The Wavy Line
21 May 22
Home BowWave: current issue archive AfterOfficeHours Jobs Reader Offers Legal Classified ads

"I have taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me."

Winston Churchill


Bow Wave Issue 529--Chinese Edition

news and views on trade, insurance and risk

Bow Wave homepage
Previous issue (528) / Current issue / Next issue (530)

(c)2010 Issue No 529 07 Jan 10
Published free of charge to Readers
Editor: Sam Ignarski

In this issue:

1. Welcome
2. Quarterpoints for January 2010
3. Twitter
4. Master Yick's Swansong
5. Yangtse News
6. And Finally...

1. Welcome

Poem of the Week

I Was Mean to You Today

Things were difficult
and I was impatient.
You were trying to explain
why I must reorganize the files
on my computer, why
they all have to have project numbers,
why I can't put them
where they've always been,
what the tax consultant said,
what you need for your report
to the Board of Directors,
and it boiled down to my files
have to be re-filed, and they
have to have titles with no more
than twelve letters to leave room
for project numbers,
and I said, Well, dammit.
And you said, Don't talk like that.

You sounded pained
and I was mean to you.
I was bored and tired
and mad, and you were
trying hard. Later,
I went out in the rain.
I went to the mall
and bought us both really
expensive pillows. Down
pillows with 100 per cent
cotton covers, 400 thread count.
I have lusted after them for years,
ever since Mama told me
that she asked Grandma,
who was 86 and dying,
"If you could have anything
in the world, what would it be?"
and Grandma answered,
"A down pillow" and Mama
didn't have enough money.
I bought two down pillows for us all,
to say I'm, sorry.

Pat Schneider, from The Patience of Ordinary Things (2003)

New Readers this week include:-

Colin Hainsworth
Chales Bumale
Grant Rowles of Sea Trade Asia
Ms F Campbell
Sachin Shanbhag of the North of England Club

Note from the Editor

Greetings from snowbound Britain. Our first edition for the New Year has a strong Chinese flavour. This year we be launching FOB (Free on Board) a networking site aimed at the sort of people who read Bow Wave.


2. Quarterpoints for January 2010

Your editor's latest column in Lloyds List cast an eye on the last ten years:-

Looking Back, Looking Forward

As a semi detached member of the scribbling classes I find it hard to avoid the look back and the peek forward that comes as we enter a new year leaving a volatile decade for another one as yet unnamed and without flavour. Certainly the naughties were packed with incidents, cyclical spikes and troughs and crammed full of the signs of the times. As ever, the meaning of things becomes clearer with the lapse of time. Life most unfortunately must be lived in real time, but can often only be understood in retrospect. For me the decade now gone stands out particularly clearly as I arrived back in the UK after nearly a decade away in Hong Kong. This time a decade ago the world I knew was labouring badly after a long period of soft rates and a strong tendency for marine insurers to lose money. The first internet boom was nearing a peak. By the summer of 2000 the last pieces of mezzanine finance were being put into place within the dozens of internet start ups which were designed to revolutionise the way the market went about its business. Nearly all of them entered the down escalator and were lost from view. The period came within the first great overheating of finance and arguably set the pattern for a further period of asset and credit inflation later on in the decade which culminated in the Great Banking Meltdown of recent years.

During the decade very few voices predicted or described the great reckoning which flavours current circumstances. They were mostly older men who have seen a few cycles in their time. The old man of shipping, Jim Davies, surfed the longest boom in shipping since the 18th Century always saying "beware the tides". The head of the British Innovation Group, Ian Priban, a scientist in his eighth decade who likes to theorize on the way societies mimic physiological systems, was the clearest voice I heard in mid decade who diagnosed the financial system as broken, its practitioners vainly labouring to deal with the challenge of the future by extending ineffectual measures and ideas from the past. These two gentlemen, along with this paper’s own Michael Grey have helped to anchor in me the notion that a sense of folly is essential to understanding current events.

So we enter the new decade in this part of the world with a taste of austerity in our mouths. I have some sense or may be hope that some of the baggage of the past ten years may be jettisoned in the light of the stronger need there is to find new ways of living and trading. The heavy carapace of regulation and compliance which weighs so heavily on so many walks of life will be thinned by a new generation of politicians and administrators with skills that encourage rather than penalize and intimidate their subject industries. In a post modern society, the monuments left by outgoing governments and administrations lie in the legislation and administrative orders they produce rather than the bricks and mortars around us.

In marine insurance, the most striking memorials to official efforts to regulate the industry are too many costs, too much fear and too little movement and change for the good of the industry. It is striking how often the response to the utter failure of regulation to keep financial services in a safe place in recent years has produced the argument that the answer lies in greater regulation. It would be encouraging to see the regulators try a little harder to understand what they are trying to regulate. In a decade of very busy networking, writing and corresponding within marine and transport insurance, I have yet to meet someone from the FSA or to receive a single line of prose from the thinking end of the organization.
Another great change from the past decade has emerged from the environmentalists. As long as I have worked in the industry, the global blindness to the cost of goods represented by freight and insurance has been nigh on universal. This has been pierced quite recently as people use the notions of "food miles" and "carbon footprints" and attempt to describe the costs of a globalised society. To those of us who earn a crust from oiling the wheels of international commerce there remains the certainty that where there is a willing seller and a willing buyer, international trade will find a way for the goods to pass.

A new decade sees most of us, inured to endless travel, nights away and frequent jet lag, more than able and willing to do far less of it. The means we use to do this rest on our ability to access the network of the people we know using computer technology and telephony. The facebook generation that has known no other world, naturally uses the technology in every facet of life. The tremendous changes in our life are nowadays mostly facilitated by the internet. The intranets and groupwares of individual companies are nowadays insufficient to create worlds within worlds inside companies and most people now work in an online world which is both institutional and completely unsanctioned by their places of work. I sense that the peer to peer world of e-mail, so often a boon in commercial lives over the past 15 years , will be supplemented by wider networks --you can see the growth of networks under names like Plaxo, Linked-In, MySpace to name but a few. In these networks much larger conversations are going on. News and information has a new velocity challenging the traditional world of print, publishing and plain vanilla e-mail. These networks are both private and professional and are used to organize a night out and to source the hard to find knowledge needed by the narrowest specialists.

They are extremely inexpensive to use and are often fostered by enthusiasts outside the great corporate towers. There is at present a generational divide in the maritime/transport world between those who are already fluent users of these networks and those observing their adult children.

Certainly our need to know more, faster, better and cheaper shows no signs of abating. A decade which saw the aftermaths of 911, Katrina, Rita, the Boxing Day Tsunami, Lehman Brothers, Red Sea Piracy, and the Rites of Copenhagen can only be described as a decade of greater volatility. The insurance cycle was down, lost for words then up again. It softens again. What chances the teenies will be any quieter?

3. Twitter

Readers may recall I have added a Twitter address to the Bow Wave masthead. It is a medium which has its uses. So far most of the tweeters I have seen, Corporate and Private, could do with studying the work of the bill board writers of the London Evening Standard who, traditionally in a very few words write a headline designed to make you want to acquire very quickly a copy of the actual newspaper. In the shipping field there are already some fluent users of Twitter. Jim Tweed of Coracle for example, tweets regularly.

One of his recent ones:

A 26-mile-long line of idled oil tankers may signal a 25% slump in freight rates in 2010... What do you think?

4. Master Yick's Swansong

With the demise of Lloyd's Maritime Asia, the outings of Master Yick have come to end. For many years, the old Master, a Hong Kong shipowner of the old school whose origins were in Shantung, gave his cod classical views on life, shipping, cross cultural matters and all that. The column was always accompanied by a satirical drawing from local gadfly Harry.

Here is the last one which appeared late in 2009:-

Yick on Cheering Up

The old Master was nothing if not stoic. He had seen his fair share of economic and social dislocation over the not particularly fun years of the 20th Century. If he were around today, you might have thought that he would be one of those with a long face and somber expression, watching the freight indices head south of Hainan island and the banks sending back letters of credit citing the the typing errors of shipping clerks. But far from it. A really poor shipping market, a strong tide out from manufacturing caused the cheerful side of his nature to emerge into the full glare of daylight. I never heard more gongs and cymbals than during the low ebbs. At home, he would conjure up dumpling evenings where little known relatives would appear and all guests would join in the mincing of ingredients and rolling out of dough. A very distant cousin who had command of the oldest stringed instrument I have ever heard would entertain with classical tunes. The Master would frequently sing out in his high falsetto voice the odd lines of song which appealed to him.

During the boom years the loudest noises in our dining room was often the ticking of the old clock the Master brought from the old anscetral in Shantung.

"Only the blind man fears the tiger not", he would say, "but still we must go back to the source". He really liked a good old back to basics time for it was at such times that he could see, better than most, the bargains that were on offer in the world. Were he around today, he would be looking at those lists the brokers circulate, naming in great detail the qualities of all those ships coming down the slipways with clouded futures. He would certainly know today that few if any of those 2009 orders have been cancelled or declined outright--hope springs eternal in the ship owner’s breast . Never one for great capital outlay, he would be looking for a knock on effect further down the age curve of ships--older was usually better because it caused people to prize the familiar less and reach for the brand spanking new on offer in such abundance.

"New ships", he would say,"new wives, new friends, new styles" all are not without their complications. In an unwary man they may cause a loss of balance, a disruption of equanimity injurious to the conduct of business. "A wise man goes to the same operas, the ones he likes".

Judicious use of wine, the consolations of the female half of the human race (the old Master after all, in the old style had at least three wives who knew about each other) and song were high up on the list of the old Master’s counter remedies to recession. Lots of licks of paint on ships and offices, and out on public display the swankiest silk suits he owned and usually eschewed.

This is the purpose of recession. It takes us back to things we know and esteem the most before the glint of gold and profits takes our eyes off the simple things. Proven ships, proven friends and business partners and proven trades. And the resumption of plans and beginnings we hold closely inside, throughout our time on this earth.

5. Yangtse News

The latest edition of this excellent newsletter contains the following items:-

Yangtze cargo throughput up 11 per cent in 2009

Figures from the Yangtze River Administration under the Ministry of Transport show that cargo throughput via the major ports along the Yangtze trunkline went up by 11.3 per cent last year to 1.13bn tons.

The upturn came on the back of the government’s Rmb4,000bn stimulus package designed to counter the effect of the worldwide economic downturn. Major infrastructure projects in the interior have been brought forward. Increasing demand for iron ore, steel, cement and other bulk cargo as a result of the accelerated investment is responsible for much of the increase in throughput, according to administration officials. Another factor is the continued relief efforts for the Sichuan earthquake, which happened in May 2008.

Throughput for containers in 2009 fell by 6.8 per cent over the previous year 6.48m teu. The decline is slightly better than the expected national average and resulted from strong domestic trade, said the administration.

Cross-strait shipping rules relaxed

China’s Ministry of Transport said it would relax its rules and allow container shipping companies that operate services across the Taiwan Strait to carry goods originating from outside Greater China, reported Dow Jones.

Taiwanese and mainland Chinese container shipping lines can also carry empty boxes that belong to, or are rented by companies that don't have approval to operate direct cross-strait shipping links, the ministry added. No details were published on when the new rules would take effect.

Taiwan and China established direct cross-strait shipping links in December 2008, but only Taiwanese and Chinese ships registered in Greater China are allowed to operate services, and cargo has been limited to goods originating from Taiwan or China.

6. And Finally...

Many thanks to the prolific House of Frazer Hunt, the well known Syndey based lawyer for these mean character comments:-

_ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

I have more talent in my smallest fart than you have in your entire

body. - - - Walter Matthau (to Barbra Steisand)

She has discovered the secret of perpetual middle age. - - -

Oscar Levant (about Zsa Zsa Gabor)

She not only worships the golden calf, she barbecues it for lunch.

- - - Oscar Levant (about Zsa Zsa Gabor)

You can calculate Zsa Zsa Gabor's age by the rings on her fingers.

- - - Bob Hope

Zsa Zsa Gabor has been married so many times she has rice marks

on her face. - - - Henny Youngman

She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B. - - - Dorothy

Parker (about Katharine Hepburn)

Every minute this broad spends outside of bed is a waste of time.

- - - Michael Todd (about Elizabeth Taylor)

Dramatic art in her opinion is knowing how to fill a sweater.

- - - Bette Davis (about Jayne Mansfield)

Hah! I always knew Frank would end up in bed with a boy! - - -

Ava Gardner (about Mia Farrow's marriage to Frank Sinatra)

It's a new low for actresses when you have to wonder what's

between her ears instead of her legs. - - - Katharine Hepburn

(about Sharon Stone)

Maybe it's the hair. Maybe it's the teeth. Maybe it's the

intellect. No, it's the hair. - - - Tom Shales (about Farrah


Miss United Dairies herself. - - - David Niven (about Jayne


She looks like she combs her hair with an eggbeater. - - -

Louella Parsons (about Joan Collins)

She speaks five languages and can't act in any of them. - - -

John Gielgud (about Ingrid Bergman)

The Russians love Brooke Shields because her eyebrows remind them

of Leonid Brezhnev. - - - Robin Williams

The worst and most homeliest thing to hit the screens since Liza

Minelli. - - - John Simon (about Shelley Duvall)

Whatever it was that this actress never had, she still hasn't

got it. - - - Bosley Crowther (about Loretta Young)


Pipers Lament

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a grave side service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Kentucky back-country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost; and being a typical man I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.

There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low my heart was full.

As I was opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "Sweet Mother of Jesus, I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

BOW WAVE is published each week to over 15 000 Readers in the transport,insurance,shipping and finance industries.

Thanks for reading BOW WAVE

Contact WL:

The WavyLine, 76 Florin Court, 6-9 Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6EX; +44 7887 632503;