot of red ink to cover and they haven’t been able to find a bank that will take the risk. That says something about the banks’ former assessment of the profitability of ocean carriers, and the banks’ current assessment of the “recovery’, doesn’t it?

Now those banks that are holding the bag are agreeing to a “debt restructuring” that involves a sale of 49 percent of the French carrier’s terminal holdings to China Merchants Holdings International, along with injections of several millions of dollars from unrelated investment firm. But all this won’t quite cut the mustard, either, so CMA CGM is now talking about an IPO. [Some “recovery”.]

2. The world’s largest shipper, Maersk Line, has suspended service of its AE-9 string less than two months after reinstating its daily service between Asia and Europe – a move analysts are pointing to as further evidence of weak demand on the key trade route. According to the report in the February 13th edition of Port Technology, the decision to pull the plug on the loop is likely to put increasing pressure on the company’s Daily Maersk aspirations with just five of the seven services remaining since its launch in September of 2011. [More evidence of a “recovery”.]

3. (Reuters) – “President Barack Obama’s call for a renaissance in American manufacturing could lead to new jobs down the road … The president used Tuesday night’s State of the Union address to lay out a plan to bring manufacturing jobs back to the country, including a network of institutes that would teach new industrial skills …

“‘Growth and job creation should absolutely be national priorities, but saying so doesn’t make it so’, said Business Roundtable President John Engler. ‘What’s required is action in Washington to create a better business environment, and we need to stop lurching from crisis to crisis.'” –

[“A network of institutes that would teach new (and unproven) industrial skills …” (???) Why not revitalize our shipyards the way FDR did, and teach some old (tried and true) industrial skills? We’d need Jones Act vessels to transport the products generated by those “new industrial skills, wouldn’t we? And we’d have no competition from overseas shipyards. We’d never see another crisis.]