“Whoa! Not so SLOW! …”

Cargo News publicized this information today (September 19th): “Singapore’s manufacturing decline hit a new low in August with exports down by 11 percent and non-oil exports down 9.1 percent with further deterioration expected until year-end …

“According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the country’s manufacturing decline was attributed to a decrease in new orders and reduced inventories of finished goods and imports.”-

Lloyd’s List supplied this data last Friday (September 14th):

“The idle containership fleet has exceeded the 400,000 TEU mark for the first time since mid-May as market conditions continue to deteriorate. The development is hitting non-operating owners hardest; this group accounts for 80% of unemployed capacity.”-

So, business is lousy all over, and carriers are laying up ships. Any fool can see that. The folks at the top would rather you see things differently, however, and put this spinnage in Cargo News:

“Shippers look to air cargo while shippers are absorbed with slow-steaming,” is how the article began. “With shipping lines embarking on super-slow steaming in a bid to cut fuel costs, shippers appear to be more open-minded to send their goods by air, according to London’s Loadstar.

“Six Asia-Europe strings are now adopting super-slow steaming and are going slower than the 19th-century tea clippers. Although it’s a win-win for shipping lines – absorbing capacity while cutting fuel costs, the average rotation of Far East to Northern Europe loops is now 10.5 weeks – in 2007 it was 8.2 weeks, the publication pointed out …”-

You get the picture. Business is declining. Stubborn – and short-sighted – carrier CEOs, however, just couldn’t push themselves away from the table. They ordered new containerships like there was no tomorrow, and now they’re paying the price. Because everything is going south in the U.S. and European markets, Asian manufacturers just aren’t producing enough for the new unneeded goliaths.

The numbers show that existing vessels must be laid up as fast as the new ones are being delivered, but that would make the stupidity of the CEOs obvious, though, wouldn’t it? A better idea, they figured, would be to slow down each ship in their loops so that they could sneak in additional ones – thereby keeping overcapacity out of mothballs – and the public would never catch on. And those CEOs would just claim that the slow-steaming strategy was adopted in order to save on fuel costs.

Neat, huh? No. It’s stupid. Try this. Drive your vehicle for 8.2 hours at cruising speed, say 65 mph, then determine your fuel costs for that trip. Then drive your vehicle for 10.5 hours at, let’s say, 32.5 mph – and have someone else accompany you in another vehicle at 32.5 mph for that 10.5 hour trip. Determine the fuel costs for both vehicles and you’ll see how devious and futile that slow-steaming strategy is after all.